Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, “Les Misérables” tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice, and redemption – a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit.
Nothing less than a show-stopper, this classic story of a fugitive who makes good later in life to compensate for his reprehensible behavior has all the bells and whistles needed to recapture an audience who may have become weary over this 19th-century production that has spanned 32 years. The Oscar-winning movie adaptation has been seen by over 130 million viewers since its London opening, and the current production which debuted in 2009 in celebration of its 25th Anniversary, is an artistic masterpiece. Directed by Laurence Conner and James Powell, this piece flows valiantly over Victor Hugo’s novel with music by Claude-Michel Schonberg, original orchestrations by John Cameron and new orchestrations by Christophe Jahnke, Stephen Metcalfe, and Stephen Brooker.
This extremely large cast of highly acclaimed actors with a laundry list of experience has come together beautifully to tell the story of Jean Valjean (Nick Cartell), who after nineteen years with the chain gang cannot change his reputation within the community. The Bishop of Digne seems to be the only one who accepts Valjean, and in return for the favor, Valjean steals silver. The Bishop, instead of being bitter, protects him when the police come after him, inspiring Valjean to develop a new lease on life. Years later, Valjean, who has changed his name to Monsieur Madeleine, becomes a basic factory worker who in turn becomes Mayor. In a twist of fate, one of his factory workers, Fantine (Mary Kate Moore) becomes an outcast, due to having an illegitimate child, Cozette (Elsa Avery Dees and Jillian Butler), and when she faces the prospect of jail after becoming a self-selling whore, Monsieur intervenes and at the hospital on her deathbed, the Mayor promises that he will find and look after her daughter Cosette. Unbeknownst to him, Cosette has been placed with an abusive family, the Thenardiers (J. Anthony Crane & Allison Guinn), who have a daughter of their own named Eponine (Sophis Knapp & Emily Bautista), who is secretly in love with Marius (Robert Ariza), who is in love with Cosette. Cosette is basically treated like a slave by the Thenardiers whose ulterior motives consist of blackmailing Marius to get what they want. As the plot unravels behind the barricades of war, the poor become increasingly unsupported and survival of the fittest becomes the ultimate act of bravery.
The slow-moving story is incredibly basic, yet optimistically challenging and the powerful voices that evolve throughout musical pieces such as “I Dreamed A Dream,” “Bring Him Home,” “One Day More,” and “On My Own,” carry the redemptive stories to a higher level that is vastly entertaining in spite of the long and drawn out plot that seems to drag effortlessly to showcase human sacrifice and passionate survival mechanisms. While there is much to be said about this heartwarming production, which is the fifth longest-running Broadway production of all time, there is still plenty of overkill that could be edited out just for the principle. True “Les Misérables” lovers will be undaunted by the selfless acts of love that build courage and strength amongst the naysayers and add momentum throughout the production, finally carrying the downtrodden to a fairly equitable ending, while those just jumping on the bandwagon can only hope to be thoroughly entertained, yet patiently forgiving of the extended and excruciating amount of detail.
“Les Misérables” is presented by the Dallas Summer Musicals April 24 – May 6 at the Music Hall at Fair Park.