Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

Les Misérables
National Tour
Review by David Ritchey

Also see Mark's review of Day of Absence


Nick Cartell
Photo by Matthew Murphy
Les Misérables has been popular with audiences since 1862 when Victor Hugo published the novel. The musical version opened on Broadway in 1987 and went on to receive eight Tony Awards. Now, the newest U.S. tour is playing a three-week run in Cleveland. This is a large touring company with almost 40 in the cast and about 16 in the orchestra. Les Misérables has toured several times since its original opening on Broadway.

This musical version of the Jean Valjean story contains several different plots, which complement the novel, and in the final moments the elements of the plots find unity. The story moves forward in time and takes place in over 17 years. Jean Valjean (Nick Cartell) ages; Marius (Joshua Grosso) matures and marries Cosette (Jillian Butler); some important characters die and others make significant changes in their lives.

Jean Valjean served 19 years on a chain gang and remains an outcast after his term of punishment ended. The Bishop of Digne offers him food and a place to sleep, but Valjean steals silver from the Bishop and when he's caught, the Bishop lies to the police to rescue Valjean. In a moment of self-awareness, Valjean makes a decision to start his life again.

In the next scene, eight years later, Valjean has changed his name to Monsieur Madeleine and now owns a factory and is the mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer. He has evolved from a man who stole bread in order to eat and survive, to a thief of silver, to a good, strong, honest man who is admired enough by the local citizens to become mayor. Fantine (Mary Kate Moore), one of the factory workers, has an illegitimate child and is in need of money for medicine for the child. She sells her hair, a piece of jewelry and, finally, in desperation joins the prostitutes and sells herself. When she gets in a fight with one of her customers, Inspector Javert (Josh Davis), a police officer, stops the fight and makes plans to take Fantine to prison. But the mayor arrives on the scene and demands she not be taken to prison, but to the hospital.

Javert has tracked Jean Valjean since his release from working on the chain gang, with his goal in life being to capture Valjean and put him back on the chain gang.

In 1832, unrest plagues Paris because of the demise of General Lamarque, a popular leader. Students mount an insurrection and begin building a barricade. Marius, one of the students, helps with the revolution. He is in love with Cosette and Eponine (Paige Smallwood) is in love with Marius.

Nick Cartell is a superior actor. As Jean Valjean, he opens the show dressed in rags, attempting to steal enough to get by. But he changes his attitude and becomes a business owner and community leader; suddenly, he has better posture and a strong attitude. His speaking voice becomes stronger and he is completely in control when he sings "Bring Him Home."

Javert is a strong officer attempting to capture all criminals. In the role, Josh Davis sings in a stronger, tougher voice as the story unfolds.

The cast evolves as the story progresses, and director Laurence Connor seems to have helped his cast move to strength and maturity as the years pass. This may be the key to the popularity of Les Misérables.

This musical is sung through (meaning the music and the songs carry the story and not with spoken dialogue), with a score by Claude-Michel Schönberg (music) and Herbert Kretzmer (lyrics). The music is superior and the score has several songs that have had a life outside of the musical. Three of the most popular songs are "Bring Him Home," "One Day More," and "I Dreamed a Dream."

Andreane Neofitou and Christine Rowland have designed costumes for more than 40 characters. Most of the costumes are in earth tones, though a few are bright and vivid in the red, white and blue colors of the French flag.

The orchestra, conducted by music director Brian Eads, includes about 16 musicians, many playing more than one instrument. They produce a strong, clear sound and never overpower the singers.

Les Misérables, through November 18, 2018, at the Connor Palace, Playhouse Square, 1615 Euclid Ave., Cleveland OH. For tickets and information, call 216-771-4444 or visit http://www.playhousesquare.org. For more information on the tour, visit www.lesmis.com/us-tour.


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