Review | Les Misérables: breathtaking

Hennepin Theatre Trust, performing at the Orpheum, through Dec 30

Ensemble in LES MISÉRABLES. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

After a hugely successful two- and half-year Broadway run, Les Misérables returns to the Orpheum for a new take on the musical like you’ve never seen before. The lush score conducted by Brian Eads and innovative new set designs showcasing advanced projection technology all help breath life into the show. This run of Les Misérables happening now at the Orpheum until December 30th comes courtesy of the Bank of American Broadway on Hennepin series and it’s one you won’t want to miss. Over 100 cast and crew members are involved in this particular production based on Victor Hugo’s beloved classic, but the success of any good Les Misérables depends on the strength of its main protagonists, Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert.

Any actor who steps into the role of Jean Valjean has some large and impressive shoes to fill, not to mention the extraordinary artistry required to maneuver through the difficult show-stopping numbers like “Who am I” and “Bring him home.” Nick Cartell fills those shoes with ease, gracefully hitting every note with a voice that wraps around the audience like a hug. Javert, played by Josh Davis, is no less brilliant in his role. While the physical fight scenes between the two men and throughout the play lack a little of the gusto needed to make them completely credible, the tension is palpable when Davis and Cartel are on stage together.

Towards the end of the first half of the show, we meet the colorful band of revolutionaries who carry most of the second half, and Matt Shingledecker as the bright-eyed, bravado-filled Enjolras will make you want to stand up and sing along as he calls for action and freedom in “The People’s Song.” Marius, Enjolras’ right-hand man, played by Joshua Grosso adds a surprising touch of comedy and warmth to his romantic duets with Cosette, the charge of Jean Valjean played by Jillian Butler. Paige Smallwood as the tomboyish Eponine will tug at your heartstrings as she is the unwilling go-between for Cosette and Marius, the man she truly loves.

Of course, no review of Les Misérables would be complete without a mention of the Thenardiers, first innkeepers, then thieves who keep popping up at the most inopportune of times to cause mischief. Allison Guinn as Madame Thenardier is as raunchy and brash as you would expect for the overbearing wife of a conman played by J. Anthony Crane, and the two bring about some of the largest laughs in the show.

All in all, this production of Les Misérables is not your average run of the mill showing of the musical phenomenon, but a sensationally refreshing take that will be the perfect gift for the musical lover in your life.

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