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REVIEW: "LES MISERABLES" — The Hollywood Pantages

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

An enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice, and redemption—a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit.


AUGUST 4, 2023 — LOS ANGELES


All around me … people are sitting rapt, awed, absolutely silent, only to burst into rousing cheers and long, thunderous applause after each number.


Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s adaptation of Victor Hugo’s two-ton tome of a novel, set amid revolutionary ferment in early 19th-century France, still sounds like a stirring “Marseillaise.”


The 1987 resuscitated “Misérables” that ran on Broadway for 6,680 performances, is still remarkably easy to follow. And, after 12 Tony Awards, it still seems to exist in a state of perpetual motion, a feeling that starts with the relentless, propulsive sweep of Mr. Schönberg’s score.


"One Day More" from Les Misérables, The Hollywood Pantages

After several early tours and Broadway revivals (the latest, 2014), this North American touring rendition of “Les Miserables” is the new, but no longer really new, version of the show, directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell. Presently playing at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre through September 10th, it then moves to Orange County’s Segerstrom Center for the Arts for two more weeks. The magnificent score of Les Misérables includes the songs “I Dreamed a Dream,” “On My Own,” “Bring Him Home,” “One Day More,” “Master of the House” and many more.


Set against the backdrop of 19th century France, “Les Misérables” tells of a world where children are abused and rescued, gallant young men fall instantly in love with demure young women, altruism and self-sacrifice as well as greed and crime are to be found among the poor and dispossessed, and touching death scenes make regular assaults on the tear ducts. More importantly, there's a running battle between opposing views of justice and religious duty.


"Master of the House" from Les Misérables, The Hollywood Pantages

For the fell Javert, who is neither villain nor hero, they mean spending years obsessively hunting down the felon Valjean, previously jailed for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. For Valjean, they mean succoring the oppressed and joining them at the barricades, adopting as his daughter an illegitimate orphan and saving the life of the idealistic boy who eventually marries her, and, when Javert is in his power, letting him go free.


Bathed in the soft blues and ambers of Paule Constable's evocative lighting design, “Les Miz” dazzles in its three-hour pageantry of gorgeous harmony, voluptuous gowns and handsome uniforms, originally designed by Andreane Neofitou, with additional designs by Christine Rowland and Paul Wills. The stately musical essentially makes the case for beatification of its three tragic heroes, Fantine, Eponine and Valjean, each of whom gets a death scene lighted white hot. It’s a world where no one is perfect, but all can be redeemed… except maybe the Thenardiers, who are forever lurking on the edges of their conflict.


(From L) Preston Truman Boyd as Javert & Nick Cartell as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, The Hollywood Pantages

The effects are uncanny. People are always on the move, new places appearing from the shadows, the plot busying along. A cluster of chairs and faces, and we've an inn, or the Paris cafe at which Hugo's revolutionary students gather. White smoke, a glare of light, and we've the sewers through which Valjean painfully carries his wounded son-in-law-to-be. But one of the most striking effects are achieved with the make-shift fort sculptures, a vast jumble of crates, barrels, chairs, wheels, railings and general debris that has been assembled, representing a last stand for the rebels.


As they lurch forward, slant and lock together, suddenly we've a street barricade that only needs a topping of eager youths with rifles and flags to be complete. Suddenly, we have a revolution. Never mind that a lot of people who have seen “Les Misérables” still think that it’s about the French Revolution of 1789 instead of the student revolution of 1832.


"Beggars at the Feast" from Les Misérables, The Hollywood Pantages

Making ingenious use of Mr. Kinley’s realistic, towering sets at center stage, artfully arranged crowds and Mr. Constable’s place-defining lighting, the musical keeps in clear focus a broad cast of characters from different social strata whose fortunes and even identities change over the course of several decades.


The playing is just as dynamic and fundamentally more visceral. There’s more physical violence depicted, and the characters confront each other rather than swirl around as before.


(from L) Gregory Lee Rodriguez as Marius, Christine Heesun Hwang as Éponine, Nick Cartell as Jean Valjean, Addie Morales as Cosette in Les Misérables, The Hollywood Pantages

Most crucial are the two men at the plot’s center: Jean Valjean (Nick Cartell, returning as the virtuous ex-felon who reinvents himself as a pillar of society; Brdwy: Cirque Du Soleil’s “Paramour”), and ramrod-straight Javert (Preston Truman Boyd; Brdwy: “Kiss Me Kate”), the unyielding police detective who pursues him like a whole flock of Furies. Mr. Cartell’s contra Valjean comes across as a chap of unshakeable equanimity, who seems to never really be in danger of losing his temper and doing the wrong thing.


Both actors sing handsomely, each with lustrous nuance, timbre and control, with Mr. Cartell’s super-human voice occasionally breaking into the stratosphere. His benedictory “Bring Him Home” is the highest highlight of the night — painfully piercing, stinging your compassion, but lifting you to the rafters on angel's wings..


