Review of Les Mis

Just yesterday, I saw Les Mis in Greenville with Gardner Webb. It was my 5th time seeing it live and my 2nd time with a professional cast. With this production of Les Mis, I saw the 25th anniversary production. I had an understudy in this performance for Eponine, which was coincidental since last time I saw Les Mis, I had an understudy for Jean Valjean. I sat in the balcony towards the middle, which were impressive seats even though at first I didn’t know how much I would see since we were so high up, but still being up that high allowed me to see the entire stage.

Possible Spoilers on both plot and staging.

Leading the cast was Nick Cartell as Jean Valjean. He was such an impressive Jean Valjean. His version of “Bring Him Home” was so beautiful and sounded like a prayer and was quiet enough for what the scene required. He was warm and gentle around Cosette. It is amazing how his voice still had enough power when he was quiet during “Bring Him Home”. Then once again, he was quiet enough during his death scene. That is saying something because I was sitting in the balcony and I could still hear him even in quieter moments. During the scene where he let Javert go, he was able to act it to show that he forgave Javert.

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Josh Davis was Javert and I felt like he had the right voice for Javert, but something felt off. He did a wonderful job during “Stars”. I had a hard time having an emotional connection to Javert. It is very hard to find common ground with Javert. I just do not know what it was, but something was off so he was weaker compared to Jean Valjean so part of their dynamic was off. Even though something felt way off in Javert, this production showed that Javert does have heart, which was shown when he saw the body of Gavroche when he went back to the barricades.

Melissa Mitchell was Fantine. She played Fantine as a naive young woman as opposed to a very desperate one. She played her naivety in a way that showed she was quite naive when she first became a prostitute because she did not quite understand that job at all at first even though she was fighting for the life of her daughter. She was so quiet in her death scene, but was still able to project to the balcony. It is heartbreaking that she is still thinking about her daughter during her death, but acted like she was thankful that Jean Valjean will be raising her daughter.

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Sophie Knapp was such a wonderful Young Cosette. She has such a beautiful voice, which was clearly shown during “Castle on a Cloud”. She was small enough to look like she was eight at the time. She acted a bit nervous and scared around Madame Thenardier. Her “Castle on a Cloud” shows that she has hope that she will be rescued. She was quite a broken child.

Allision Guinn as Madame Thenardier and J. Anthony Crane as Thenardier combined were hilarious like they needed to be. Allision Guann was able to be mean enough around Cosette and acted like she actually love her daughter, Eponine at the time. The Thenardiers’ version of “Master of the House” was quite hilarious and during the Bargain, the funny thing was the audience knew they were lying, which made it funny. Even during “Beggars at the Feast”, they were hilarious.

On to the youthful love triangle between Eponine, Marius and Cosette. This was such an innocent and youthful love triangle. Talia Simone Robinson as Eponine was an understudy and she was able to embody Eponine the best she could. During all of the Paris bits, she was very playful and flirty around Marius, but she still was able to express her heartbreak that he will never love her. “On My Own” was heartbreaking and at the end, I could hear tears coming from her, but she decides to continue to love Marius despite the unrequited love. “On My Own” demonstrates Eponine’s miserable and empty life and shows her strength and heartbreak over the unrequited love.

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Jillian Butler as Cosette had such a beautiful soprano voice during both “In My Life” and “A Heart Full of Love”. Joshua Grosso as Marius was quite awkward during act I especially during “A Heart Full of Love”. It made the couple so cute and wonderful during that scene. When Marius first bumps into Cosette in Paris with Eponine standing in the back wasn’t fully effective, but feeling for all three was the most effective during “Heart Full of Love”. So I loved seeing the awkwardness during “A Heart Full of Love” and it was shown in a way that is like I am in love, but I don’t know what to do with it. This two were such a cute couple and I learned to love the two characters more.

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About Marius and Eponine, their version of “A Little Fall of Rain” was so believable. I really believed that Eponine was shot due to some of her non-verbals and noticing that it took effort to move since she was getting weaker as the song continued and she was also quiet enough. Joshua Grosso wasn’t heartbroken during the entire performance because he was comforting towards her and brave towards her. But when he ends the song with “grow”, that voice was so heartbreaking. It took him some time till he could say the word since he was quite stunned that Eponine died.

Joshua’s version of “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” was heartbreaking. Even during “Drink with Me”, when he sings about Cosette, it makes sense because he just lost Eponine and knows that most likely all of his friends will die and knows that if he survives, that he will only have Cosette.

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Wow, Matt Shingledecker as Enjolras was such a passionate Enjolras. He brought out the intensity and passion that the character needed. All of the students were able to express their hope towards the rebellion. They also were able to show their passion towards the cause. Julian Emile Lerner was such a wonderful Gavroche. Even though he was just a boy, he keeps an eye on Paris and acts as if he runs the city. Despite being young, he had passion towards the cause as well.

