Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Les Misérables

Also see Susan's review of Damn Yankees

While Les Misérables has visited Washington six times before, it's good to see it back, especially in as sharp a production as the one now at the National Theatre. The producers bill this engagement as the "final" one; it's likely to be the last with this level of talent and production values, and it's well worth seeing.

The epic pop opera based on Victor Hugo's novel actually had its U.S. premiere in Washington, where it played the Kennedy Center in 1986 before its 16-year run on Broadway. Many people now know the show by heart: the sweeping drama of Hugo's story as distilled into three hours by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, with Schönberg's intense music and Herbert Kretzmer's emphatic and tender lyrics.

The primary conflict pits Jean Valjean (Randal Keith), a convict who breaks his parole and sets out to build a new, respectable life for himself, against Javert (Robert Hunt), a policeman whose iron sense of duty and rectitude keeps him on Valjean's trail. Along the way, Valjean offers help to the desperate Fantine (Joan Almedilla) and, when she dies, becomes the guardian of her daughter, Cosette (Meg Guzulescu or Rachel Schier as a child, Leslie Henstock as an adult). This being a 19th-century novel, Cosette finds love at first sight with Marius (Adam Jacobs), a revolutionary student in Paris, as Valjean tries to protect her from knowing about his own past and Javert's pursuit.

Understudy Jason Kraack, standing in for Keith, does a fine job in a massive role. Valjean basically carries the entire show on his shoulders, appearing in almost every scene, and Kraack stepped up to the challenge admirably, only tripping on a few of his innumerable lyrics. Hunt brings a chiseled profile and a steely voice to Javert, who is portrayed as overly concerned with the letter rather than the spirit of morality, a counterweight to Valjean.

Other standouts are Victor Wallace as Enjolras, clarion-voiced leader of the rebellion; Melissa Lyons as Eponine, an intriguing contrast of tomboyish manner and full, womanly body; and Fabio Polanco and original cast member Jennifer Butt as the extravagantly and humorously villainous Monsieur and Madame Thénardier. Nine-year-old Austyn Myers, who alternates with Anthony Skillman as the street urchin Gavroche, exudes personality, but isn't always easy to hear or understand.

While touring productions may have a reputation of skimpiness compared with the original Broadway staging, this Les Misérables is comparable. The set follows John Napier's original design, with its familiar turntable and its iconic piles of sculpted metal that, with a little help from hydraulics, form the barricade.

The National Theatre
Les Misérables
December 7th, 2005 —January 21st, 2006
By Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg
Based on the novel by Victor Hugo
Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg
Lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer
Associate director: Jason Moore, after the original direction by John Caird and Trevor Nunn
Cast, in alphabetical order: Joan Almedilla: Fantine
Trent Blanton: Bamatabois/Grantaire
Sierra Boggess: Ensemble
Pierce Peter Brandt: Combeferre
Don Brewer: Swing
Eric Briarley: Feuilly
Jennifer Butt: Madame Thénardier
Matt Clemens: Swing/Dance Captain
Kip Driver: Montparnasse
Karen Elliott: Ensemble
Ali Ewoldt: Ensemble
David Michael Felty: Brujon
Meg Guzulescu: Young Cosette/Young Eponine
Charles Hagerty: Joly
Leslie Henstock: Cosette
Robert Hunt: Javert
Adam Jacobs: Marius
Carrie A. Johnson: Ensemble
Gabriel Kalomas: Lesgles
Randal Keith: Jean Valjean
Jason Kraack: Courfeyrac
James Chip Leonard: Claquesous
Melissa Lyons: Eponine
Michelle Mallardi: Swing
Marissa McGowan: Ensemble
Lisa Morris: Swing
Austyn Myers: Gavroche
Candice Nicole: Ensemble
Marnie Nicolella: Ensemble
Fabio Polanco: Thénardier
Shahara Ray: Ensemble
Rachel Schier: Young Cosette/Young Eponine
Anthony Skillman: Gavroche
Kevin David Thomas: Babet
Victor Wallace: Enjolras
Betsy Werbel: Swing
Ryan Williams: Jean Prouvaire
The National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 1-800-447-7400 or

Photo: Scott Suchman

-- Susan Berlin

Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.

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