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Wednesday, July 04, 2018

The Epic Appeal of Les Miserables (Broadway Across Canada)!

One thing that I am really enjoying lately is being able to share my love of musical theatre with my 13 year old son. I am thankful to Hamilton and the many years of piano lessons we’ve invested in, as I think the combination has really been the catalyst for his appreciation. This week I was able to share my all-time favourite musical, Les Miserables, with him and it was a wonderful night out!

This week, we saw Les Mis as part of the Broadway Across Canada tour at the Northern Jubilee Auditorium. It’s a wonderful production using projections and trucks to create a myriad of locations. The lighting, if occasionally dimmer than I would like, is striking. The stage pictures - from the prison ship, to the Thenardier’s Inn, to the barricade, to the sewers - are stunning and atmospheric.
But it’s Les Mis, isn’t it, so it’s really all about Jean Valjean’s journey and the music. From those first few iconic chords I was in the world. Nick Cartell as Valjean has a beautiful voice, and his performance holds up through the decades of Valjean’s life. His Bring Him Home was gorgeous and layered and uncluttered – a simple prayer that grows and changes with the intensity of his need.
There are strong performances from all of the leads, Mary Kate Moore is a lovely and fragile Fantine; Josh Davis as the relentless Javert earns his ending; The Thénardiers (Allison Guinn and J. Anthony Crane) are perfectly crass and mercenary; and Enjolras (Matt Shingledecker) is a passionate leader of the students. Marius (Joshua Grosso) was a personal favourite of mine. His performance is engaging and charming when we first meet him falling in love with Cosette (Jillian Butler) and joking around with Eponine (Emily Bautista), and his rendition of Empty Chairs and Empty Tables is heartbreaking. The three young lovers create a beautiful triangle, each with excellent vocal instruments well-suited to their roles, and the ability to tell the story in song.
Overall, the production manages to tell the story in a way that would please those of us who remember the original production from the 1980s and those that discovered it with the recent movie adaptation. For me, it hit all the required notes to appease my expectations, and for Gibson it created a new fan. He quickly uploaded the soundtrack at intermission, so impressed by the music. His favourites were the Thénardiers for the humour, but he also noted, “it was sad, really sad, but the music was also really, really good.”
If there is one criticism, it’s that some of the quicker vocal sections are a bit too fast, with words clipped, making those unfamiliar with the score challenged to understand exactly what was being sung. I had to do some quick explaining to Gib so that he knew what was going on, but even in that he said that he could follow the story enough and he was glad to have a conversation about it afterwards.

Les Miserables runs until July 8, 2018 at the Jubilee Auditoriam.
Click here for tickets.

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