By Daniel Skora
The current national tour of “Les Miserables” has arrived in Detroit for a two week engagement. The tour is an extension of the recent “Les Miz” revival which opened on Broadway in March of 2014 and closed after more than a thousand performances. It’s scheduled to play in some 70 plus cities over the next two years. The original run of “Les Miz” (opened in 1987, closed in 2003) is fifth on the list of longest running Broadway shows with 6,680 performances to its credit.
Victor Hugo’s French novel ran 1,260 pages when it was originally published. As can be expected, the musical is selective of both the characters and scenes which it includes. The current production runs a few minutes under three hours, intermission included. For those who have somehow managed to escape the “Les Miserable” phenomenon (the show has been running for 33 years straight in London and currently boasts 22 different language variations), the show is performed in the operatic tradition. In addition to the over two dozen songs, all of the dialogue is likewise sung.
The show compares favorably to other “Les Miz” touring productions that have made Broadway in Detroit stops at the Fisher over the years. Two members of the cast have local connections. Nick Cartell, who plays Jean Valjean, was born in Mount Clemens before moving to the Southwest. His wife also has family connections to the state. He contributes passionate vocals on “Who Am I?” and “Bring Him Home?” in addition to his painting his marvelous performance as the lead character.
Steve Czanecki plays multiple roles, as a member of the ensemble, as fight captain, and as understudy for both Valjean and Javert. Steve grew up in Rochester Hills and was cast in “Phantom of the Opera” when it last came to town at the Detroit Opera House.
Besides Nick Cartell as Jean Valjean, principals include Josh Davis (Javert), Jillian Butler (Cosette), Melissa Mitchell (Fantine), Emily Bautista (Eponine), Matt Shingledecker (Enjolras), Joshua Grosso (Marius), Matt Moisey (Grantaire), and last but certainly not least, in one of the best musical comedy scenes of any Broadway show, J Anthony Crane (Thenardier) and Allison Guinn (Madame Thenardier), the Master and Mistress of the House.
Backgrounds used for the various set pieces were inspired by Hugo’s own drawings, he being an avid artist in addition to his work as a writer. “Les Miserables” is a richly realized musical with an intricate storyline playing out against powerful lyrics and lush melodies. This production makes for an evening (or matinee) of unforgettable theatre as well as a reaffirmation of the best qualities of the human spirit.
“Les Miserables” is a Cameron Mitchell production derived from the original French creation of Claude-Michael Schonberg (music) and Alain Boublil (lyrics).
“Les Miserables” runs through March 11yh. Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster locations, by phone at 1.800.982.2787, online at www.BroadwayinDetroit.com or www.Ticketmaster.com, or in person at the Fisher Theatre box office located in the lobby of the Fisher Theatre, 3011 West Grand Blvd.