Monday, March 12, 2007

LES MISERABLES Broadway Revival

Collage of photos taken at the Broadhurst Theatre, billboard in Times Square, Lea Salonga at the stage door, and production photos (Joan Marcus)

Yesterday, I attended the matinee performance of the Broadway revival of Les Misérables at the Broadhurst Theatre. Based on Victor Hugo’s epic novel set in 1800s France, the musical follows escaped convict Jean Valjean and his foe, the police officer Javert who relentlessly pursued Valjean over decades. Valjean becomes a mayor, agrees to raise Cosette, the daughter of dying prostitute Fantine and joins the fight for freedom. Although many people still think that the musical is about the French Revolution of 1789, this Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s adaptation is actually about the student revolution of 1832.

Never mind that the New York Times’ Ben Brantley wrote that this revival, when it opened a few months ago “appears to be functioning in a state of mild sedation,” and that “its pulse rate stays well below normal.” It is still a good story, it still sounds as pretty as can be, and it was sung appealingly and powerfully. Freshly reorchestrated, this revival is 15 minutes shorter than the original. While it’s been said that the show was “uncomfortably cast,” much of the criticism was focused on Daphne Rubin-Vega’s Fantine. She is now replaced by Tony Award winning star, LEA SALONGA, who has played Eponine in the original Broadway run. In addition to Salonga, Les Miz stars Alexander Gemignani as Jean Valjean, Norm Lewis as Javert, Celia Keenan-Bolger as Eponine, Ali Ewoldt as Cosette, Adam Jacobs as Marius, Aaron Lazar as Enjolras, Gary Beach as Thenardier and Jenny Galloway as Madame Thendardier. A few months into the run, I thought that both Gemignani and Lewis gave powerful performances, contrary to the criticism that their emotional temperature was low when the revival opened a few months ago. Maybe these actors have grown into their respective roles with time. Both Gary Beach and Jenny Galloway were convincingly funny and creepy at the same time as the Thenardiers. Suitably exciting performances also came from Adam Jacobs, Ali Ewoldt and Aaron Lazar, as well as little Brian D’Addario as Gavroche. As for Lea Salonga’s well publicized return, I would leave it to someone else who is a big fan of Les Miz. The following are her thoughts posted in an online messageboard:

Saw Les Miz with Lea on Wednesday night, my first time seeing the new revival production. I will preface my review by saying I worked at the Imperial Theatre for a few years while Les Miz was playing there, and I've probably seen the show upwards of 100 times. Here are my thoughts on the current production at the Broadhurst. Lea Salonga (Fantine) was breathtakingly beautiful. I confess, I'd never seen her live on stage before, and I've always preferred Frances Ruffelle's take on Eponine to Lea's. But her rendition of "I Dreamed A Dream" was among the loveliest I've heard. Her voice is so pure and beautiful and she sings with such ease, it is really something to behold! Her Fantine was less gritty than many I've seen. She seemed like a really sweet, good-hearted, even slightly innocent woman thrust into a very terrible situation, making her demise even more tragic. She had wonderful chemistry with Alex Gemignani in her death scene, which was one of the more stand-out scenes of the show that night. I should also mention that she looked absolutely thrilled to be back on the Broadway stage. She was BEAMING during "One Day More". I was actually fairly indifferent to her before Wednesday evening, but I think I'm officially a fan now!”

Data from the League of American Theatres and Producers show that Lea Salonga boosts Les Miz box office sales. In Lea Salonga's first full week as Fantine, the revival filled the Broadhurst Theatre to 94.20%, making it the third highest show in terms of capacity.


Anonymous said...

Wow Lea Salonga! She's my idol too! So much happenings in New York! make me want to move there and you need any PhD student?:-)


Noel Y. C. said...

Then what are you waiting for? She signed on for at least until summer so come to NY and see it. She sang one beautiful song then died before the second act ends...but so what... she's still worth it.

Ken said...

That is soo cool Noel. Time to visit NYC in NYC and watch the show with Lea.

Noel Y. C. said...

Ken, it's a good time to come and see Lea. She's wonderful in this role, much different than Flower Drum Song. The two other leads Adam Jacobs and Ali Ewoldt are of Filipino descent as well. And there are other great shows to see.

Anonymous said...

Noel, you are one cool writer. I like your style. You are also a very artsy photographer. I would like to say more, but suffice it to say that I am especially proud of you because I am also a Filipina.

Noel Y. C. said...

Thanks Kit.