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Cameron Mackintosh Presents a New Production of "Les Miserables" at the Imperial Theatre
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Cameron Mackintosh Presents a New Production of "Les Miserables" at the Imperial Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Cameron Mackintosh

The New Production of Boublil & Schönberg’s

Les Misérables
A musical based on the Victor Hugo novel
(Les Misérables Website)

Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg
Lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer
Original French text by Alain Boublil & Jean-Marc Natel

Directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell

Additional material by James Fenton
Adaptation by Trevor Nunn and John Caird
Original Orchestrations by John Cameron
New Orchestrations by Christopher Jahnke
Stephen Metcalf and Stephen Brooker

At the
Imperial Theatre
249 West 45th Street

Ramin Karimloo, Will Swenson
Caissie Levy, Nikki M. James, Samantha Hill
Keala Settle, Gaten Matarazzo, McKayla Twiggs
Angeli Negron, Arbender J. Robinson, Andrew Kober
Aaron Walpole, Dennis Moench, Kyle Scatliffe
Andy Mientus, Adam Monley

And an ensemble of actors/singers/dancers

Set and Image Design: Matt Kinley,
(inspired by paintings of Victor Hugo)
Costume Design: Andreane Neofitou/Christine Rowland
Lighting Design: Paule Constable
Sound Design: Mick Potter
Musical Supervisor: Stephen Brooker
Assoc. Director: Anthony Lyn
Musical Director: James Lowe
Exec. Producers: Nicholas Allott/Seth Skylar-Heyn
Casting: Tara Rubin Casting, CSA
General Management: Aaron Lustbader
For Foresight Theatrical
Musical Staging by Michael Ashcroft and Geoffrey Garratt
Projections by 59 Productions
Press: Michael Borowski/The Publicity Office

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 26, 2014

Viewing Cameron Mackintosh’s new three-hour production of Les Misérables at the Imperial Theatre was almost akin to taking a trip to 19th century France, I was so transported. With every single word “sung-through”, as in opera, with larger than life projections of tunnels and mayhem, with sets that expand beyond the stage and often beyond the rafters, with speakers for ambient sound effects throughout the auditorium, with virtuosic vocal talent illuminated in song after song, with a half century plot that carries characters through generations of relationships, and with the audience in awe, tears, and laughter, all at once, this new Les Misérables is a must-experience, multi-media event.

Will Swenson, reviewed in this column in Hair and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, is Javert here, a vulnerable but seething police inspector, who once released Jean Valjean on parole, only to pursue him for decades, after prison escapes and identity disguises. Javert can no longer bear the conflicted chase, after Valjean had actually saved his life in one of many plot twists, so he ends it all in the Seine, a dramatic scenic creation. Mr. Swenson sings “Stars” and his own “Soliloquy” with rapturous vocals that match his powerful performance. Ramin Karimloo, as Jean Valjean, is hopefully a breakout actor/singer in this show, with extraordinary machismo, a vocal range from treble to bass, and confident, yet humble stage presence that wows the crowd. His own “Soliloquy”, plus “Who Am I?” (In his relationship with Fantine), and “Bring Him Home” (when he carries Marius through the miles of projected sewers) each brought down the house. One directorial decision, thanks to Laurence Connor and James Powell, was to empty the stage, at least the full stage front, during many poignant solos, for uncluttered spotlighting and undistracted listening.

As a prisoner, in jail for stealing bread to feed his sister’s child, as an escapee, as Fantine’s (a fallen prostitute, who gives Valjean her daughter to care for) caretaker, as Cosette’s father, as M. Mayor, as Javert’s endless target, as Javert’s savior, as Marius’ (Cosette’s fiancé) savior, and as a morally resolute survivor, Mr. Karimloo magnetizes the eye and ear, in each and every scene. Caissie Levy, as the dying prostitute, Fantine, sings “I Dreamed a Dream” with clarity of tone and surreal-ness of persona. Samantha Hill, as Cosette, sings “Castle On a Cloud” with enchanting grace and magic. Andy Mientus, as Marius, a student at the brigades, who becomes Cosette’s husband, sings “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” with captivating sensitivity. Keala Settle, reviewed in this column in Hands On a Hardbody, is riotously funny as Mme. Thénardier, with Cliff Saunders as her diminutive, devilish husband, M. Thénardier, as she creates sausages with sinister ingredients. The duo’s “Master of the House” song and dance number lightens the mood with refreshing charm. Nikki M. James, as Éponine, who loves Marius, to her death, sings "On My Own" with poignant and powerful despair.

The duo Directors, Mr. Connor and Mr. Powell, have, as mentioned above, found ways to focus on individual characters in this multi-cast, multi-song production. The Schönberg-Kretzmer music and lyrics brought Victor Hugo’s historical oeuvre to sweeping expansiveness. Matt Kinley’s set and image design was inspired by Hugo’s own paintings, which I plan to explore. Costumes were true to the period, but cleverly created to enhance each character’s position, with so many societal and generational elements. Lighting was dim, but illumined on the character showcased at the moment, while sound was clear at all times, again thanks to directorial staging. Kudos to Victor Hugo.

Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean
A Scene from "Les Miserables"
Courtesy of Matthew Murphy

A Scene from "Les Miserables"
Courtesy of Matthew Murphy

Will Swenson as Javert
A Scene from "Les Miserables"
Courtesy of Michael Poer Trench

Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean
A Scene from "Les Miserables"
Courtesy of Matthew Murphy

Andy Mientus as Marius
Nikki M. James as Eponine
Samantha Hill as Cosette
Courtesy of Michael Poer Trench

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at