By KELLY KUNG ’16
Since March 1, fans of “Les Misérables” have been able to enjoy the story of the French Revolution on Broadway. While the previews began March 1, the official opening date is March 23, approximately six years after the closing of the 2006 revival of “Les Misérables,” which ran until 2008.
A group of highly talented singers—many of whom are acclaimed for prior roles—stars in the musical. Iranian-born Ramin Karimloo, who played the Phantom in “Love Never Dies” and in the 25th anniversary of “Phantom of the Opera”, as well as Enjolras in the 25th anniversary of “Les Misérables,” plays Jean Valjean. Opposite Karimloo as the antagonist, Javert, is Will Swenson, who received a Tony nomination for his role as Berger in “Hair.” Andy Mientus, who has played Hanschen in the first national tour of “Spring Awakening,” portrays Marius. Caissie Levy, who starred in “Rent,” “Hairspray,” and “Hair,” takes on the role of Fantine, while Samantha Hill, who played Christine in “Phantom of the Opera,” stars as Cosette. Tony Award winning Nikki M. James also appears as Eponine. Many talented actors and actresses also fill the supporting cast.
The “Les Misérables” musical, written by Claude Michel Schӧnberg, is based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel of the same name. The story recounts the lives and struggles of the masses people during the French Revolution, focusing on the onetime petty criminal Jean Valjean and his run-ins with Inspector Javert, from whom he spends most of his life fleeing after breaking his parole. Valjean, who at the beginning of the play is an angry and bitter character, changes his life with the goal of acting in the name of God to help as many people as he can.
One of the people Valjean helps is Fantine, who dies shortly after they meet. Valjean promises to take care of her young daughter, Cosette, and keeps his word, raising Cosette as if she were his own daughter. Years later, the charismatic young Marius is introduced as a revolutionary leader fighting for the people’s freedom. Cosette and Marius fall in love at first sight after a chance meeting on a street. The remainder of the musical reveals the final showdown between Valjean and Javert, the conclusion to Cosette and Marius’s affair and the fate of the young French rebels.
“Les Misérables” is the fifth-longest-running Broadway show; its 10th and 25th anniversaries were celebrated with concerts starring such renowned performers as Colm Wilkinson, Lea Salonga, Michael Ball and Phillip Quast. In 2012, the latest film version of “Les Misérables,” starring Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe, became one of the few movies ever to feature live singing. The film, like many stage adaptations before it, performed extraordinarily well in the box office, grossing over $400 million and earning high praise from critics. “Les Misérables” has become one of the most beloved and popular musicals in the world.
There has already been a lot of publicity about the revival. Many newspapers have published updates on the production; the New York Times, for instance, featured an article on Ramin Karimloo. And other Broadway celebrities are promoting the Broadway show as well. Salonga, who played the role of Eponine in the 10th anniversary concert and Fantine in the 25th anniversary concert, gave a shoutout on Facebook to the cast of the Broadway revival: “To the cast of the brand new production of Les Miz on Broadway, BREAK A LEG!!! Have a wonderful time, and welcome to this big, crazy family!” We’ll see even more publicity on Thursday, March 13, when the cast of the show performs on ABC’s Good Morning America.
“Les Misérables” is an incredible story of love, honor and freedom, and with its acclaimed and energetic cast, this latest revival of “Les Misérables” promises to deliver excellence to the Broadway stage.