On the evening of June 13, about 50 minutes into watching a performance of the exquisite 25th Anniversary production of Cameron Mackintosh's LES MISÉRABLES at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, a relatively minor 4.1 earthquake reportedly shook surrounding areas here in Orange County. While such an occurrence is pretty much par for the course with living in Southern California, this one felt especially timely for those gathered inside taking in this beautifully-mounted show.
Perhaps, in a way, those of us (myself included) who may not have been aware that such light seismic activity was happening beneath us really did feel something—as many others tweeted from their seats did. It's possible, though, that we may have just confused the tremors for the deep rumble caused by the terrific orchestra barreling through the grandiose music of Boublil and Schönberg's much-beloved theatrical masterwork. Suffice it to say, it was hard to distract enthralled theatergoers from the mesmerizing showmanship of this revived national tour production (except maybe for a couple of annoyingly loud-talking, chips-munching [!], theater newbies sitting next to me). The long running musical will continue to wow audiences at the Center through June 24.
One of the most popular, highly-regarded stage musicals of all time, LES MISÉRABLES—enjoying some renewed buzz lately thanks to this gorgeously refreshed production, as well as the upcoming film adaptation arriving in theaters this Christmas—is, to put it simply, a moving, overtly theatrical epic. Everything about this Tony-winner for Best Musical feels massive—a big show with a big cast with big voices singing about big themes.
Based on Victor Hugo's novel—which was then adapted for the stage by composer Claude-Michel Schönberg, lyricists Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel, and book writer Herbert Kretzmer—this mammoth stage musical, with all its heavy, serious overtones and seemingly high-brow, opera-like treatment, still manages to be populist entertainment, mostly because of its lovely, memorable songs and its conscious ability to sear its broad themes into audiences' vulnerable centers.
And in this rich-looking—and rich-sounding—two-year old touring production (which previously stopped in Southern California last year at the Ahmanson Theatre in L.A.), the emotional resonance seems more palpable than ever.
Both casual and rabid fans—as well as Les Mis newbies—will not only appreciate this production's re-calibrated, high-quality theatrics (the sets, costumes, effects, and musical orchestrations are just superb), they will also likely cheer and holler for this touring show's incredibly talented ensemble.
How good? Each signature song (from the powerful "I Dreamed A Dream," to the rousing "One Day More," to the heartbreaking "On My Own") is met with such fervent applause—some lasting so long, the actors are often forced to pause longer than they plan to—that you'd swear you're at a One Direction stadium concert instead of just being out for an evening at the theater.
Under the direction of Laurence Connor and James Powell, this anniversary revival truly feels like a steady succession of one showstopper after another. I was genuinely surprised that the audience had the strength to refrain from jumping up to its feet after each song (the latter almost happens after lead actor Peter Lockyer's extraordinary stirring solo on the tear-inducing "Bring Him Home"). It goes without saying that by the show's finalé, the entire capacity-filled theater finally fulfills its urge to give a boisterous standing ovation.