The epic musical Les Misérables has made its appearance again but this time in a re-imagined production. I had just watched the 25th Anniversary concert with a cast of 500 at O2. It was impressive to say the least. It took me awhile to downsize my expectations for this, dare I say, intimate production with a cast of 38, but the directors Laurence Connor and James Powell are the same as for the Anniversary production so they really know the show and were able to re-imagine it for a smaller venue and cast. What we are treated to is a new version of this now-classic story using new sets and new orchestrations.
The set is pretty simple, with two tower-like buildings on either side of the proscenium and the rest done by rolling in a piece of furniture or set piece, set against magnificent projections of Victor Hugo’s drawings from Les Misérables which really evoked the period. Gone were the turntable and barricade; instead the attention was on the story and the characters.
I must admit when I first saw Les Misérables it was in movie form, the Claude Lelouch version starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, which mixed the time frame from Vichy France to the French Revolution. I also saw the Liam Neeson version directed by Billy August. When I first saw the musical I was disappointed at how much of the story had been cut up. The hero Jean Valjean went from prisoner to mayor of a town in just a matter of a few scenes. But then there is that glorious though a bit overwrought score by Boublil and Schonberg; they are French, the story is French, it’s a French classic, so they have the right to write a very emotional score. The individual songs by now are classics in their own right: “On My Own,” “Master of the House,” “I Dreamed a Dream,” “The People’s Song,” and “Bring Him Home.” They sound particularly gorgeous thanks to whoever did the sound balancing. The music never tops the singers but is always full.