Cameron Mackintosh’s much-loved production of Boublil and Schönberg’s “Les Misérables” has descended upon L.A., giving Angelenos their chance to hear the people sing at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre.
Purists won’t find any holes to poke in this air-tight national tour, which demonstrates a clear reverence for the beloved show’s storied history while delivering stunning, modern visuals and breathing new life into numbers like “A Heart Full of Love” with a healthy injection of humor.
At the show’s core is a grounded turn from Nick Cartell as Jean Valjean, who seeks redemption after serving a 19-year prison sentence for stealing a loaf of bread. It’s not Cartell’s first time playing Prisoner 24601, and it shows — the tenor effortlessly shows off his thundering chest voice in the musical’s first act before transitioning to a bright falsetto as Valjean softens in a show-stopping rendition of “Bring Him Home.”
Valjean’s scenes with Javert, expertly played by Preston Truman Boyd, are among the most compelling moments in the production, with aching desperation from both men driving each confrontation further until the rivalry hits its boiling point in a devastating finale.
Fans who have only seen the 2012 film adaptation with Russell Crowe’s painfully weak vocal attempt owe it to themselves to see Boyd perform Javert’s staggeringly difficult songs as they were meant to be heard: with precision, ferocity and conviction.
Other standouts in the powerhouse ensemble include Christina Rose Hall and Matt Crowle as the Thénardiers, who bring the house down with a raunchy, laugh-out-loud “Master of the House.” Addie Morales and Gregory Lee Rodriguez’s sweetly star-crossed lovers, Cosette and Marius, bring some much-needed hope and lightness the story — and it doesn’t hurt that their voices blend perfectly.
Of course, there’s still plenty to cry about (it is called “Les Misérables,” after all), and that’s where Christine Heesun Hwang’s Éponine and Haley Dortch’s Fantine shine brightest, showcasing spectacular belting abilities while languishing in the most tender moments of “On My Own” and “I Dreamed A Dream.”
At the end of the day — pun intended — this production has a truly epic quality that could make even the Thénardiers shed a tear (while they pick your pockets).
“Les Misérables” runs through Sept. 10 at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre.