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Les Misérables

A memorable night at the Kennedy Center Opera House.

In December 1986, the Kennedy Center hosted the pre-Broadway run of what has become, undisputedly, one of the world’s most popular musicals. In honesty, Les Misérables is my favorite musical, and this production doesn’t disappoint. It will be at the Kennedy Center Opera house until April 29th and if you want any chance of getting a ticket, I suggest you go online today. 

It is based on the novel by Victor Hugo with music by Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer. There are new orchestrations by Stephen Metcalfe, Christopher Jahnke and Stephen Brooker. This production is directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell.

The music and lyrics are powerful no matter how many times you have seen the show or how many times you have heard them. Each song riveting. From I Dreamed a Dream, Who Am I?, In My Life, One Day More, Bring Him Home, and Empty Chairs and Empty Tables, among so many more. 

For those of you Les Mis aficionados, you may be surprised there is no turntable used in this production. There are wonderful digital projections on a screen behind the actors. Each drawing you into the scene and some particularly mesmerizing as when Jean Valjean is carrying Marius home from the barricades through the sewers of Paris. Or when Javert is committing suicide off a bridge.

 Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman by Murphymade
Les Mis cast  Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman by Murphymade

The singing is uniformly powerful. The cast is too big to mention everyone but Nick Cartell as Jean Valjean has a beautiful, big and powerful voice and does a wonderful job of aging in front of your eyes during the play. The two characters who bring the humor to the play, the Thénardiers (Matt Crowle) and (Christina Rose Hall), who play their roles with perfect timing, wonderful slapstick, and both have great voices. The older Eponine (Christine Heesun Hwang) has a beautiful and haunting voice.  Javert (Preston Truman Boyd) is also great with an incredible voice. When Marius (Gregory Lee Rodriguez) sings the haunting Empty Chairs and Empty Tables, it brought a tear to my eye. That song in particular, has a meaning beyond the play for many, as it was taken over as sort of an anthem to those who died of AIDS. It was sung at so many events and memorial services, back in the 1980’s and 1990’s at the height of the AIDS epidemic.

If I have one issue with this production it is that it is too dark. By that I mean the lighting is often too dark. The sets designed by Matt Kinley, when you can see them, are incredible. But too often they are in the dark. While a spotlight is on the actors, there seems to be no reason to keep the sets behind them in the dark. The special effects, especially during the scenes at the barricades, are great. The audience literally seemed to jump when the shooting started. The children in this production are also superb. 

If you have never seen Les Misérables,  see this production, and if you have seen it before, you will still have a wonderful night at the theater. Tickets are available online but selling out fast.