It is almost impossible NOT to give this stunningly beautiful musical drama, depicting the work by Victor Hugo of the same name. The music by Claude-Michel Schoenberg and lyrics by Herert Kretzmer is a score that has many memorable pieces. While n the past I have given “Les Miz” a “highly recommended”, the changes in this production did bring it down a notch. For those of you who understand that many of the Broadway In Chicago shows are “touring” productions often referred to as “bus and truck” shows, in order to cut expenses, they need to make cuts. They still bring, for the most part, replicas of the original Broadway productions ( sometimes, even better) but with slight changes that will hardly be noticed by new audience members. While the Cadillac Palace is one of the larger stages in the Broadway in Chicago “stable”, it appears that they have reduced the actual size of the usable stage with a reduced set, slightly different than the original. No more turntable floor, which made scene changes flow perfectly, but with this new smaller stage area, they can have less actors ( keeping costs down, which transfers to more affordable ticket prices allowing more theater patrons to have the magical memories of the theatrical experience known as “Les Miz”.
I was very impressed with many of the voices in this cast. After all this is a play that is 99 9/10% music and so singing voices are very important. Try to remember that this is the 25th Anniversary of one the longest running musicals. A little old and a little new are the recipe for a delighful theatrical experience. The story is the same, in that Jean Valjean ( played to perfection by Lawrence Clayton, who has an unbelievable range which shows in “Bring Him Home”) is a fugitive that in spite of changing is always pursued by Javert (Andrew Varela shows us a very dynamic and powerful voice). After his prison stay he becomes a very powerful and influential man until Javert discovers who he is in his new role and the chase continues. Valjean makes a promise to a dying woman Fantine (Besty Morgan) who has sold her soul ( meaning everything she has) to keep her daughter alive. He vows he will rescue her and raise her as his own. The young Cosette ( Anastasia Korbal) has one beautiful little song “Castle on a Cloud” which talks of her dream life, and as the story progresses, that is what her “new father,JeanValjean brings her.
There are many inner stories and character studies of this time in history starting in 1815 and taking us beyond 1832 into Paris with the revolution that evokes a great deal of passion as the first act ends with “One Day More” and the brilliant scene with the students ready to revolt and each of the main characters hoping for “One Day More”. This is a solid production with a few small flaws, but a production that is well worth taking in. Eponine ( a delightful Chasten Harmon, who is a little more “rock” than “opera” ) does a powerful”On My Own”, and her parents, The Master of The House” “, and his wife, played by Michael Kostroff and Shawna M. Hamic have fun with that song and scene, but overall do not have the energy and comic touch these bawdy characters need to express.
The ensemble players who take on so many roles, it is hard to believe they can change costumes and get back on stage as quickly as they do, are very important, in particular to a smaller scale production as they play more parts. Their voices ring true to the sound that was created in the many other productions I have seen and the students led by Marius (Justin Scott Brown) and Enjolras ( Jeremy Hays) all d great jobs. I must mention that I loved Gavroche ( skillfully played by the adorable Colin DePaula) who makes his first appearance in the second act, but one you will never forget. This production has some other changes from the original ( and let’s face it, “change is good”) that all add to the overall production unless you sit and compare and since many of our new theater audiences have not enjoyed this theatrical experience, they will enjoy. I recall when it was announce that Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre would be the first to sage this show in a “regional theatre” and nn the round no less, many people said, “it can’t work”- well guess what it did! And so does this!
“Les Miz” will continue at The Cadillac Palace Theatre , located at 151 West Randolph,through February 27th with performances as follows:
Tuesday,Wednesday,Thursday and Sunday evenings at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m.,matinees Saturdays and Sundays as well as Wednesdays )at 2 p.m.
Tickets range from $18-$90 and can be purchased at any of the Broadway in Chicago box offices, The Broadway In Chicago Ticketline at 800-775-2000, all Ticketmaster outlets and online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com
for more info, visit www.LesMis.com