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NY1 Theater Review: 'Les Miserables'

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The mega-musical "Les Miserables" is back home on Broadway, but this time with a new look. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.

This production of "Les Miserables" left me awestruck. I reviewed the original 27 years ago. It's the sixth time I've seen the show, and yet, this latest felt like the first. It's a testament, of course, to the intrinsic quality of the work. But beyond that, the streamlined re-staging shakes off the bloat from past mountings. And then there's Ramin Karimloo, an unknown here, who's about to become Broadway legend.

How many Jean Valjeans have there been since "Les Miz" opened on a London stage in 1985? Mr. Karimloo soars to the top alongside the role's originator, Colm Wilkinson. Their powerfully expressive voices deliver a commanding lead that own the stage and steal our hearts. Karimloo's rendition of that haunting elegy "Bring Him Home" is as close to perfection as we'll ever get in the theatre.

I could easily go on, but there's so much more to this glorious production.

That the Boublil/Schonberg/Kretzmer score is great is an understatement, but the enhancement here is new orchestrations and an ensemble featuring opera-worthy voices, all of them consummate talents, even the children. Among the principals, Will Swenson's Javert, Caissie Levy's Fantine, Nikki M. James' Eponine and Andy Mientus' Marius are at the top of their game. The Thenardiers' broad comedy is perhaps over the top, particularly Cliff Saunders' hyperactive gremlin. But it's welcome comic relief.

Gone is the turntable, that iconic innovation of big budget musicals in the '80's. In its place is Laurence Connor and James Powell's fluidly seamless staging set against the backdrop of deep-toned imagery featuring some of novelist Victor Hugo's own artwork. It's essentially a deconstruction of the original, focusing on Hugo's dark themes – injustice, redemption and, of course, love. The effect is both epic and intimate, and it sets the scenes for an emotional tug that audiences are helpless to resist.

The surest sign of a classic is its staying power. The towering "Les Miz" never seems to get old, and judging by this bravura production, age has made it even better.

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