Fans of the new Les Misérables movie, I invite you to see it onstage. The musical is currently touring the United States and it’s definitely worth a look-see for one reason: Javert. Also Valjean. But mostly Javert.
If you saw the movie yourself or read my review on it five months ago, you know Russell Crowe in the role of Javert was a disappointment and Hugh Jackman was impressive. Whether you agree with me on these opinions or not, seeing it live will put your thoughts on a whole new level.
If you have no idea why there was a big stink about Crowe’s performance, I encourage you to witness the power behind this character as it was originally intended: in the stage production. If you are a fan of Javert based on the novel or classic recordings from Roger Allam or Philip Quast, as I was, do see this live. It’s a treat, and there is only one word I can use to describe what I saw in the character: power. (In the cast I saw, Andrew Varela played Javert.) The confrontation with Valjean after Fantine’s death, especially, was spellbinding. In the movie, a swordfight takes place in the hospital quarters. In the musical I saw, I saw no weapons. (Then again, I was in the nosebleed seats.) They were in hand-to-hand combat only after an intense face-to-face staredown.
If you were impressed with Jackman like I was, you need to see this done by musical theater professionals. I know we squee over little Hugh’s triumph with this role, but I tell you your ears must be cleansed by someone who can sing Bring Him Home in a manner that doesn’t sound painful. As someone who generally despises all tenors despite their characters, I surprisingly liked Valjean! (In the cast I saw, Peter Lockyer played Valjean.)
While we’re ticking off the characters, do see this live for the Thénardiers, both Mr. and Madame. Being almost the only comedic break in the whole musical, they really play it up onstage! I knew their lines by heart from the anniversary performances, and they’re just as lovable (in their special ways) in person. Gavroche, as well, was a treat to see in a comedic role. (My cast included Shawna M. Hamic as Madame T., Timothy Gulan as Mr. T., and Gaten Matarazzo/Julian Silva as Gavroche.)
And now I must give a warning to the movie-only fans. The movie spoiled you. Personally, I got a much better sense of the historical importance of the June Rebellion as well as the characters themselves in the movie. If you’re not a fan of stage-acting, you will sometimes cringe. The production I saw didn’t feature its famous revolving stage, so beware you might not get to see it either. Nevertheless, one must know one’s history. If you’re a fan of the movie or the songs in general, there is a lot in the musical you’re missing out on if you decide not to see it.
All the little, personal disappointments of the production, plus my loopy light-headedness from a cold, fell away once in a while by the absolute privilege I felt at getting to finally see the musical in person. I wish to see it again some day, and sit as close to the stage as possible so that I may have that wide-screen effect.
The cast as advertised on the tour website may vary at each location, but Valjean and Javert are bound to be awesome anywhere.