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About the ensemble, they were just so impressive. Their version of “One Day More” was so powerful and epic. Even in epic scenes like the opening or the second “Look Down”, there was the epicness that the songs required.

Wow, about the staging, I saw different staging than the West End. Even though the revolve wasn’t there, I still loved this staging. There was more color in this set. The different set pieces moved so smoothly between scenes. Like during “Paris/Look Down”, as the song continued, different areas opened up to show the scope of Paris. The paintings in the back actually moved some throughout the show. Those paintings gave a piece of Hugo in the show. The staging during the sewers showed how massive the sewers are and Valjean carried Marius in different ways. The staging during “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” adds even more emotion than the actor alone could do. During “Turning”, the women put candles down and then Marius comes out to sing the song and the students come out and pick up the candles and eventually blowing them out, which was a heartbreaking thing to watch.

About the sound system, the orchestra was so incredible. I could tell from the prologue that I would love the orchestra and they kept it together throughout the entire show. The sound system was incredible especially at the barricade. You could hear gunshots hit the back of the theatre so it felt like you were at the barricade.

So I would rate this production a 5/5 even though there were some actors that could have needed improvement such as Javert. But all in all, I loved this cast a lot, love the staging so much. Still such a beautiful story. To be honest, a more advanced staging gave more complexity to Les Mis. It was so good that I was an emotional wreck and that I ended up speechless.

Tomorrow, I plan to compare all three productions I have seen.

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My Passion for Les Mis

“To love another person is to see the face of God”

“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will raise”

-Les Mis: Finale

As many may know by now, when it comes to musicals, I am the most passionate about Les Mis. I still don’t know why that is, but do know why I love it is much. Les Mis is quite an unique musical that is so powerful, epic, and inspirational. You see people thriving in some of the most unfortunate situations ever and there is an uprising that students are passionate about and will fight to the end no matter what. That is what makes it such a passionate musical. Les Mis does not make me feel miserable ever even when I am feeling heartbroken or lonely or sad. You are feeling the character’s emotions at those moments and you also have joy experiencing those emotions due to a love you have for the show. Sometimes in heartbreaking situations, you do find happiness in one of the characters.

There is just something about Les Mis that is so captivating,  insightful, honest, soulful, and transforming. It is such a complex musical filled with so many wonderful layers and they make you truly get to know the different characters. This show is covered with several layers of emotions at such a deep level. The songs are brilliant and wonderfully reveal the depths of these characters. The plot, characters, and songs brilliantly work together.

This show represents the survival of the human spirit and despite the heartbreak, it is filled with hope, love, compassion, forgiveness, sacrifice, humanity and redemption. That shows the storyline is more then tragedy. I see it more inspirational then heartbreaking in my opinion. Yes, I know it is heartbreaking, but in fact understanding the inspirational world of the musical actually makes the heartbreaking nature stronger. Compassion is shown at heartbreaking moments such as death. Forgiveness and compassion is given to Valjean through the bishop who helps lead Valjean on a better path.

It seems like I am way too obsessed about this musical. But in reality, this musical truly has changed what I know about musical theatre. It made me look at the emotions differently. I can’t even describe how much the emotional nature of musicals changed after falling in love with this musical. If I have to pick a favorite character or song from this musical, I wouldn’t be able to.

What is it about the characters that makes so memorable? The reason why I love them so much is because they are so complex and strong. You see characters like Jean Valjean and Eponine raising above from their backgrounds. You get to see characters like Enjolras and the students who stand up for what they believe and stay passionate no matter what. There even is Fantine who lives for the sake of her daughter no matter what obstacles she faces. There is misery in all of the characters. The miserable are the wretched, the outcasts, and the fugitives. Some of them are tragic due to society and not their flaws. Fantine falls victim to how society treats women, Valjean falls victim to injustice due to his status of an ex-convict, and Eponine falls victim to how her parents raised her. But that doesn’t stop the characters from thriving or trying to become a better person.

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“I Dreamed a Dream”

(Major/Minor Spoilers)

This summer was a year like no other. I got the opportunity to see Les Mis in the West End. I had a dream of seeing it in London ever since I became obsessed with the musical. It changed my perspective on musical theatre. It changed how I viewed the different emotions because I felt emotions that I had never felt before and it also strengthened previous emotions. Before Les Mis, I believed I would hate tragedies and that was a big mistake. Because Les Mis is a tragedy, I learned from the past.

Even though Les Mis is a tragedy, it is so much more than that. Some people do not seem to understand why I love it because the title means “the miserable”. The show has an experience that is very different from other musicals because the musical is an extremely powerful emotionally moving musical.

