I wouldn’t break off a friendship with someone who disliked Les Miz. But I would wonder whether that person had an aversion to musical spectacle in general. For of all the shows that bloated the boards in the 1980s, Les Mizis the least expendable: you can walk out whistling the tunes and not hate yourself in the morning.
Since more than 54m people have seen this baggy monster based on Victor Hugo’s novel, you probably know the story: the maniacal Inspector Javert pursues the reformed thief Jean Valjean from 1815 through to the heady revolutionary days in Paris in 1832. And you probably also know that this three- hour show culminates in rousing anthems that have dominated amateur talent shows for two decades.
Les Miz closed almost four years ago in New York (it perdures in London) even as its US touring version kept going. That roadshow took down the tricolour this summer, and a few elements appear in the new Broadway revival.
The tunes, by Kretzmer and Schonberg, sound quite crisp: they have been re-orchestrated to remove most of the 1980s synthesiser feel. “Master of the House”, for instance, comes across as something you might hear from an upmarket pub quartet rather than from an arena- rock big-hair band. And the Act One finale, with its red banner aloft, is still pulse- quickening.
As for the performers, the men sing with more confidence than the women. Norm Lewis makes a stentorian Javert, and the students’ ensemble, led by Adam Jacobs’s Marius and Aaron Lazar’s Enjolras, is very fine.
Staged by John Caird, who co-commanded the original with Trevor Nunn (also credited for direction here), this revival has been announced for six months, but could stay longer if audiences, who have never seemed to mind the musical’s inelegant lyrics, show up. That would be buoying for Schonberg and his collaborator Alain Boublil, who have lately been in Chicago labouring over their next project, The Pirate Queen.
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