Les Miserables, the international megahit based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel of faith and redemption, is back on Broadway after two successful previous productions. The current version, directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell, is at the Imperial Theatre, where the original New York production played for more than 5,000 performances. A triumph in London, New York, Paris, Tokyo, Sydney, and around the world, Les Miserables has played in 42 countries and more than 319 cities in 22 different languages. Set in France from 1815 to 1832, the gripping story follows the saintly reformed convict Jean Valjean as he is relentlessly pursued by the intractable Inspector Javert. Here are five reasons to see this Les Miz, whether you’re new to the show or a veteran viewer.
A swoon-worthy Jean Valjean
Iranian-born Canadian performer Ramin Karimloo is inspiring bravos for his intense performance as the beleagured Valjean (he’s also one of the hottest men on Broadway right now). Charles Isherwood of the New York Times says he “sets a high standard in the prologue, performing Valjean’s angry soliloquy with fiery intensity and full-throttled vocalism that gradually shades into more nuanced coloring as Valjean puts behind him the grim shadows of his imprisonment and forges a new life.” Many are saying this is best Valjean they’ve ever seen.
A Javert who goes for the jugular
Karimloo is matched by Tony nominee Will Swenson (Hair, Priscilla Queen of the Desert) as the implacable Javert. His confrontations with Valjean are so dramatic they set off sparks. Elizabeth Vincentelli of the New York Post calls Swenson a bigger revelation than Karimloo and “his furrowed-brow intensity and rich vocal tone are perfect here. Like every other great number in a show that kills off half its characters, Javert’s big ‘Soliloquy’ takes place before his dramatic death, and Swenson nails it with fierce angst.”
That unforgettable score
The soaring score with music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, and lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer from the original French text by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel features such classic songs as “I Dreamed a Dream,” “Castle on a Cloud,” “Bring Him Home,” “On My Own,” “Do You Hear the People Sing,” and “Empty Tables, Empty Chairs.” Whether you’re hearing these tunes for the first time or you have them memorized, they will move to you to tears and joy.
A new look
It has a totally different look and feel from the Oscar-winning 2012 movie version and previous stagings. This production features new atmospheric sets and projections from designer Matt Kinley inspired by Victor Hugo’s paintings. In addition, the detailed sets seems to flow into the audience with the boxes and the sides of the theater becoming part of the action. From the idyllic French countryside to the grimy underworld of Paris to its dank sewers, you’ll feel as if you’re in the story.
An exquisite supporting cast
Caissie Levy (Ghost, Hair) as the pathetic Fantine and Tony winner Nikki M. James (The Book of Mormon) as the tragic Eponine will break your heart while Cliff Saunders (The 39 Steps) and Keala Settle (Hands on a Hard Body) will just break you up as the comically avaricous innkeeper Thenardier and his wife.