When I saw the show in the West End, it was the best experience I ever had with the musical. The moment the lights went out and the music began, I knew it was more than I originally excepted. The first couple of notes were just so powerful. Because the show is sung-through, the orchestra has to be incredible. The current Les Mis cast is absolutely brilliant and when I saw it, I had an understudy for Valjean. His name was Adam Bayjou.

Adam played a wonderful Valjean. During the prologue, I could hear the anger of Valjean and I could see his transformation through the kindness of the bishop. After Valjean was released, my tears started and I excepted them to start later, but glad they started when they did. I could see Valjean’s compassion toward the poor especially towards Fantine and his adopted daughter.

Jeremy Secomb played Javert, the antagonist of the storyline. For the longest time, I did not feel for this character at all. I did not even care that he died. But I finally saw Javert when Jeremy played him. He was the most effective during the suicide scene. Before he started singing, I could already sense the suffering of Javert. Even though I do not like Javert, I am glad that I finally cared.

Rachelle Ann Go played the tragic heroine, Fantine. I truly saw Fantine from beginning to end. My heart was breaking for this character. From the moment the character sang, I was truly feeling the desperation of the character. “I Dreamed a Dream” was heart-renching and so was her death. She had just gotten the part only a month before I saw the show in London. Out of all of the characters, I feel the worst for Fantine.”I Dreamed a Dream” had a little bit of hope in it. Once it got to “Lovely Ladies”, Fantine sounded much more desperate and that is the hardest scene to watch. I am not a big fan of the scene because it makes me feel uncomfortable, but I tolerate it because I understand why it is there. My heart continued to break during Fantine’s death scene. I could feel how broken Fantine was and I could feel Valjean’s compassion by saying he will care for her daughter.

The two actors who played the Thenardiers’ were hilarious. I laughed during “Master of the House” and by this point, the audience deserves a good laugh. Besides being funny, I could also sense their greedy, abusive, cruel side. I first saw their evil nature in how they treated Cosette. But after Cosette was rescued by Valjean, they started being abusive towards their own daughter.

Carrie Hope Fletcher played the heartbroken Eponine. Eponine is the daughter of the Thenardier’. After Cosette was rescued by Valjean, her family fell into extreme poverty and they started to use their abuse on Eponine. I could feel Eponine’s unrequited love towards Marius. Every time I heard her sing, the words were very heartbreaking to me. During “On my Own”, I felt a new emotion in Eponine, which was anger. It is fun discovering new emotions of characters you already have gotten to know. I find it sad that Eponine did not get happiness until “A Little Fall of Rain”, which is her death scene. At the beginning of that song, I believed that Eponine was dying from being shot and I knew something was wrong after I heard the gunshot because I looked up and the nonverbal I saw made me know something was wrong. The thing I love the most about this scene is that Marius stayed with her and that she got to die in the arms of the man she loves. Rob Houchen played Marius and in this scene, he truly was compassionate towards her and offered her comfort. I truly saw how devastated he was after she died and how much Eponine meant to him.

Enjorlas and the students truly were brilliant. Each time they sang, I felt their passion towards the uprising. Every song that they sang had an epic and uplifting quality. But I felt hopeless during “Drink With Me”. They knew the uprising will fail after Eponine died. They realized they were outnumbered. Even though they felt hopeless, they still stayed passionate even in the final battle.

The set truly made the show come to life. It was very 3d, which made it feel like you are part of the action. The set was very gray and bleak, which represented the time period. The revolving stage helped with time change. You would be watching one scene and all of a sudden the stage turned and another scene was going on. I loved this technique during the uprising. When Gavroche climbed over the barricades, they turned the stage and seeing Gavroche getting shot saddened me. There is something special about live theatre that makes emotions more real. After the uprising ended, they turned the stage and shown a light on Enjorlas, which saddened me as well. The fog helped scenes come to life as well. This production had a lot of fog starting with the opening scene.

When the show ended, I was completely speechless. Usually when I see a show, I do not stand up right away, but for this I did. It was more than I thought. Some emotions I always knew were in the show were stronger. Those emotions that became stronger were compassion, hope, and forgiveness. Sadness was also stronger because I felt it more than I used to. I felt the emotions of uplifting, exciting, joy, love, funny, compassion, passion, hope, anger, guilt, hopeless, sad, desperation, devastation, depressing, heartbreak, loneliness, uncomfortable and I know I felt more than that.

After the show ended, I went to the stage door and met the actor who played Valjean. He signed my playbill and I had my picture taken with him. I truly “dreamed a dream” that night. I was lucky that I was only nine rows back from the stage. It added to the experience and it made me feel closer to the action. I have no words to describe how much Les Mis means to me. Once again it may be depressing, but is also uplifting. Because “Do You Hear the People Sing” is the anthem of the show, it shows that Les Mis is uplifting.

“To Love Another Person is To See the Face of God”