Friday, May 25, 2012

A Magnificent “Les Miserables” By Skip Sheffield If ever there was an epic stage musical, “Les Miserables” is it. Theater-lovers have a unique treat available only through May 26 with the 25th anniversary edition of “Les Miserables” at Kravis Center in West Palm Beach. This is a somewhat scaled-down version of the musical I first saw more than 20 years ago in Miami Beach, but it is no less powerful. This stage musical is based upon Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel of the same name. Many consider it the finest work of literature of the 19th century. “Les Miserables” is a massive work of five volumes, 365 chapters and 1,400 pages unabridged. Obviously it could never fit in a two-and-a-half-hour musical, but producer Cameron Mackintosh and original director Trevor Nunn, working from a French script by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel, worked miracles in 1985 by shoehorning the sprawling 1815-1832 story into a workable show. This 25th anniversary Cameron Mackintosh production is faithful to the music by composer Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyricist Herbert Kretzmer, and it is distinguished by amazing new set design and projections by Fifty-Nine Productions. The story centers on Jean Valjean (Peter Lockyer), a luckless young man who is arrested for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving sister and her family. The story begins in 1815 in Digne, France after Valjean has been released from 19 years in prison. In those days an ex-prisoner was forced to carry a yellow passport, which branded him as an offender. The story moves forward to 1823 in Montreuil-Sur-Mer, where Valjean has been taken in by the kindly Bishop (Joseph Spieldenner). Valjean shows his gratitude by stealing the Bishop’s silverware. He is shocked when the Bishop covers for him to the police, forgives him, and even gives him two valuable candlesticks. While it delves into French history, politics, moral philosophy, anti-royal sentiment and justice, “Les Miserables’ is ultimately a tale of redemption, both for Valjean and the man who torments him, Inspector Javert (Andrew Varela). Valjean earns his redemption by loving the destitute Fantine (Betsey Morgan) and her out-of-wedlock daughter Cosette (Lauren Wiley as the adult Cosette). Cosette is in turned loved by Marius (Max Quinlan), an idealistic student who hates the monarchy. This production is enlivened by the comic antics of the corrupt innkeepers the Thenardiers, played by Shawna M. Hamic and Timothy Gulan. All of the cast are wonderful singers, but the sound is mixed unmercifully loud for those who are not hard of hearing. Still it is a grand and glorious production. I defy you not to be moved by Lockyer’s beautiful “Bring Him Home.” Tickets start at $27 and may be reserved by calling 800-572-8471 or going to