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Les Miserables 25th Anniversary tour is, in a word, Perfect (Fisher Theater Detroit) – Review (Updated 11/11/11) March 26, 2011

Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals, Broadway Tour, Detroit, Entertainment, musical theater, Musicals.
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Sometimes you see a show, even a show that is now in it’s 25th year, and you just can’t describe it in any other way except “perfect” — such is the tour production currently on display at the Fisher Theater in Detroit.

With a finely-tuned ensemble cast; spectacular set design that out-Les Mis’s original turntable set; and sound and lighting design that are knockout spectacular, this is a Les Mis to be savored and enjoyed. The production breezes along at a fast-paced 2 hours 50 minutes of sheer Broadway spectacle.

The sell-out crowd at the Fisher was on its feet before the cast had even returned for their curtain call — and its well-deserved. Joe Tokarz (at today’s performance) sang a spectacular Jean Valjean. Andrew Varela turns in a commanding Javert. Betsy Morgan makes a straight-forward Fantine. Shawna Hamic and Michael Kostroff are delightfully nasty as the Thenardiers; Chasten Harmon plays a love-struck but not love-weakened Eponine; Jenny Latimer sings Cosette with lush clear tone; Jeremy Hays is a fine Enjolras; and Justin Scott Brown is one of the strongest performers I have ever witnessed play Marius — his growth from idealistic student to battle-hardened adult makes for a tremendous actors journey, and the audience eats it up.

This is a less-gimmicky Les Miserables than the original turntable production. (For the record, yes you DO miss seeing what’s on the other side of the barricade  in what was one of the original productions most dramatic moments). Here clear white light is used instead for dramatic effect – and it works spectacularly.

This set design would have been impossible 25 years ago — projection and integrated lighting design have come that far in the quarter century since we first saw this show. There were audible gasps from the audience as the projection moves underground, into the sewers, through a chase sequence from shadow to shadow, chamber to chamber. The sequence from the Barricades through the sewers and then onto Javert’s suicide from the Pont on the Seine is pure theater magic. It’s one of the most exciting things I’ve seen on stage in many years.

Do not hesitate to go see this Les Miserables — even if you think you know this show inside out, you haven’t seen it like this. Not only re-imagined, the show feels as new and exciting as it did when it first arrived; you will thank yourself for going. This is riveting theater, and the best tour I have seen in a long long time. Hours later, I am still in thrall of what I saw this afternoon. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime cast and production that is simply stated “perfect.”

UPDATE 11/11/11 — Just a brief update — Les Miserables has returned to the SE Michigan area again, and is currently at the Stranahan Theater in Toledo. J. Mark McVey has returned to the part of Jean Valjean, and he is outstanding — his vocal performance is spectacular, and the new physicality of this production allows him to perform in ways he never did in his 2900 plus Broadway performances of Les Mis. He’s amazing. Unfortunately, the superb Justin Scott Brown in the Marius role has left the tour, and his replacement Max Quinlan is a Joe Jonas sound-alike/look-alike, and he does not bring the same qualities that Mr. Brown did to the part. He’s adequate, but not exceptional. The tour will also return to the area a third time this winter at the Wharton Center in East Lansing. If anything, the physical production of the show looks even better — everything looks tighter, moves faster, and sounds great. The show travels with its own sound system, so no matter where you see it, you will hear the high quality of these performers.


1. Paul Olson - March 31, 2011


Saw this show last Friday and agree with everything you said. My daughter is a senior at U of M, majoring in stage management, and she was shadowing backstage that night. I loved every minute of the production.

Also saw your post on ATC about Tuesday’s tech disasters. As luck would have it, my daughter’s roommate was shadowing that night, and he had some interesting things to say about all the problems and backstage “drama.”

Anyway, I just wanted to say, nice job. A great review about a great show!

Paul (in the Upper Peninsula)

2. Chantel - April 25, 2011

I get to see this on June 5th, and I can’t wait. Thanks for getting me even more impossibly excited with your review. (:

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