Les Miz -- Epic but Sketchy
By Bob and Karen Isaacs
KAREN: We saw the touring production of Les Miserables at the Bushnell in Hartford -- the first thing we will say is that it is an excellent production.
Although Bob wasn't able to make it into the studio to record this -- he agrees with me totally. It is easy to see why Les Miz is currently the third longest running musical in Broadway history. At the Bushnell this is the 25th anniversary production which features some new staging and sets.
The show, in case you don't know – and it seems like almost everyone has seen it -- is based on the epic novel by Victor Hugo that involves many characters during the early 19th century revolutionary period in Paris. It is known for the central conflict between the hero Jean Valjean and the policeman Javert who is constantly after him. Add in love interests, other villains, and assorted impoverished and downtrodden citizens, and you get a massive story. If we attempted to recount all the plots turns and twists -- it would take a good five minutes.
This is a sung-through musical -- with no dialogue. Most of us recognize will recognize a number of songs -- "one Day More," "Who Am I?", "In My Life," and others.
It is easy to see why so many people love this musical -- it has an epic quality, some wonderful melodies, a noble hero, romance and, in this production, terrific performances. But it is also easy to see why a substantial number of people don't care for Les Miz. In trying to tell the epic story - years fly by with nary a mention, characters are seldom more than stick figures representing good, evil, greed, lust, and scenes are sketched with the broadest of pens. In other words subtlety is lost. Some of the music is overblown and the English lyrics seldom rise about the obvious.
The production at the Bushnell has a large cast that works very hard -- the ensemble plays so many roles and changes costumes so often, they all must be dizzy by the time the curtain comes down. The set is manages to capture the epic quality, though if you are sitting on the sides in the front orchestra you can miss some important moments. The backdrops were supposedly inspired by paintings by Victor Hugo and they are very interesting.
So our verdict -- for those who love Les Miz -- this is a production to see. For those who want to see what all the fuss is about -- also, go see it. But realize you are getting the Cliff Notes version of this classic tale.
Les Miz is at the Bushnell through Mach 11.
This review aired on WNHU-FM 88.7 and www.wnhu.net