- Les Miserables, Orpheum Theater
- March 7 – 12
- Tickets available through Ticketmaster
Les Miserables is one of my favorite shows of all time.
I want you to know, before we dive into this powerful production Omaha Performing Arts has gifted us with, I watched the VHS of the 10th Anniversary Concert of Les Mis so many times, I effectively lost the show two potential fans, my mother and brother.
They begged me to stop, but I could not. I knew every word, inflection, note, facial expression by heart and still do. It’s a show I’ve played every role in since I was 15. So, that said, I was very excited to help fill the seats at the Orpheum Tuesday night with a crowd as eager as I was to see one of the most popular musicals of all time, in real time.
The story follows Jean ValJean (Nick Cartell) an man imprisoned for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread to help sustain his ailing family. We pick up as he is set “free” by Inspector Javert, but as we find out many times throughout this tale, freedom is never free. The conditions of his parole leave him scrapping, outcast and desperate.
An act of goodwill spurs ValJean to break his parole, thus breaking the chains of abject poverty and starting his life over, thus beginning a pursuit that will last him nearly the reast of his life. As Valjean, Nick Cartell, brought extraordinary beauty and tenderness to ValJeans soliliquy and the show-stopping “Bring Him Home.” By the end of that number I could hear a pin drop, say for the sniffles happening around me.
Cartell brought great skill in a role that requires the ability to go from a younger, volatile Valjean made raw by 19 years in prison to the elderly Valjean later on his deathbed, a beautiful transition spanning the time of the show and the length of a life.
Pursuing ValJean with obsession (and I personally think, a little love) is the surly, vengeful Inspector Javert, (Preston Truman Boyd) filled with rage and pain. I find Javert one of the most fascinating characters in literature and Boyd certainly brought those complexities to his portrayal, specifically in Javert’s final lament.
In every production of Les Mis, we await the scandalous energy of the Thenardiers and their uproarious introductions in “Castle on a Cloud” and “Master of the House.” Christina Rose Hall and Matt Crowle met these crowd-favored roles with lust and ale-fueled fun.
Crowle, in particular was so fun to watch as he played the unscrupulous innkeeper and thief with boisterous immaturity and lots of tongue. “Master of the House” is a show-stopping number that breaks up the emotional heaviness of the rest of the show. I will say, I found a few places where the ensemble found a way to bring modern humor to traditionally dark moments throughout the night.
Rounding out the main ensemble; Haley Dortch as the ill-fated Fantine gave us a masterful rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream,” striking notes that filled the room with echoes. Christine Heesun Hwang as the yearning Thenardier daughter Eponine broke all of our hearts a little with “On My Own” and “A Little Fall of Rain.”
Addie Morales and Gregory Lee Rodriquez as the lovestruck Cosette and Marius were made to portray the youthful hope and exuberance that those roles require. As Marius makes his journey from participant in the student Revolution into a young man in love, Rodriquez takes us on that path with him.
Enjolras (Devon Archer) has always been my favorite character. The leader of the student Revolution who takes us from the situation room to the battlefield, and inspires in us a call to the greater good leading us in the most iconic numbers —”Do You Hear the People Sing” and “Red and Black.” Archer answered that higher call with the passion required to rally the people of France and and clench freedom for another day.
Along with with the incredible ensemble, those who play all the prisoners, Lovely Ladies, factory workers and students of the Revolution are praiseworthy in their ability to transform and meet the needs of each of these vastly different corners of character. “Drink with Me” and the beautiful formations of the ensemble really brought us into this world of the have and have not’s.
No cast of Les Miserables is complete without its child actors (Cora Jane Messer / Hazel Vogel) as young Cosette, Fantine’s daughter taken in by ValJean and (Harrison Fox/ Gabriel Lafazan) Gavroche, the young spy delivered with precision. They most likely alternate shows, but no matter what night you go, you will be seeing a consummate professional.
It’s funny watching the show watching a show that I fell in love with as a teenager back as a mother of three, completely entrenched in the story, and then wondering what school on the road is like for the children in the cast. The show runs at about two hours and 50 minutes with an intermission that has the bathroom lines at a standstill! Which also means, refill your drinks BEFORE you get in line.
Les Miserable, to me, is a timeless epic about humanity, the human spirit and the undying quest for freedom. It’s a show that belongs to all of us who have felt the sting of poverty, the yearn for something more or the power of love. Performed to 130 million people in 22 languages, Les Miserable is a an international jewel of musical theater. Thank you OPA for bringing it to our stages.