DETROIT – Do you hear the people sing? The people of Detroit surely can with this powerful production of Les Misérables now playing at the Fisher Theatre.
The musical may be 37 years old, but the staging and effects are ultra-slick and very modern. In fact, this show out beats many contemporary musicals that have come and gone recently.
Throughout the numerous settings that the story takes place in, I was in constant awe at how grand everything was. Multi-level sets, which at one point was three levels tall, were fully utilized. Gigantic doors that fill the entire proscenium swing in and out, even turning, to reveal new locations and characters. A stunning barricade. This is just one of those shows that feels like no expense was spared.
Nick Cartell leads Les Mis as Jean Valjean, the prisoner who breaks parole that leads to a cat and mouse chase with the unrelenting inspector Javert, played by Preston Truman Boyd. Michigan-born Cartell returns as a fan favorite and it’s easy to see why. This is a man who puts everything he has on the stage. From his 15-minute-long action-packed introduction to his heartbreaking (and extended applause-inducing) rendition of “Home,” Cartell locks audiences in with his passionate pleas and fatherly affection. He sings the sung-through score practically perfectly with the prettiest falsetto, hitting high notes effortlessly. It makes you almost wish Prisoner 24601 had more opportunities to hit those notes, but let’s not forget that this is a show about revolution and tragedy.
Like yin and yang, the two leads complement each other in pure harmony. Boyd’s Javert is a fully fleshed out antagonist whose motives aren’t necessarily evil as they are unwavering. The nuances Boyd brings to Javert brings out this journey of power and control to chaos and self-destruction as he spirals. A booming baritone, Boyd is a masterclass in drama both through spoken word and song.
Newcomer Haley Dortch, a University of Michigan grad, is remarkable as the tragic Fantine, and her youth accentuates her character’s pain and tragedy, making “I Dreamed a Dream” even more gut wrenching. Christine Heesun Hwang, as Eponine, brings a lot of spunk and an adventurous attitude, with a powerful “On My Own” that literally rocks the Fisher. Matt Crowle and Christina Rose Hall steal the show as the dubious Thernardiers owning their showstoppers.
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While the runtime is almost as long as Avatar: The Way of Water, it is so action-packed with some of the most beautifully written songs ever written for the theater, that time goes by swiftly. The harmonies, especially in the large chorus scenes, are pitch perfect. These are songs that audiences know and love and, from the reaction from the crowds, which at times felt like a rock concert, you can tell the cast is doing it sweet justice.
This production of Les Misérables is a triumphant epic, perfectly cast and staged. Audiences were entirely engulfed, completely immersed by what was happening on stage. That’s when you know a show is good, that a sold-out crowd at the Fisher can’t take their eyes, and attention, off the stage.
Les Misérables is playing now through January 8, 2023 at Fisher Theatre with a run time of two hours 55 minutes with a 15-minute intermission. For tickets and showtimes, visit BroadwayinDetroit.com.