Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Changes in theatrical technology since the opening of the original production mean that Matt Kinley's set design does not need to dominate the stage; here, atmospheric projections by Finn Ross and Fifty-Nine Productions carry much of that burden. (The famous barricade no longer fills the entire width of the stage, but pieces of it conceal light towers and speakers at the sides of the proscenium.)
That said, the projections–some of which are adapted from paintings by the author of the original novel, Victor Hugo–draw the viewer deep into the action, most impressively in the scene where Jean Valjean (Nick Cartell) takes refuge in the Parisian sewers following the collapse of the students' revolt. Paule Constable's lighting design often has a painterly touch, softening the rougher edges or spotlighting individual performers in tightly focused shafts of light.
Cartell is a powerful Valjean, a man of physical action who shows subtlety as his character travels, step by step, from revenge to redemption. He also has the necessary soaring tenor voice, demonstrated most breathtakingly in an ethereal "Bring Him Home." Preston Truman Boyd, a broad-shouldered man with a deep and resonant voice, excels as Valjean's antagonist, the righteous (and self-righteous) Inspector Javert.
Haley Dortch portrays Fantine as physically slight but emotionally steely: she gives "I Dreamed a Dream" an edge of anger beneath the character's pain and humiliation. Christine Heesun Hwang plays up the restlessness of Eponine with a feverish "On My Own," while Gregory Lee Rodriguez' Marius comes across as boyish until, faced with loss, he mourns with a chilling "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables." Addie Morales looks lovely and sings beautifully as Cosette, but her character has fewer opportunities to show off.
Other standouts are Henry Kirk (who alternates with Milo Maharlika) as little but streetwise Gavroche, Devin Archer as golden-voiced Enjolras, and Matt Crowle and Christina Rose Hall as the hilariously despicable Thénardiers.
Les Misérables runs through April 29, 2023, at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Opera House, 2700 F St. NW, Washington DC. For tickets and information, please call 800-444-1324 or 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org. For more information on the tour, visit www.lesmis.com/us-tour.
A musical based on the novel by Victor Hugo
Enjolras: Devin Archer