Les Miserables at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre

By Samantha Halbreich

Cast of Les Mis The Cast of Les Miserables
Photo by Matthew Murphy

In an age of hashtags and purple prose, the term "epic" frequently gets overused. But make no mistake, there is no word that more accurately applies to the current National Tour's production of Les Misérables, at the Hollywood Pantages for a month-long engagement now thru June 2.

Between its enduring popularity and its jovial nickname, it's easy to underestimate the power of Les Misérables. For those who have never seen it, or remember only a handful of the more ear-worm like numbers, I have to tell you that this is no light, carefree night out at the theater. At three hours long, including the intermission, "Les Miz" asks the audience for total commitment to a story that spans three decades. A story that is completely sung through, with most of the long list of musical numbers rendered melodiously, emotionally and thunderously.

The famed adaptation of Victor Hugo's 1862 novel delves into practically every deeply human theme. Love and hate, life and death, Heaven and Hell, mercy and vengence, sacrifice and selfishness, redemption and condemnation - and it's all covered in a sprawling narrative with dozens of compelling characters.

Nick Cartell Nick Cartell as Jean Valjean
Photo by Matthew Murphy

The story opens with Jean Valjean, aka Prisoner 24601 (Nick Cartell), being released from prison following a 19-year sentence for stealing a loaf of bread. After a compassionate bishop (Andrew Maughan) shows him a profound act of mercy, he decides to break his parole, change his identity and create a new life as an honest man. But Valjean is relentlessly hunted by police Inspector Javert (Josh Davis).

Along the way, Valjean comes to the aid of Fantine (Mary Kate Moore), a single mother whose dire circumstances force her into prostitution. Feeling deep responsibility and sorrow, he agrees to find, protect, and raise her daughter, Cosette (Jillian Butler). First, he must rescue her as a girl (Cate Elefante & Aubin Bradley) from the thieving innkeeper Thenardier and his wife (J. Anthony Crane and Allison Gunn). Eventually, Valjean and Cosette cross paths with a group of revolutionary students led by Enjolras (Matt Shingledecker) that includes Marius (Joshua Grosso), who falls in love with Cosette while Thenardier's daughter Eponine (Paige Smallwood) falls into unrequited love with him.

Jillian Butler, Joshua Grusso, & Paige Smallwood Jillian Butler, Joshua Grusso, & Paige Smallwood
Photo by Matthew Murphy

If there was ever a production of "Les Miz" to get swept away with, this is the one. The cast is uniformly terrific, delivering iconic songs like "One Day More" "At The End Of The Day" and "Who Am I?" with power, conviction and vocal fineness. True to Hugo's description, Jillian Butler sings with a lark-like grace, and Eponine's pain as she endures the anguish of unrequited love is heard note-by-note. "On My Own" was sung with such power that the audience was left in a stunned silence before erupting into applause, with many on their feet. The young Parker Dzuba and Parker Weathersbee in the role of pint-sized revolutionary Gavroche steal practically every scene they dash through, adding needed lightness to the story.

The set designers and lighting teams used the stage to their full advantage. The new scenic design cleverly uses high-tech projections as well as reproductions of Hugo's expressive, surrealistic and enrapturing paintings. The sound and lighting design by Mick Potter and Paule Constable, respectively, are superb, bringing to life the battle scenes on the barricade.

In its 33rd year, Les Miserables remains the world's most popular musical.

Only at the Pantages thru June 2, you don't want to wait "one day more" to get your tickets for this special night at the theatre.

Posted By Samantha Halbreich on May 21, 2019 02:26 pm | Permalink