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Monday, 30 December 2013 20:53

Toronto Theatre Review: New LES MISÉRABLES Wraps 25-Year-Old Classic in Shiny New Wrapper

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The Cast of the Toronto Production of LES MISÉRABLES The Cast of the Toronto Production of LES MISÉRABLES Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann

The brilliantly successful 66-year old British producer of hit musicals, Cameron Mackintosh, was recently quoted by a Toronto theatre critic as saying, "Long-time Les Misérables fans tell me that the new production underway in Toronto is their favourite version of the musical."

A logical question to ask Mackintosh at this point in time is, why bother with a new version of a mega hit in the first place? Or, to put it another way, if it ain't broken, why fix it? Mackintosh has a thoughtful response ready at hand.

Apparently, a recent British study indicated that over the last ten years, more and more young people in England aged 18 to 34 are attending theatre. While he was extremely pleased to hear this, Mackintosh realized that simply feeding revivals to this new theatre-going demographic wasn't necessarily a wise move. He also believes that trying to improve on the original material is not the way to go. But what you can do, he contends, is examine what you've got and hopefully create something new that doesn't alter the original but does enhance or compliment what is already there. One of the ways to do this is via design and staging. The results in this instance, are, to quote Mackintosh, a "more vibrant, colourful and intense" new production of Les Mis.

This production is now playing in Toronto to sold out houses prior to moving to New York.  More specifically, the Toronto physical production (new sets & costumes) is headed to New York. But that is not the case for most of the present company of Canadian actors. The several exceptions are the justifiably highly-touted Mackintosh protegee, Ramin Karimloo as a younger Valjean, and the superb comic actor Cliff Saunders as the greasy, greedy innkeeper Thenardier. These two brilliant performers will be heading to Broadway with the show when it opens there.

The well-known Victor Hugo plot line remains the same. It revolves around Jean Valjean and his struggles with Inspector Javert who originally sent him to prison for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's starving child.

However, if we're to emphasize the new in this production, let's focus on the new set, inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo. This reimagined set consists primarily of visually spectacular period and script-appropriate projections which are a direct result of the many state-of-the-art advances in contemporary set design since the opening of the original production over 25 years ago. In fact, replacing that bulky turntable that was an integral part of that original design with these projections, has gone a long way to justifying the phrase "New Les Mis," since it encouraged/permitted the directors to create fresh, more dynamic staging, which in turn allowed for superior pacing, energy and passion in a show that already had its fair share of those winning qualities.

As for the acting company, the Toronto ensemble is outstanding, easily earning cheers and standing ovations for each and every performance. I can only imagine what choosing a suitable cast from amongst the larger pool of brilliant New York talent for the Broadway version could bring to this production. The term "phenomenal" comes to mind.

The magnificent score of Les Misérables includes the classic songs “I Dreamed a Dream,” “On My Own,” “Stars,” “Bring Him Home,” “Do You Hear the People Sing?,” “One Day More,” “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” “Master of the House” and many more.

A Mirvish Productions presentation of a play by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg. Directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell.

Les Miserables the musical, is based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel, an epic and uplifting story about the survival of the human spirit.

Credits

CAST

Jean Valjean...Ramin Karimloo
Fantine...Genevieve Leclerc
Cosette...Samantha Hill
Eponine...Melissa O'Neil
Thénardier...Cliff Saunders
Madame Thénardier...Lisa Horner

STAFF/CREATIVE

Staging
Director...Laurence Connor & James Powell

Design

Production Design...Matt Kinley
Costume Design...Andreane Neofitou
Costume Design (additional)...Christine Rowlands
Lighting Design...Paule Constable
Sound Design...Mick Potter

Producers

Cameron Mackintosh
David Mirvish

AUTHORS

Libretto...Alain Boublil...Claude-Michel Schönberg
Additional Material...James Fenton
Lyrics (French)...Alain Boublil
Lyrics (English)...Herbert Kretzmer
Music...Claude-Michel Schönberg
Adaptation...Trevor Nunn...John Caird
Source Material...Victor Hugo

RUNNING TIME:

2 hrs 50 minutes, includes intermission

The magnificent score of Les Misérable includes the classic songs “I Dreamed a Dream,” “On My Own,” “Stars,” “Bring Him Home,” “Do You Hear the People Sing?,” “One Day More,” “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” “Master of the House” and many more.

Additional Info

  • Review Theatre Name: The Princess of Wales Theatre
  • Review Theatre Address: 300 King St. W. Toronto, ON, Canada 416-872-1212
Last modified on Thursday, 09 July 2015 05:09