Les Miserables at Cadillac Palace Theatre | Theater review

This new touring version of Les Miz loses the turntable but retains its schlocky, irresistible appeal.
LesMiserables1
Photograph: Deen Van Meer Les Miserables 25th anniversary tour
By Zac Thompson |
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At least one aspect of the latest touring version of Boublil and Schönberg’s musical behemoth would at one time have outraged three continents’ worth of 11-year-old girls in souvenir Les Miz sweatshirts: It doesn’t spin. Though there have been stationary regional productions before, for 25 years the flagship version has retained Trevor Nunn’s original merry-go-round conceit, with inspector Javert pursuing convict turned wealthy do-gooder Jean Valjean through several decades and one student-led revolution on an ever-revolving turntable.

Though the carousel handily conveyed the sweep of Victor Hugo’s novel, codirectors Connor and Powell manage to achieve a similar effect without giving any chorus members vertigo. New orchestrations and projections based on Hugo’s smoky paintings help, but the staging owes its sense of almost agitated momentum to its vigorous performances, led by Lawrence Clayton’s hounded Valjean and Andrew Varela’s fierce Javert.

Don’t get me wrong: The thing is still as schlocky as all hell. The book substitutes breadth for depth, and the overblown score has all the subtlety of a Celine Dion power ballad sung by an army of American Idol hopefuls hopped up on shots of 5-hour Energy. But just try to remain unstirred by “One Day More,” the first act finale, or the scene where poor, tomboyish Eponine dies in the arms of her unrequited love, Marius. It simply can’t be done.

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