“Les Miserables” may be the darkest show in all of musical theater. The ruthless police inspector Javert will stop at nothing in his quest to track down the former criminal Jean Valjean. It's a dark narrative but “Les Mis” unfolds in what must be the dimmest stage lighting ever.
Celebrity Attractions opens its 2012-13 season with this compelling musical, a touring production that boasts strong production values and a cast capable of delivering Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil's Tony Award-winning score with conviction.
While the musical is understandably short on humor, Timothy Gulan and Shawna M. Hamic wring every possible laugh out of their roles as the Thenardiers, the corrupt innkeepers whose moral fibers are threadbare. They scarcely blink as they sell the waif Cosette to a reformed Valjean.
Betsy Morgan tries to turn Fantine's introspective “I Dreamed a Dream” into a big sing, an overly wrought performance that would benefit from greater subtlety. Lauren Wiley's Cosette doesn't always manage to avoid shrillness in the dreamy “In My Life.” As Eponine, Briana Carlson-Goodman is too insistent in “On My Own” but has some lovely moments in “A Little Fall of Rain.”
W.C. Fields' remark about the dangers of sharing the stage with children is evident in Erin Cearlock's confident young Cosette, who delivers a remarkably endearing “Castle on a Cloud.” Joshua Colley is a natural scene stealer as the plucky Gavroche.
But it's the men who walk away with top honors in this production, with powerful voices that make Victor Hugo's characters spring vividly to life. Jason Forbach makes a fine Enjolras, the leader of the revolutionaries. His voice rings out triumphantly in “The People's Song.”
Max Quinlan offers a nuanced portrayal of Marius, whose undying love for Cosette almost leads to his own death. Andrew Varela is suitably imposing as Javert, a performance complemented by a fine rich baritone that captivates in the hauntingly beautiful “Stars” and then reaches even higher with Javert's moving “Soliloquy.”
The role of Valjean requires an enormous range, both from an acting standpoint and in terms of vocal heft. Peter Lockyer deftly negotiates the rigorous challenges of Valjean, from the explosive opening “Soliloquy” to the inspirational “Bring Him Home.”
As for stirring musical numbers, it doesn't get much better than “One Day More” and the powerful second act finale. Join the crusade and catch “Les Miserables.”
— Rick Rogers