“Do you hear the people sing?” beg the students of the ABC Café toward the end of the first act of the famed musical “Les Misérables,” which I saw with a few other lucky members of the Fairfield student body on April 13 through a trip sponsored by Fairfield University’s Student Association.
Going to see “Les Misérables” was my first trip to a real Broadway show, so I entered the Imperial Theater and made my way to my seat with high hopes for the show.
I did not leave disappointed.
The actors and actresses had me on the edge of my seat from the first song of Act I to the finale of Act II, using their voices to tell the timeless tale of Jean Valjean (John Owen-Jones), an escaped parolee taking care of a dear friend’s daughter (Alex Finke) while on the run from the antagonistic inspector Javert (Hayden Tee).
Many of the songs and characters were the ones that I fell in love with after watching both the 1998 and 2012 film adaptations of Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name — though I successfully resisted the urge to sing along and mar the musical with my horrific singing voice.
The actors and actresses did an amazing job utilizing the whole stage, especially in the scenes involving the self-made barricade during the revolution. The production crew used many moving projections to make the stage seem much larger than it actually was and gave the impression that the characters were truly stumbling around in the sewers or wandering down the Rue Plumet during the attacks.
Chris McCarrell’s performance as Marius Pontmercy was a bit underwhelming, though I chalk that up to my love for Eddie Redmayne’s rendition in the 2012 film adaption. Although it is definitely hard to compare a live performance to a film, I felt that McCarrell could have added a little more gusto to his singing throughout the musical.
On the other hand, Gavin Lee’s performance as the despicable Monsieur Thénardier was impeccable. His delivery in numbers like “Master of the House” in Act I and “Dog Eat Dog” in Act II was better than I could ever have hoped for. Additionally, his comedic relief was a welcome reprise given the dark tone that prevailed throughout the musical.
A deterrent that I also encountered at the show was the pace. “Les Miz” clocked in at just under three hours, a miracle within itself considering the number of musical numbers needed to tell the story. Some of the numbers, especially “Drink With Me” and the penultimate “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” felt rushed, as if the actors and actresses knew that the audience wanted to get out at a reasonable hour.
Although “Les Misérables” may be the only Broadway show that I have seen in my 19 years, it was definitely the best musical to start with. The singing was superb, the staging excellent and the casting nearly flawless. I may not be a Broadway aficionado yet, but mark my words, if you wait “One Day More” to see this show, you may miss it, as “Les Misérables” leaves Broadway on Sept. 4.