Les Miserables has always been a popular production, but since the 2012 Hollywood movie more young people have become interested in the show. This production at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre (QET) in Vancouver felt very similar to that movie version, but it didn’t live up. I left the QET feeling a bit apathetic after the 25th anniversary Broadway Across Canada touring performance of Les Miserables. It isn’t that I wasn’t caught up in the story during certain scenes, it was that this overall performance wasn’t captivating as others have been.
Most of the performances weren’t engaging like in other productions of Les Mis. Jean Valjean requires a captivating actor with a strong voice. Although at times Peter Lockyer had the voice, he never moved me as I expected. He lacked a certain quality that Valjean needs to possess. He also seemed to be replicating Hugh Jackman’s Jean Valjean without adding anything substantial to that adaptation of the character. I was most disappointed by the Thenardier’s. I found them unfunny, too exaggerated, and boring although many others in attendance seemed to enjoy them.
Luckily, there were a few performances that I loved. Javert (Andrew Varela) had an amazing voice full of emotion that kept me interested. The chemistry between Marius (Devin Ilaw) and Cosette (Julie Benko) was palpable which definitely added to my enjoyment of the play. I’ve found many times where the two actors don’t click, or they don’t have enough emotion in their voice as they profess their love of each other. Luckily, this production was never lacking.
Believe me, this story has the ability to turn me into a crying mess, but I only ever found myself tearing up about Eponine (Briana Carlson-Goodman) and Gavroche (Gaten Matarazzo). The way they did Gavroche’s death was spectacularly emotive, and as I found Eponine to be such a lovable character I was of course upset in her final scenes.
One thing I always forget about the QET is the size of stage. I found the usage of this small space was great, especially during the tunnel sequence via projection screen on the back wall. Lastly, the pacing. The front twenty minutes seemed to be very rushed. I’m not sure if they condensed it down between they didn’t want to go over three hours, or if it was for another reason, but it was all too fast. Both the singing and orchestra was sped up to the extent where I couldn’t understand what they were singing at points. After the first little bit everyone slowed down and it was at a more normal pacing for Les Mis.
Despite my complaints with this production of Les Miserables, I generally did enjoy it. For those who are new to Les Mis I wouldn’t suggest seeing this as it wasn’t a performance that would make you fall in love with the story, but people who know and love the story will probably enjoy this production. Les Miserables runs at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre through until June 23, 2013.
Photo Credit: The Company of the New 25th Anniversary of Les Miserables (Jason Forbach as Enjolras). Photo by Kyle Froman.