Brimming with melodramatic, overstated characters and themes, it’s easier
to mock LES MIZ than to laud it. But this revival on Broadway is actually engrossing
and for all of the very same reasons that might otherwise make it ludicrous.
In that regard, it brings to mind THE SOUND OF MUSIC. If it’s history
you’re after, that singing/dancing tale about the Nazis deserves to be
trashed quite the way Mel Brooks proves in THE PRODUCERS.
But the very elements that made THE SOUND OF MUSIC so exciting to theater
and film goers are at work here in Cameron Mackintosh’s revival of LES
MIZ. And while it involves romantic story telling and grandiosity, it also
involves simplistic truths and honest morals. Love, be it young, unrequited,
filial or philosophical all in epic proportions, sweep through this musical.
What makes this production exceptional is the voracity of the actors and singers.
Alexander Gemignani is a convincing Jean Valjean with a sonorous voice who
transforms from prisoner to aging patriarch with seamless ease. Even more unusual
is Norm Lewis’ Javert, a character who we typically perceive as strictly
onerous and evil; one can hardly give him any credence. But as portrayed here,
we recognize Javert as a man driven by a sense of moral purpose. That certainly
keeps this tale from appearing so overwhelmingly one sided.
On another note, Gary Beach and Jenny Galloway as the usurious innkeeper and
his wife are as gross an incarnation of comic relief as one can imagine! And
thank goodness for that. In a story so swollen with references to the divinity
and accolades of faith, their disruptions are especially welcome. Of course
the children in the cast are heart breaking, especially Brian D’Addario’s
Gavroche. The way that little boy hurls himself at “the revolution” tell
us something dreadful about the meaninglessness of their lives. LES MIZ still
speaks to the wretched of the earth and the Christian values, endurance and
compassion that sustain us.
The staging, characterized by the revolving stage and junk pile that serve
as the barricade for the revolutionaries, appear true to the original, rendering
this a faithful revival. This is a classic after all. And in an age when Broadway
musicals have been mini-ized and economically reformulated, this is something
of a special treat indeed, especially with the large cast and orchestra.
You’ll leave the theater cheering for love and revolution!
Thats This Week on Broadway. Im Isa Goldberg.