Toronto audiences welcome the return of a musical masterpiece
Presented by Cameron Mackintosh, NETworks and Mirvish Priductions
Based on the novel by Victor Hugo
By Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg
Lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer
Directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell
Almost 25 years after it premiered at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in 1989, a stunning revival of Les Misérables is taking Toronto by storm at the Princess of Wales Theatre. The atmosphere was positively electric at the Wednesday opening of Cameron Mackintosh's new production of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg's s hit musical, as fans of the show relished the opportunity to see it performed again by a new generation of Canadian talent.
Set in early 19th century France, Les Mis tells the redemptive story of Jean Valjean (played by the Iranian born, Ontario-raised West End star Ramin Karimloo), an ex-convict who served 19 years in prision for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's starving child. He decides to break his parole and spends the following years running from the law in the form of a relentless police inspector named Javert (powerfully portrayed by Earl Carpenter). Along the way Jean Valjean rescues a little girl named Cossette (Saara Chaudry), the abandoned daughter of Fantine, a factory worker-turned-prostitute (Genevieve Leclerc), from the abusive home of a couple of depraved inkeepers, the Thénardiers (played by the rambuncious Cliff Saunders and Lisa Horner). Cossette is treated like a slave while their own daughter, Eponine (Ella Ballentine), is spoiled and pampered. Jean Valjean vows to keep Cossette safe as long as he lives, meanwhile the city of Paris is swept into a period of revolution.
Featuring a breathtaking set with reimagined scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo, this streamlined production offers a fresh perspective on the popular tale while staying true to the emotional quality of the original. Samantha Hill and Perry Sherman breathe new life into the young lovers Cossette and Marius, while Melissa O'Neil is fabulous in the role of the tough but vulnerable Eponine. Her moving rendition of "On My Own" brings the house down in the second act. It is definitely one of the stand-out numbers of the piece. Most notable, however, is Karimloo's raw portrayal of Jean Valjean, a brilliant performance that reaches a heartbreaking crescendo as he prays for Marius at the barricade in "Bring Him Home."
As a whole, the company is terrific. The only thing missing from this production of Les Mis is some of the story's original grit: Gavroche's character is decidedly sweeter this time around, and the Thénardiers, while entertaining, come across as more clownish than criminal. But hey, when it comes to a musical of this magnitude, it's hard to please everyone.
Don't miss the chance to hear the people sing once more. Les Misérables is on stage now at the Princess of Wales Theatre. Visit mirvish.com for more information and to buy tickets.