by Jane Amy Ness and Beth Scheunemann
From the prologue to the finale, and every transfixing moment in between, Les Misérables will draw you in, make you laugh and cry, then cry and laugh again. Playing at the Orpheum Theatre now through December 18, this is one musical not to be missed. It fills your soul in the most satisfyingly visceral way.
The lighting painted a stunning chiaroscuro against the stage and characters so that every scene, every moment created a beautiful tableau. The visual shadows and light paralleled the narrative of the outcasts’ oppression, which chains and shames them, while the human spirit of resilience and passion gives rise to redemptive hope. The scenes of war were especially spectacular when the lights, chorus and action converged with the drumbeats – wow. Another feat of brilliance was the Van Gogh-like visual movement created when Javert (Hayden Tee) was on the bridge.
The music indeed raised the Orpheum’s ceiling to new heights – powerful and clear, from the soloists and the chorus alike. From the deep, resonating voice of the Bishop of Digne (Randy Jeter), underlying the spirit of hope and mercy, to the unbelievably high notes nailed by Cosette (Addie Morales); the passion conveyed by Jean Valjean (Nick Cartell) and Javert, indeed the entire chorus, created a truly emotional experience. Eponine (Christine Hessun Hwang) singing “Alone,” accompanied by the oboe, will move you to tears. We were so proud to see Hwang, a Minnesota actor and Minnetonka High School Spotlight winner, in such a renowned Broadway production. Thenardier (Matt Crowle) and Madame Thenardier (Christina Rose Hall), were both the bad guys and the comic relief. Their exaggerated costumes and physical comedy were woven into the tragedy so deftly that the absurdities made you laugh just when you needed it most.
There is nothing left out in this exquisite tale. Nearly 160 plus years after Victor Hugo published his story, its timeless themes resonate today: suppression of the disenfranchised: identity – ‘who am I’, ‘me too’, being haunted by your past, family separation, politics of power, the hope of freedom and redemption — to name a few. Underpinning it all was the talented orchestra; its depth and breadth provided a canvas for this beautifully tragic and hopeful story.
LES MISÉRABLES is written by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg and is based on the novel by Victor Hugo. It has music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and adaptation by Trevor Nunn and John Caird. Orchestrations are by Stephen Metcalfe, Christopher Jahnke and Stephen Brooker with original orchestrations by John Cameron. Directed by James Powell and Laurence Connor. Shows through Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022 at the historic Orpheum Theatre (910 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis). Performance times are Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m. Ticket prices start at $40. All pricing includes a Building Restoration Fee of $5.00.