Friday, March 1, 2013

Arsht Center: Les Misérables (reviews)

The 25th Anniversary Revival of Les Misérables opened at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on February 26, 2013.
Cameron Mackintosh presents a brand new 25th anniversary production of Boublil & Schönberg's legendary musical, LES MISÉRABLES, with glorious new staging and dazzlingly reimagined scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo. This new production has been acclaimed by critics, fans and new audiences and is breaking box office records wherever it goes.
Laurence Connor and James Powell directed cast that featured Andrew Verela, Peter Lockyer, Genevieve Leclerc, Ava Della Pietra, Timothy Gulan, Shawna M. Hamic, Lauren Wiley, Devin Ilaw, and Briana Carlson-Goodman.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
The 25th anniversary revival of Les Misérables that has been on the road more than two years is finally heading to Broadway in 2014.The mainstem producers could do no better than transfer this fresh, powerful iteration currently playing at the Arsht Center lock,  stock and barricade.
...this tour inexplicably has taken a fresh, moving reinvention of the warhorse – completely restaged with new scenery, lights, orchestrations – and has actually improved it since it played the Broward Center in January 2011. Theater lovers who stay away, saying under their breath “Les Miz, again?” are cheating themselves.
Start with the fact that every single person in the 30-member cast down to the smallest ensemble role sings better than anyone you’ve seen in the film clips.

Then add in the inventive highly theatricalized staging by co-directors Laurence Conor and James Powell, plus the work of musical director Lawrence Goldberg and musical stager Michael Ashcroft. They have dove back into the meat of the story and gotten the cast to sing the well-worn score as if it was a unknown piece that just came in the mail.
Gone is the annoying whiny quality that characterizes so many renditions of I Dreamed A Dream, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables and other dirge-like laments.  Instead, there’s Peter Lockyer’s full rich sound for Jean Valjean, bringing his own coloring and phrasing to “Bring Him Home,” diving deep into the baritone range and soaring up to a pure falsetto.
Andrew Varela, who played Javert at the Broward Center two years ago, is back in harness sounding even richer. His rendition of Stars digs deep into Javert’s inflexibility and his final Soliloquy makes credible Javert’s agonized deliberation toward suicide. Watching Varela on both numbers is like watching a home run slugger smash one out of the park.
The same can be said of every actor: Genevieve LeClerc’s Fantine makes “I Dreamed A Dream” touching rather than saccharine, Devin Ilaw’s Marius whose gorgeous voice triumphs over the sappiest songs in the score as does Lauren Wiley as Cosette, and amazingly, Briana Carlson-Goodman is a genuinely affecting Eponine who simply nails the usually insulin-shock producing “On My Own.” Shawna M. Hamic and Timothy Gulan create grotesque gargoyles out of the Thenardiers, broadly funny but also chilling in their venal pragmatism.
...this is a legitimate revival in the deepest sense of the word that is as vibrant, passionate and new-born as a world premiere.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The production is the 25th anniversary edition of Les Miz, the same dazzlingly reconceived version of the beloved show that played the Broward Center for the Performing Arts two years ago.
With the exception of former Miamian Andrew Varela as Inspector Javert, the actors playing the principal roles have changed since the show visited Fort Lauderdale. That Varela has stayed with the production is a blessing for Miami audiences: His renditions of the misguided lawman’s two big numbers, Stars and Soliloquy, are magnificent.
...Lockyer has the voice to handle Valjean’s challenging songs (though he strains to deliver the highest, softest notes of Bring Him Home), but his acting is a bit stiff, more in the style of an old-school opera star who plants himself and lets the booming vocals fly. Leclerc  isn’t initially impressive as Fantine but becomes more moving as her  character’s life falls apart. Wiley, Ilaw and Carlson-Goodman deliver an achingly beautiful Heart Full of Love. Gulan and Hamic go way overboard (Hamic, especially) as the  Thénardiers. As the student leader Enjolras, Jason Forbach starts out  loud and grows deafening, draining any subtlety from his character’s  stirring songs. Scene stealer Marcus D’Angelo nearly makes off with the  musical as the plucky urchin Gavroche. Directors Laurence Connor and James Powell, working with an inspired design team, have taken Les Miz into the 21st century... set designer Matt Kinley, inspired by Hugo’s own paintings, utilizes ramshackle moving towers and state-of-the-art projections to create cinematically shifting environments. Javert’s breathless pursuit of Valjean and a wounded Marius through subterranean Paris, and Javert’s last desperate act, are stunningly realized.
The 25th Anniversary Revival of Les Misérables plays at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts through March 3, 2013.

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