Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Theater review: Les Miserables at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas
It was a glossy version of the story many have seen before.
Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables came to life in a truly cinematic fashion Tuesday evening for its opening night at the Winspear Opera House. Billed as “The New 25th Anniversary Production,” the show, from start to finish, lived up to its newness as a high gloss, refreshing, and innovative version of the beloved musical by Claude-Michel Schonberg.
Act One set the proverbial stage by opening with enough color and melodrama to allay any audience fears that this would be anything but a knockout interpretation of the production. “At the End of the Day” played out the overtly sexual and raunchy lyrics in articulated format, proving that even in revolutionary 1800s France, a girl-on-girl fight was good fodder for men.
Coming off of the climactic prologue and factory song, Fantine quickly fell short of the goose bump-inducing task of belting “I Dreamed a Dream,” falling flat more than a few times on key notes. Like character mother, like character daughter: The adult Cosette hit a few sour spots during “A Heart Full Love” as well.
Whatever moments of vocal trepidation may have occurred, they were forgotten when waves of orchestral scores flowed flawlessly, piggybacked by “aww” moments from the children playing a hearbreaking young Cosette and the high-pitched, spitfire messenger boy.
Jean Valjean embodied amnesia-inducing moments with his heroic good looks and unmatched tenor talent, reaching tear-jerking highs during “Bring Him Home.” His costumes, along with the rest of the cast were, at times, an exercise in suspense of belief but proved that when it comes to theater, it’s all about making an impact.
Post-intermission, Eponine emerged the overall show-stealer as far as female leads, with her soulful take of “On My Own”— followed by wild audience feedback.
Impressionistic backdrops and screens of artistic color set the scenes of Paris at night and the catacombs of sewers in Act Two.
And those complex set designs were perhaps the most compelling draw for this production: The sets were their own character. All too often, designers of this musical typically rely on a rotating apparatus in the middle of the stage to create movement through the complex narrative. Rather, this production conquered the sets daringly and oh so artfully, orchestrating the movement of often-repurposed pieces of set structure and furniture.
The sets, score, and costuming all weaved together nicely, realistically creating a time and place for this complicated narrative, and once again reminding us why Les Miserables is acclaimed as the longest running musical in the world.
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