‘Les Miz’ thunders with details, diction

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The national tour of Cameron Mackintosh’s acclaimed production of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s Tony Award-winning musical phenomenon, Les Miserables is thundering the rafters at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre for a two-week run after a celebrated two-and-a-half-year blitz on Broadway.

“One Day More” Photo by Matthew Murphy

Productions of the musical spin of Victor Hugo’s novel about a failed uprising during the turbulent times of 19th century France have sold out around the world for a generation and made for anchor productions of high school and community theaters for a decade with little sign of falling out of rotation anytime soon. To date, the show stands as the fifth longest-running Broadway production of all time, while the movie version reached more than 130 million people.

The Seattle show is the perfect production for people who might not have seen a live version, as well as for those who can tally multiple torn tickets in their memory books. This touring company’s take on the show brings a new level of sensory impact to the already deep characters and pendulum-swinging music that makes the show a production to see again and again. Paintings inspired by Hugo’s work projected onto a translucent screen create subtle actions to the sets – smoke from chimneys or crashing waves and spinning waters of the Seine River, while whiffs of gunpowder tingle noses during the battle at the barricade.

Josh Davis (Javert) and Nick Cartell (Valjean) Photo by Matthew Murphy

With a gorgeously impactful set designed by Matt Kinley, the show nevertheless hinges on its actors. That’s where the thunder happened. The show seemed like a pitcher’s duel of vocal supremacy between convict-gone-good Jean Valjean (Nick Cartell) and his nemesis, Inspector Javert (Josh Davis.) Some of their power endings could best be timed with a calendar. Like seriously… They must have a third lung somewhere stored under their costumes because even deep sea divers don’t have the inhuman lung capacity that these guys used time after time.

What also stood out seemed so simple but is actually complex. The balance of the cast had the spot-on diction of stage actors rather than musical performers, who often are more melodic. The actors weren’t all staccato all the time, of course, but the lyrics were crisp and clean around the score that drew audiences into the action and emotion of the moment.

J Anthony Crane (Thenardier)
Photo by Matthew Murphy

My “multi-Miz” watching daughter tallied four bouts of tears during the first act and three during the second. She then jokingly clarified that the second act was really more of a full hour and change of eye leakage with three punctuated episodes of tears.

The show runs through June 17, with tickets starting at $35. Tickets are on sale and are available online at STGPresents.org, Ticketmaster.com, by calling 1-800-982-2787 or in person at The Paramount Theatre Box Office, Group orders of 10 or more may be placed by calling 888-214-6856.

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