Courtesy of Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade
I was introduced to LES MISERABLES during my teenage years, courtesy of the charming boy who lived next door. It was one of his favorites, and despite not knowing anything about it or ever having heard the score, it automatically became my favorite as well. In my typical teenage girl fashion, if he loved it, so did I. That interest faded over time, but as I grew into adulthood, I found LES MISERABLES reintroduced into my life through community theater, film, and my personal favorite – the high school version my daughter would act in. Over the years, a true love of the show developed and before long, I knew all the lyrics to all the songs and even found myself in my kitchen performing said songs to an invisible audience, using YouTube karaoke tracks – “On My Own” sung by Éponine would pull ahead as being one of my favorites.
Despite now having a good amount of LES MISERABLES in my life, I had never seen the show professionally performed. I was excited last night as I walked through the doors of the SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center to fulfill that bucket list item and I was blown away. Not only was the cast brilliant, but the sets, costumes, and overall atmosphere were “très magnifique.”
LES MISERABLES is a timeless musical based on Victor Hugo’s epic novel. It delves into the struggles of Jean Valjean, an ex-convict seeking redemption, and his relentless pursuit by Inspector Javert. Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, the show explores themes of justice, love, sacrifice, and the resilience of the human spirit, all delivered by a powerful and unforgettable musical score.
I particularly enjoyed the sets of this show and how easily transitions were made from scene to scene. From the massive city buildings to the barricade, as well as the home of Jean Valjean, the set pieces were phenomenal. With the use of projection, we were able to feel massive movement when soldiers were being carried and dragged through the sewers. And to make the production even more immersive, the smell of gunfire was prominent during the battle scenes at the barricade. I don’t know if that was intentional or happenstance, but it elevated the experience by incorporating a sense that isn’t often used in theatre.
The cast was exceptional. It was a delight to see Gavroche played by Henry Kirk as he maintained character with incredible professionalism, especially at his young age. All the children in the production displayed both presence and beautiful voices and it was fun to see such young actors on the stage showcasing their talents.
It was a joy to watch the performances and hear so many other amazing voices come from the cast, many with notes that sent chills down my spine. Kyle Adams, in the role of Jean Valjean, showcased a voice that effortlessly conveyed a range of emotions, and his modern touch to his singing added an unexpected but welcomed surprise. Preston Truman Boyd’s portrayal of Inspector Javert was one of my favorites. His facial expressions and tone of voice were both highlights for me.
The roles of Thénardier played by Matt Crowle and his wife played by Victoria Huston-Elem provided so many laughing moments with their obnoxious dialogue and irreverent mannerisms. I always enjoy these characters, but Crowle and Huston-Elem’s delivered my favorite performances of them to date. I cannot fail to mention the powerful performance of Enjolras (Devin Archer), Fantine (Haley Dortch), Éponine
(Phoenix Best), Cosette (Delaney Guyer), and Marius (Jake David Smith). Each of them enveloped their characters with such authenticity and emotional depth, creating a connection between the audience and the complex lives they portrayed on stage.
LES MISERABLES continues to captivate audiences worldwide, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of musical theatre. It’s not just a musical; it’s an experience that lingers in the soul long after the final note has faded. It’s a production that should be on every musical theatre lover’s bucket list. It’s one that every person should fall in love with even if their first introduction to it is from the cute boy next door. LES MISERABLES is playing at the SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center now through October 29, 2023. Learn more here.