One of the most popular musicals in the world, Les Miserables stopped off in the Kennedy Center on its way to its 1987 Broadway premiere. A roster of excellent voices and some remarkable technical work make this return of Les Miserables to the Kennedy Center Opera House a welcome one. One of my favorite parts of this production was the use of projections to create interesting 3D effects and enhance the storytelling on stage. In the hands of Set Designer Matt Kinley, the same versatile set pieces are transformed from the interior of the Thénardiers’ inn to a battlefield and back in seconds through the use of background projections. This ease of transition allowed the show to flow more smoothly than in some productions with clunkier scenery. Andreane Neofitou’s lovely costumes effectively imbued each character with a distinctive visual flair.
The cast of this production did justice to the numerous show-stopping numbers of Les Miz. The ensemble’s performance of “One Day More” did great justice to a classic song, showing off an array of powerful voices. J. Mark McVey excelled as Jean Valjean, excellently depicting his struggle to live a virtuous life and escape his criminal past. McVey’s beautiful tenor voice made “Bring Him Home” a high point of the show.
Andrew Varela’s Javert somewhat understated by comparison but he gave a stunning and beautiful rendition of “Soliloquy (Javert’s Suicide)” that was complemented by the use of background projections to create one of the best technical effects I’ve seen in a live performance. Richard Vida and Shawna M. Hamic brought a welcome bombastic energy as the Thénardiers’ to “Master of the House” and “Beggars At the Feast.” As Fantine, Betsy’s Morgan’s “I Dreamed a Dream” was beautiful and tasteful though her voice occasionally felt as though it lacked the power to fulfill the song’s potential.
The orchestra delivered the stunning music of Les Miserables to supplement the beautiful voices on stage and create a powerful experience. Though the wonderful songs that have made Les Miz wildly popular were beautifully executed, I found that this production dragged a bit in the first act. The overall strength of this production, comes out fully in its show-stopping numbers. And really, those wonderful songs constitute the bulk of the appeal of Les Miserables.