“Les Miserables” is one of the most beloved musicals of the past 25 years for many reasons. Much is to be found in the source material, Victor Hugo’s sprawling novel of love, loss, redemption, and revolution set against the backdrop of 19th Century France.
But the real emotional gut-punch comes from the music; a sweeping, operatic score that features heartbreaking songs that practically beg the performers to belt their voices through the back wall of the theater. Most shows are lucky if they contain one or two showstoppers. “Les Miz” has six before intermission.
What makes the 25th Anniversary Touring production of “Les Miserables” (now playing at the Fox Theatre through Oct. 28) stand out is that it boasts a deep bench of talented performers each rising to the high standards of the show’s epic soundtrack.
I’ll spare you the Cliffs Notes summary of the complex plot, which for a musical to pull off is truly impressive. When you think about it, most collapse under the weight of having a boy meet a girl, but I digress.
The hero of our story is Jean Valjean (Peter Lockyer), a prisoner who breaks his parole, but turns his life around to become a noble and wealthy man. Lockyer is a solid Valjean and while he lacks some of the gravitas the role requires, he makes up for it with his stellar vocal range.
Pursuing Valjean throughout the years is police captain Javert (Andrew Varela). In spite of the heavy role of the show’s villain, Varela brings some decent acting chops and the production’s best voice to his turn as Javert. His booming baritone wowed the audience on more than one occasion.
Another important role, although with limited stage time, is Fantine (Betsy Morgan), an unfortunate factory worker who becomes destitute, and before her death entrusts Valjean with the care of her daughter, Cosette (played as a child by both Erin Cearlock and Abbey Rose Gould on alternate nights, and as all grown up by Lauren Wiley).
Morgan makes the most of her time on stage and handles the show’s signature song “I Dreamed a Dream” with delicate grace.
Other notables include Max Quinlan as Marius, a revolutionary-minded student who falls for Cosette. This role is usually fairly forgettable and the fact that Quinlan was able to make a mark with it is a testament to his talent.
Briana Carlson-Goodman is also very good as Eponine, a peasant girl who longs for Marius’ affections.
One knock on the Fox Theatre has always been problems with sound quality. I’m not sure if this is a problem that has been addressed in-house or was overcome by the touring production crew, but “Les Miserables” is the best-sounding show I’ve ever seen at the Fox.
The voices were all rich and clear and the large orchestra was strong but never overpowering.
“Les Miz” aficionados will notice some slight changes to the staging and a tweak to some song placement, but the show remains as consistently great as it has ever been.
If you’ve never seen the show, or even if you’ve seen it 15 times, this production is one of the better ones you will see.
With the film version of “Les Miserables” coming out this Christmas and already generating Oscar buzz, this is the perfect opportunity to whet your appetite and to get to be one of those people who can say, “I loved it way before it was a movie.”
“Les Miserables” is now showing at the Fox Theatre through Oct. 28.
For tickets call (314)-534-1111 or go to metrotix.com.