Theatre Review: ‘Les Miserables’ at Shea’s Performing Arts Center

“One Day More” The National Touring Company of “Les Miserables.” Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Along with “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Wicked,” and “The Lion King,” Les Miserables is just one of those shows that won’t stop touring. It’s rare to come across someone who hasn’t seen the show or its criticized cinematic counterpart which begs the question, “why bother?”

Whether it’s your first or fiftieth time seeing Les Miserables, it remains a powerful musical that brings audience members to their feet and leaves them in tears”

The long-running musical is based on Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name, following ex-convict Jean Valjean in 19th Century France after he is released from a 19-year stint in jail stemming from stealing bread for his family. After he meets a bishop who offers him food and shelter and lies to protect him from being arrested again, Valjean is motivated to live a more honest and good life while trying to escape shadows from his past, including former prison guard-turned police inspector Javert.

One of the things I’ve noticed about Les Mis since the production design was revamped almost a decade ago is the focus on more raw performances, which was also undoubtedly a result of the popularity of Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and the 2013 film cast singing live in the movie. Since then, including on the musical’s 25th anniversary 2010 album, the vocals have gotten less by-the-book and actors appear more free to shake things up. It was refreshing to see that theme continuing on this tour.

Patrick Dunn commands the stage as Valjean, expressing incredibly intense emotions through an unwavering voice. Dunn is strongest on an audience favorite, the tear-inducing “Bring Him Home.” Preston Truman Boyd is an outstanding and increasingly unstable Javert, slowly unraveling as his views on faith and the law start to blur as the years go on.

Phoenix Best was a phenomenal Eponine, a scrappy and love-stricken street urchin pining after Joshua Grosso’s Marius. While Grosso’s early interactions with Cosette (sweet songstress Jillian Butler), were a touch too silly for my liking, his voice soared on the part; a quality I am thankful for since being scarred by the Nick Jonas 25th anniversary concert portrayal.

While the entire cast was spot on, I have to mention one additional performer – Matt Shingledecker as Enjolras, the leader of the student revolutionaries. For some reason, that is always the performance that makes or breaks the show for me. Fortunately, we were blessed with Shingledecker’s aggressive energy and powerful tenor leading us through the latter half of the show, soaring in every song and inspiring his fellow Frenchmen (and women) to join the cause, no matter how impossible it seemed.

As I mentioned earlier, the newer (relative to Les Mis) production design really expands the set capabilities for the show, which never stops moving. The projections by 59 Productions are especially great coupled with Paule Constable’s lighting design.

Whether it’s your first or fiftieth time seeing Les Miserables, it remains a powerful musical that brings audiences to their feet and leaves them in tears. This cast is vocally top-notch and makes for a memorable evening during this holiday season.

Running Time: Approximately two and 55 minutes including a fifteen-minute intermission.

“Les Miserables” runs through December 15 at Shea’s Performing Arts Center For more information and tickets, click here.

Theatre Review: ‘Les Miserables’ at RBTL’s Auditorium Theatre

“One Day More” The National Touring Company of “Les Miserables.” Photo by Matthew Murphy.

The only thing I had known about “Les Miserables” was what I had heard on the “Forbidden Broadway” cast recording. “At the end of the play you’re another year older.” I thought that was funny, but I didn’t realize that it was actually true. That show was long. It is phenomenal, but my goodness, it goes on forever. To my amazement, the show is masterfully written and is masterfully performed. This show is an experience that I will never forget.

It is breathtaking, it is beautiful, and most importantly, it is timely.

“Les Miserables” is based on the Victor Hugo novel, taking place during the French Revolution and telling the tale of Jean Valjean (Nick Cartel) as he tries to redeem himself in society after spending the last nineteen years in slavery for a crime that he committed. After becoming a factory owner and changing his name, Valjean meets Fantine (Mary Kate Moore), who has an illegitimate daughter and on her deathbed, Valjean says that he will find her daughter and care for her. Valjean finds Cosette (Jillian Butler) at an orphanage of sorts, and purchases her, looking out for her wellbeing and raising her as his own. If this seems confusing, it is. I had to read the synopsis at intermission, and then it clicked!

The music in this show is hauntingly beautiful and I could not believe how much music there is in this show. It never stopped, and flowed effortlessly from one number to the next, barely leaving time for applause, and you know what, I loved it. I realized during this production just how much time we spend applauding during musicals. I love showing my appreciation and love to the actors on stage, but when the music segues to the next song, it keeps me in the moment and I stay tuned to the story. I never thought about this until this show.

Leading the show as Jean Valjean is Nick Cartel who has a voice of steel. His range is mind blowing as he controls his vocal prowess to hit magical notes. Cartel’s performance is raw, emotional, humane, and perfect.

Josh David is deliciously evil as Javert, the constable who is out to find Valjean to bring him back for skipping parole. You dislike him, but love every time he enters the stage. His vocal ability sends chills down your spine with how fantastic they are. He does not disappoint.

Éponine played by Paige Smallwood and Cosette played by Jillian Butler, are both phenomenal women who know how to entertain and who both bring tears to your eyes when they sing. They are both absolutely beautiful.

Overall, the show is long, but as a student of theatre, and let’s face it, who isn’t, this show should be on everyone’s theatre bucket list. It is breathtaking, it is beautiful, and most importantly, it is timely. When the tour comes to you, go see this show!

Running Time: 2 Hours 45 Minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

“Les Miserables” closed on November 24, 2018, and was presented at RBTL’s Auditorium Theatre in Rochester. For more information, click here.