By: JACOB FROELICH
It seems to me there has been a theme on Broadway as of late. Showstopper blockbusters in lieu of substance. One jukebox musical after another jukebox musical reliving the life and times of chart-topping celebrities. There have been a number of musical remakes after popular movies including Step Up, Legally Blonde, Mean Girls and Spongebob Squarepants among others. There have been some moving and entertaining original stories to grace the stage too. I have nothing against any of these productions; they are fun, nostalgic and entertaining by every right. But not all of them have the depth, the weight and the importance that a show like Les Misérables brings front and center. The show does not disappoint in any aspect.
As the show itself is fairly well known, I’ll suffice it to say that this ensemble, this cast, this orchestra, the scenic designers and crew work together to create something truly outstanding. The songs have all been sung before, but the gravitas and vocal power that this cast brings to life will truly blow you away. Particular standouts include both the protagonist Jean Valjean (Nick Cartell) and his ever determined foe Javert as played by Josh Davis. The bar for phenomenal voices is set quite high early in the show as Fantine (Mary Kate Moore) gracefully sings a low A flat on her deathbed. Allison Guinn as the Madame Thénardier carries the torch handily with hilarious moments of comic relief and her voice is delightfully bright. It is tempting to call out every single voice in this production but suffice it to say there wasn’t a single letdown. Brian Eads also leads an outstanding orchestra that never missed a beat.
Even in the depths of the deepest moments of despair it’s hard not to be in awe of the talent on this stage. While this show is no light matter or by any means a short musical it really clips along at a swift pace, and this works well for the show ensuring that even those who are apprehensive of attending will be kept interested. Through all the ups and downs in Les Miserables, the show asks the audience to turn within and to reflect upon our established ideals of right and wrong, of good and evil. The show practically begs, and almost forces the audience to look out into the world today and question our cultural norms and the less than admirable characteristics we have allowed to become commonplace in our language, our actions and our governance. As I grapple with my own question of how to make a difference in our world I am left again with the same phrase that stood out to me the first time I saw Les Misérables performed years ago: “To love another person is to see the face of God.”
Les Misérables is on stage now at the historic Orpheum Theatre in downtown Minneapolis through December 30th 2018. Tickets can be purchased at the State Theater box office, by phone: (800) 982-2787 or online at HennepinTheatreTrust.org. Ticket prices range from $39-$199 and a Student/Educator rush is available, see details at HennepinTheatreTrust.org.