The revolution has begun……again.“Les Miserables” affectionately nick-named “Les Miz,” is back in a new setting primarily to woo the digital generation who are not perceived as consistent followers of legit theatre.  However, the revival is also an enticement to loyal fans wanting to re-live the grandeur, spectacle and emotions of this magnificent pop grand opera which premiered in 1985.

Based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, the groundbreaking musical was composed by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, with lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer, original French text by Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel, original adaption by Trevor Nunn and John Caird and additional material by James Fenton.

The re-imagined show is based on the U.S. national tour which launched in November 2010, directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell.  New designs are by Matt Kinley, with costumes by Andreane Neofitou, additional costumes by Christine Rowlands, lighting by Paule Constable and sound by Mick Potter with projections by Fifty-Nine Productions.  Updated technology includes re-designed lighting, as well as a video wall and scenery inspired by Victor Hugo’s paintings. Projections give the illusion that one is looking along a Paris street or into a Paris sewer. In numbers it seems the creative team approaches that of the large cast.  Like the story, it’s a colossal undertaking.

Producer Cameron Mackintosh’s re-staged production of the multi award-winning masterpiece set in 19th-century France tells the story of convict Jean Valjean. He’s on a quest for redemption after serving a long, harsh, and unimaginable jail sentence and subsequent shunning from society.  The musical memorably evokes the 1832 Paris uprising, when the downtrodden masses, led by restless university students, protested against the monarchy. With its emphasis on poverty and injustice, the mood of angry disillusion and yearning for liberation, the through-sung piece speaks as much to our own troubled age.

While “Les Miserables” includes several overlapping story lines, the troubled life of Valjean and his influence on others is essential. The story begins with a bitter, desperate Valjean. After being released from prison for stealing a loaf of bread, he’s an outcast. But the action of a kind church bishop, who lies to protect Valjean from returning to jail, changes the former convict. Valjean finds his religious faith, changes his name and works to be a better man. However, he’s still being tenaciously pursued by the policeman Javert. The story comes to its dramatic end against the background of the1832 revolts in the streets of Paris.  While set in a doom and gloom scenario, the opposite prevails as hearts and heightened feelings are elevated by the positive theme of optimism and hope.

The appeal of the show lies beyond its visual spectacle. The human element is a key additive to this revamped production in which two performances stand out.  Ramin  Karimloo  grew up in Peterborough and Richmond Hill, and as a youngster was motivated to seek a career in theatre after seeing Colm Wilkinson (now his idol) perform in the Toronto production of “Phantom of the Opera.”  The family moved to England where Karimloo, realized his hopes on the London stage, receiving praise for his portrayal of the masked figure.  In the Toronto production Karimloo’s strong voice is a match for his sturdy portrayal of Jean Valjean unfurling sympathetic audience emotion.

Earl Carpenter as police inspector Javert, demonstrates disciplined passion for justice.  The actor/singer imported from Britain, trailing his prey throughout the musical, portrays majesty of character.  It’s a sensitive role invoking admiration, hate and condemnation for his following “the letter of the law.”  Carpenter’s magnificent voice is compelling, certainly eclipsing memories of Russell Crowe’s very inept Javert in the film adaptation.

Highlight characters include Eponine (Melissa O’Neill), who though only appearing in the second act, draws audience compassion confessing her unrequited love for Marius in the lovely ballad “On My Own.”  Further emotions are stirred in their duet “A Little Fall of Rain.”

Humor is sprinkled onto the plot’s heavy motif when corrupt innkeepers, the Thenardiers, briskly lift spirits in the rousing patter song “Master of the House.” The lyrics enumerate their devious practices ranging from fleecing customers to “cooking the books”.  Its boisterous theme is reminiscent of Gilbert and Sullivan’s famed “I’ve Got a Little List” melody from “The Mikado”.  Cliff Saunders and Lisa Horner have the audience rollicking with laughter with their antics.

There are many highlights to this musical which has found a permanent mass fan base.  The compelling story, wonderful music and everyman characters we adopt as our own.

Whether you prefer the original staging (which I do), or are captivated by its theatrical re-setting, “Les Miserables,” like its source novel, has become a classic.  It’s magnificent and thrills the soul.

In a late announcements, Ramin Karimloo has been tapped to continue his Jean Valjean role when the show transfers to Broadway after its Toronto run.  Caissie Levy is cast as the tragic Fantine.  For the Hamilton native it’s a huge step in her career.  Caissie has won acclaim in London for “Ghost the Musical,” performed in the West End production of “Hair” (also on Broadway), and played the pivotal “Elphaba” the evil witch in the Los Angeles and Broadway productions of “Wicked.”

“Les Miserables” plays at Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre through December.  Performances begin March 1,, 2014 at New York’s Imperial Theatre with the official opening night listed as March 23.

By: Ryan Reynolds

THEATRE:

Princess of Wales Theatre 

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PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE:

Tue – Sat 7:30PM
Wed, Sat, Sun 1:30PM

HOLIDAY SCHEDULE
Mon Dec 23 1:30 & 7:30 PM
Thur Dec 26 7:30 PM
Fri Dec 27 1:30 & 7:30 PM
Sat Dec 28 1:30 & 7:30 PM
Sun Dec 29 1:30 PM
Mon Dec 30 7:30 PM
Tue Dec 31 1:30 PM
Thur Jan 2 1:30 & 7:30 PM
Fri Jan 3 7:30 PM
Sat Jan 4 1:30 & 7:30 PM
Sun Jan 5 1:30 PM

The role of Jean Valjean is played by Ramin Karimloo, except for the performances listed below when it is played by Aaron Walpole.

Thur Nov 14 7:30 PM
Thur Nov 21 7:30 PM
Thur Nov 28 7:30 PM
Thur Dec 5 7:30 PM
Thur Dec 12 7:30 PM
Thur Dec 19 7:30 PM
Fri Dec 27 1:30 PM
Thur Jan 2 7:30 PM
Sun Jan 5 1:30 PM
Tues Jan 7 7:30 PM
Wed Jan 8 1:30 & 7:30 PM
Tues Jan 14 7:30 PM
Thur Jan 23 7:30 PM
Thur Jan 30 7:30 PM

Note: There are strobe effects in this performance.

RUNNING TIME:

2 hrs 50 min includes intermission

Providing a Fresh Perspective for Burlington and Hamilton.

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