In October, 2012, Les Miserables celebrates 27 years on stage, and there’s good reason for the staying power of the world’s longest running musical. Time and time again, the cast delivers superb performances.
The show has always been my favorite. To this day, my two-disc CD of the original London cast recording continues to get a workout. Singing along always makes long car rides go by more quickly!
I first saw Les Miz while studying abroad in London when the musical was staged in the Palace Theatre. I stood in line at Leicester Square for return tickets and was rewarded with some pretty good seats, as I recall. So on my recent visit to London for the Olympic Games, seeing the show again in its home at Queen’s Theatre (where performances have been held since 2004) was on my must-do list, especially since some new orchestrations were introduced to celebrate the show’s quarter-century mark.
Let’s just say, I wasn’t disappointed. The show was spectacular! It seemed to me that the Queen Theatre was slightly smaller than the Palace Theatre. I think there might be fewer cast members as well. But neither detracted from the enjoyment of the show.
Of course, I could never tire of the story, music and lyrics. But one of the things I really I loved about this new version was the staging. A 360-degree rotating disc in the center of the stage was useful in a number of scenes, like Javert’s suicide. Between the revolving motion of the stage and the lighting, the audience really felt the abyss Javert was falling into.
While the songs in Les Miz are exquisitely written and orchestrated, I was surprised at how drawn I was to the leading men, who all turned in solid performances. Geronimo Rauch, who played Jean Valjean, nearly brought the house down with his renditions of “Who Am I?” and “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables.” Just fantastic.
There are plenty of theater options on the West End, but I don’t think I’ll ever tire of seeing Les Miz. After all those years, the musical was even better the second time around.