In the 25th-anniversary edition of “Les Miz” that arrived at the Marcus Center Tuesday night, that already-stirring story is even better.
The famous turntable is gone, replaced by more traditional sets appearing from the wings and framed by back-wall projections of vaguely surrealist Victor Hugo drawings.
Depicting factories and churches as well as Parisian monuments and streets, these sketches take light well – giving the “Les Miz” stage more atmosphere and depth, while heightening the impression of movement through both space and time.
The extra leg room has been used to further dramatize and darken some scenes – including Valjean’s brutal life in a chain gang and Fantine’s hellish descent into prostitution – while expanding the physical comedy in others, including the Thénardiers’ reliably uproarious “Master of the House” (the delightful duo of Shawna M. Hamic and Michael Kostroff).
Christopher Jahnke’s orchestral changes favor strings and high winds, reflecting the thematic struggle of the individual against the world. This is underscored by Paule Constable’s stark and somber lighting design, in which a lone, spotlighted actor is often all we see.
A splendid cast ensures that what we hear is just as good.
Ron Sharpe’s Valjean sings as though his life depends on it, whether as a convict raging at a world he never made or as an old man delivering a simple and beautiful rendition of “Bring Him Home.”
Andrew Varela is an outstanding, show-stealing Javert. While his rich baritone voice brought down the house in “Stars,” what I’ll remember most is the all-consuming ferocity of his gaze and the final agonized moments before his dramatic, vividly realized plunge into the Seine.
The charismatic Jeremy Hays brings a matching intensity to his depiction of Enjolras, the fiery revolutionary; Justin Scott Brown’s Marius gives heartfelt homage to his fallen comrade in a moving “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.”
Les Miserables performance continues through Sunday April 24, 2011 at the Omaha, Nebraska. Get your Les Miserables Milwaukee WI Tickets online. Save $10 OFF on Les Miserables Uihlein Hall Marcus Center For The Performing Arts Ticket Orders over $350! Use Code AFF$10.