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Les Misérables
Director Eric Schaeffer has given <em>Les Mis&eacute;rables </em>a brand new and successful staging by stripping it to the bare essentials.
 

Les Misérables
Signature Theatre
Arlington, Va.
(703) 573-7328


****

Les Misérables as an intimate theatrical experience?” C’est vrai, said Paul Harris in Variety. Director Eric Schaeffer has stripped a show that practically invented the “musical-as-spectacle genre” to its bare essentials in this brand-new staging. Gone are some of the larger staging elements familiar from the Broadway version—most notably the turntable that hurled the actors through space and time. Even the iconic waif mascot has been replaced by a new, stylized drawing. This creates a focus on the Parisian people in Victor Hugo’s timeless epic, and an unwavering concentration on those irresistible melodic ballads by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil that make up the musical’s backbone. Schaeffer’s revised approach still “tugs shamelessly at the heart strings,” but it also “makes the characters more accessible,” even when they’re belting out an endless stream of big numbers.

Schaeffer has proved that “you don’t need massive real estate to keep ‘Les Miz’ real,” said Peter Marks in The Washington Post. Intelligent casting and a “passel of exceptional voices” breath life into a musical that, after 23 years of near-constant staging, seemed to be out of steam. As the reformed criminal Jean Valjean, Greg Stone proves “a sterling vocal anchor for a tale of virtue under fire.” As the gamine Eponine, Felicia Curry’s dulcet solo on “On My Own” is a breakout moment. The across-the-board vocal consistency of the cast shines through on tunes such as “One Day More.” This production seems tailor-made for touring—which should guarantee that the epic saga of Les Misérables the musical continues.

 

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