For the second week in a row, The Muny has created its own version of an ageless musical and put an indelible stamp of excellence on it that cannot be denied. The Muny’s “Les Miserables” is mildly experimental and completely successful. From the moment you enter the theater and notice the haunting title artwork on the boom, the stage is set for a remarkable evening.
Hugh Panaro leads this company as Jean Val Jean. Panaro is passionate and compelling as he illuminates the soul of a troubled man driven for redemption.
Norm Lewis is commanding as Inspector Javert, Val Jean’s almost life-long nemesis. Javert is an equally passionate man, also driven to the causes of his own soul. Together, Panaro and Lewis rule the stage and form an intense, radiantly struggling core to this Victor Hugo classic.
Michael McCormick and Tiffany Green as the Thenardiers ably provide the comic relief with an evil twist that is irresistibly entertaining.
In a casting twist that has paid some very big dividends, The Muny auditioned over 1,100 college ages youngsters for the important featured roles and the ensemble. It was a big gamble, but it is paying even bigger dividends. Charlotte Maltby as Fantaine, Alex Prakken as Marius, Bobby Thornton as Enjoiras, Katie Travis as Cosette and Lindsay Mader as Eponine all perform with soaring, heartfelt voices that give marvelous energy and credence to the youthful characters they are playing. Jimmy Coogon as Gavroche, Lilly Kanterman as Young Cosette and Lily McDonald as Young Eponine come forth with a bravery and talent unlike most children their age.
“Les Miserables” at The Muny is always in motion, which leads to some difficult set handling challenges. The light wall is again put to very effective use, offering some really engaging vistas and backdrops. Musical Director Kevin Stites is a veteran of this show and along with the 31 piece Muny orchestra brings the music to life with elegance and power.
Director Richard Jay-Alexander, also a veteran of this show, says this will be his final time to direct a company of “Les Miserables.” He has obviously saved the best for last.
It is almost impossible not be taken by this production. It is masterful magic. A show to treasure.
And after “Les Miserable,” “Mary Poppins” comes to The Muny with Mary Poppins flying higher and farther than she ever has before. You should not be surprised.