‘Les Miserables‘ is back…and this time it deserves an ovation. For most theater goers, Les Miz is a staple….the Chicago Tribune stating ‘One of the greatest musicals ever created!’ But with that kind of accolade comes expectation! This version, Cameron Mackintosh‘s production, hits the mark! Where many productions lag, this Les Miz is alive and laudable.
The story, mired in misery (hence the name), takes us from the ache of hunger and crimes, to the ideals of Revolution and redemption. This is my 5th visit to Les Miz. This time, I felt part of it, deep in the desire for Valjean‘s vindication; hopelessly rooting for Eponine‘s happiness and oddly caring about Javert‘s dilemma. Why? What made this Les Miz so unique….outside of the keen direction of Connor and Powell….in a word…a hugely talented cast! The best I’ve seen…frankly, ever!
From the rise of the curtain, the bellowing male voices capture you on a ride you will not leave until the company’s finale. The quintessential ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ is when the audience sits up, knowing the tune and respecting the incredible voice of Haley Dortch (@haleydortch) who simply takes Fantine to a place of believability. In Fantine‘s inevitable passing (there were tears) you were part off her pain. SO WELL DONE! (And it’s her national debut – WHAT?)
From there, Valjean‘s ‘Who Am I‘ sets us up for one of the strongest Valjean performances on record. It is Nick Cartell‘s (@nickcartell.com) blend of smooth vocals, and deep emotion….capped off with a heart-wrenching ‘Bring Him Home‘ ( A BIG WOW!)…that sustains throughout.
Of course, audiences fall in love with Thenardier and his wife in ‘Master of the House‘, providing the much needed comic relief….played by Matt Crowle (mattcrowle.com) and Christina Rose Hall…in all their goofy, giddy glory.
And, it is in that Broadway moment…the one we all know and love….’One Day More’ when you are convinced…this cast is magical! Their voices, their message in the Act One closer is riveting! Curtain closes, it’s been over 90 minutes…(Wait What?) In previous Les Miz performances, I have felt, like, ‘thats not the end?’ Not this time around. You are stoked for more!
Now, personally, I have to admit I have a love affair with the character of Eponine. We’ve all been there…unrequited love…but when I tell you that the vocals of Christine Heesun Hwang (chiseoni.com) are idyllic…I mean it. SHE WAS THE EPONINE I’ve waited for! ‘On My Own,’ the heart-ache put to music, garnered a palpable applause.
I could highlight each and every performer…even the kids are amazing! But I save one for last! Preston Truman Boyd (@prestonboyd)…yep,Javert! (Huh? JAVERT?) As my husband put it, “I never cared about Javert until this production.” Yep, that’s it. You care because his voice…so deep, rich and commanding… demands your attention and understanding. He is the villain that transcends his character.
I mean, on and on I go! But, I’m impressed this time. around! It’s easy to say, ‘Les Miz, yeah, I’ve seen it before….um…no you haven’t…not this Les Miz! The show is tighter, more cohesive and the cast much stronger! Get to it Dayton…’Do You Hear the People Sing?‘ You really should!!
You can catch one of the remaining performances at 7:30 pm, Thursday; 8 pm, Friday; 2 and 8 pm. Saturday; and 1 and 6:30 pm Sunday.
For tickets: daytonlive.org/