When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!
~Herbert Kretzmer in Les Miserables
I watched this evening the 25th anniversary production of Les Mis.
And I was once again moved and awed by this extraordinary musical.
Let the detractors detract. The show has been dissected and parsed and flogged. Yes, it’s repetitive. Of course it’s man v. machinery on stage.
But this show has power, grandeur, pathos, greatness, and an emotional core that continues to move me every time I see it, either on the screen or on stage.
I saw Les Mis in Kansas City on its first national tour. I had listened over and over to the LP recording I owned. But I didn’t know the story, and I had no reference point for the visual. My seat in the 4th row at the Midland was close enough to see the sweat. And to see the belief on the faces of those actors. When that red flag came out at the end of Act One, I was a goner. I sat and cried through intermission. I sniffled all the through Act Two, every death seeming to affect me even more deeply. Eponine, Gavroche, Enjolras, Javert – I became weepier and weepier. And then came “Empty Chairs,” the brief respite of the wedding scene, and that stunning final scene with white light carrying Valjean off to heaven, followed by “Do You Hear the People Sing.”
I sobbed for an hour. Literally. I couldn’t speak in the car on the way home.
Much of this emotion came back tonight, in spite of the stunt casting of Nick Jonas, who was totally overwhelmed by the pros with more vocal range, power, and breath. He’s pretty to look at, but the kid can’t act, and the singing was limited and to my ears and eyes ineffective. He was the only weak link tonight.
And those extras at the end of the show? Colm Wilkinson, Michael Ball, the original Thernardiers, Cameron Mackintosh…. Mon Dieu!
I’ve seen this show in KC, in NYC, in Chicago, and in London. I’ll go see it again now, if I have the chance.
And don’t even get me started about Miss Saigon, a show for which I feel even deeper affection.