Les Miserables at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire: Theater review
It’s like seeing an ex you never really got over, the Marriott’s Les Miserables is. The sweeping 1980 French pop opera you swooned for in high school still sounds as good as it ever did: absorbing, unabashedly romantic and heartrending in its portrayal of war and honor. But why is he/she still doing his/her hair like that, you wonder. And how the hell did he/she get involved in selling Amway products? And when did he/she become such a tightass Republican/bleeding-heart Democrat? And why, good God why, does my heart still skip a beat for this person? (Hint: It’s because you’ve both changed a little. But not too much.)
The first-ever Chicago-produced Equity Les Miz is undeniably recommendable to even the most casual of the show’s fans. Under the musical direction of Brad Haak, Boublil and Schönberg’s unmatched populist entertainment—few musicals that have been seen by this many people are this good—Victor Hugo’s daunting novel about a responsible citizen fleeing his troubled past across war-ravaged France remains accessible and thrilling. And as the conflicted male leads, Adams’s haunted constable Javert and Cudia’s hero Valjean take full command of the evening. (Cudia’s “Bring Him Home,” usually a flashy falsetto falsie, is now the evening’s highlight, an arresting antiwar ballad.)
But director Missimi, who had a once-in-a-career opportunity here to reimagine Les Miz, does little more than retrofit it to Marriott’s in-the-round space (it’s like the French Revolution without any elbow room). Assuming his audience won’t be satisfied without the marching-band-in-a-holding-pattern choreography of “Do You Hear the People Sing” (among other been-there images that crop up), he gyps his cast and creative team—and ticket buyers, for that matter—out of a new Les Miz experience. And by casting and coaching the role of Eponine as a casually angsty, Kirsten Dunst–like bopper, he does Letscher no favors. But by the nature of the material, Missimi’s still able to remind us of a time when musicals of this caliber and appeal briefly seemed like they could one day abound. And while you and Les Miserables may have grown apart, you shared that moment of joyful possibility, so you’ll always have common ground.