Les Miserables – 12/18/19 – The Orpheum, Minneapolis MN

First off, and most importantly, if you have seen Les Misérables in the past and are thinking of skipping this tour…don’t! Second if you are told it is a whole new production and get scared that your favorite scenes or songs will be made into something you don’t recognize (as I was)…don’t be! Third, if you are about to experience the magic of Les Misérables for the first time…you are in for a treat! This is all of our favorite Les Mis moments turned into a totally new visual and emotional ride. The story is centered around a parole escaping ex-convict turned town Mayor Jean Valjean and his struggles with living a life of hidden identity. It takes place in the early 1800’s in France and depicts the struggle of the people in a post revolution century.

The change in the production makes the experience more dark and intense. From the opening scene you feel the difference in mood and atmosphere where the stage is alive like another one of the actors telling the story. The sets fill the stage from floor to ceiling and beautifully highlight the feelings of despair and love in the cast. The backdrop has a projection element that includes amazing imagery transporting us from the French country side filled with a star lit sky to the dark and stormy streets of an angry Paris. The subtle moving changes in the backdrop add a layer of drama intensifying the story. The music is intoxicating and more sophisticated. More depth to the sound and an updated performance by the orchestra bring the music of the show to the 21st century. In other words, I do not believe anyone will notice the missing keyboards of the original 1985 production.

The cast fulfills, and mostly exceeds, all expectations of this iconic show. Jean Valjean and Javert command the stage vocally and melt away all else when performing solo. The Innkeeper and his wife are edgier than ever and bring forward the art of swindling so well that you feel the need to check your pockets for your cash.  Marius’ performance of “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” is mesmerizing and a noticeable stand out that was awarded mid-performance applause was Gavroche. He held up to his grown counterparts and filled the inspirational role beautifully!

I had very few criticisms of the production as a whole. There were a few times that the performances felt a bit rushed and frantic, most notably in the scenes of Fantine’s death and Eponine’s “On My Own” walk and her death with “A Little Fall of Rain”. I felt like I wanted the actors to just take one big deep breath before launching into those. The lighting, while artfully done throughout the show, was a little weird during the battle scene. It almost looked like UFO beams coming from the sky. These are small observations that should not deter you from attending at all.

Another PSA to include is that this production will make you feel things. Sometimes uncomfortable things. The “Lovely Ladies” scene is raw and harsh with a lot less humor and a lot more reality of the emotional darkness of working in a brothel in the 1800’s. This is a warning that the change is powerful in how it shows up and it could cause some painful feelings to arise. This is of course what it is meant to do and the cast delivers it masterfully, however be forewarned it could be hard to watch.

Overall the cast and crew of this tour will make you feel like you did the first time you ever saw the unparalleled show Les Misérables. If this is your first time experiencing it… read some cliff notes on the story before you attend. It moves fast and there are a lot of intricate story lines to follow that move along several decades. This is a beautiful story of fight, love, righteousness, and forgiveness that everyone could use these days.

Play runs until December 30th.

Noted Cast:

Jean Valjean – Nick Cartell

Javert – Josh Davis

Innkeeper – Monte J Howell

Innkeeper’s Wife – Olivia Dei Cicchi

Marius – Joshua Grosso

Gavroche – Parker Dzuba

Fantine – Mary Kate Moore

Cosette (adult) – Jillian Butler

Eponine (adult) – Paige Smallwood

Review Amie Bresnahan

Photos by Matthew Murphy