"Red and Black" - Devin Archer as Enjolras and company in Les Misérables, The Hollywood Pantages

Numbers sung by Mr. Boyd come with such passion that they feel like love songs to his own certainty. In any case, hearing his torment increases your pulse rate above normal. When this Javert and Valjean cross paths, they exude much more than the tension of two rivals. By end of scene, you feel like you have just been punched in the gut yourself.


Offsetting the drama to a degree is Matt Crowle (Brdwy: “Monty Python’s Spamalot”) using florid, jiggly-gelatin mannerisms to portray the wildly depraved Thénardier, the crooked, opportunistic innkeeper, making the character a combination of captivating humor and sinister evil. And Christina Rose Hall finds a beautiful balance of comedy and creepiness as his vulgar wife.


Nick Cartell as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, The Hollywood Pantages

Gregory Lee Rodriguez is suitably cow-eyed and swoony-voiced as Marius, the handsome student in love with Valjean’s ward, the dutiful Cosette (the part played by the golden-throated Addie Morales). And Christine Heesun Hwang (“Miss Saigon”) is credible and wonderfully touching as the downcast, love-struck waif, Éponine.


Other galvanizing performances come from Devin Archer, who brings a troop-rallying tenor to Enjolras, the leader of the student revolutionaries, and a perfectly cast Haley Dortch as Fantine, the unmarried mother forced into prostitution and rescued by Valjean's kindness;


Co-directors Connor and Powell have indelibly put their mark on the show, embellishing virtually every scene while retaining their respect for the iconic original, proving without a doubt why this sumptuous, melodramatic morality tale has endured in popularity the world over for over four decades, why it has been translated into more than 23 different languages, and why it has earned every theatrical award heaped upon it.


PRESENTING: THE WORLD’S MOST POPULAR MUSICAL – LES MISÉRABLES, HOLLYWOOD PANTAGES THEATRE AUGUST 1 – SEPTEMBER 10; THE SEGERSTROM, COSTA MESA SEPTEMBER 19 – OCTOBER 1, 2023.


Cameron Mackintosh’s production of LES MISÉRABLES is written by Alain Boublil and ClaudeMichel Schönberg and is based on the novel by Victor Hugo. It has music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and original French text by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel, additional material by James Fenton and adaptation by Trevor Nunn and John Caird. Orchestrations are by Stephen Metcalfe, Christopher Jahnke and Stephen Brooker with original orchestrations by John Cameron.


The production is directed by James Powell and Laurence Connor, designed by Matt Kinley inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo, with costumes by Andreane Neofitou, additional costume designs by Christine Rowland and Paul Wills, lighting by Paule Constable, sound by Mick Potter, projections realized by Finn Ross, Jonathon Lyle and Fifty Nine Productions, musical staging by Geoffrey Garratt, music supervision by Stephen Brooker and James Moore, and casting by Tara Rubin Casting. The LES MISÉRABLES tour stage management team is led by Ryan W. Gardner with Claire Farrokh, Reed Jones and Tiffanie Lane. The LES MISÉRABLES associate director is Corey Agnew, musical staging associate is Jesse Robb, resident director is Richard Barth and music direction is by Brian Eads. The company management team is Chris Danner and Elle Aghabala.


Celebrated tour alums Nick Cartell and Preston Truman Boyd return to the barricades to portray the fugitive ‘Jean Valjean’ and ‘Inspector Javert,’ respectively. They are joined by Matt Crowle as ‘Thénardier,’ Christina Rose Hall as ‘Madame Thénardier,’ Haley Dortch as ‘Fantine,’ Devin Archer as ‘Enjolras,’ Christine Heesun Hwang as ‘Éponine,’ Gregory Lee Rodriguez as ‘Marius’ and Addie Morales as ‘Cosette.’ Vivian Atencio and Cora Jane Messer alternate in the role of ‘Little Cosette/Young Éponine.’ Henry Kirk and Milo Maharlika alternate in the role of ‘Gavroche.’


The touring ensemble includes Kyle Adams, Daniel Gerard Bittner, Ciaran Bowling, Jenna Burns, Julie Cardia, Ben Cherington, Steve Czarnecki, Kelsey Denae, Arianne DiCerbo, Genevieve Ellis, David Young Fernandez, Michelle Beth Herman, Randy Jeter, Daelynn Carter Jorif, Olivia J. Lu, Eden Mau, Andrew Marks Maughan, Benjamin H. Moore, Nicole Morris, Ashley Dawn Mortensen, Sofie Nesanelis, Tim Quartier, Julia Ellen Richardson, Ethan Rogers, Christopher Robin Sapp, Emily Somé, Christopher James Tamayo, Kyle Timson, Hazel Vogel and J.T. Wood.





Chris Daniels

Arts & Entertainment Reviewer

The Show Report



Photo Credits: Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade






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