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Les Misérables Strikes a Chord with Heartfelt Performances & Powerful Ballads

Updated: Jul 12, 2023 09:08
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One Day More from “Les Miserables” Photo: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

Les Miserables returns to San Francisco on gossamer wings of memorable songs and unrequited love. The Orpheum Theater was lit up on July 6th for opening night with canon fire and young men singing the songs of angry men. ‘Les Miz’ is a musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, but Camreon Macintosh’s production, written by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, is the epitome of why we love musicals. Emotions are Costco-sized and the sets are varied and gorgeous. Death counts are high and the characters sing so beautifully as they fade away…

The story begins with Jean Valjean (played by Nick Cartell), who is introduced as prisoner 24601. Upon his release, he finds himself branded as a thief and the world closed to him. All seems lost until a priest reaches out and asks him to be a better man. Dedicating his life to “goodness” he cares for the child of a woman he turned away in a time of need. All would be well except that Javert (Preston Truman Boyd) an inflexible and frankly obsessive policeman is pursuing Jean Valjean for tearing up his parole papers.

Nick Carnell and Jean Valjean. Photo: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

“Les Miserables” displays its roots in Romanticism. It ping-pongs between the themes of fear, awe, and instant, unquenchable love. The ideals of the French Revolution in 1789 laid the groundwork for the events in Victor Hugo’s tale of the June Rebellion that took place in 1832. It was an anti-monarchist uprising that occurred on the streets of Paris. I was wondering how relevant this story would be in today’s political climate. I’ll say now that this tale of a police state based on the binary good/evil thinking hits uncomfortably close to home.

Christine Heesun Hwang as Eponine. Photo: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

This insanely talented cast is worth seeing, the antics of Matt Crowle and Christina Rose Hall as the Thénardiers will have you giggling as a result. Haley Dortch’s Fantine sings bravely into her death and your heart breaks. Christine Heesun Hwang as Eponine bleeds into darkness in “A Little Fall of Rain” and your heart breaks. Enjolas (Devin Archer), Marius (Gregory Lee Rodriguez), and all the rest of the young idealistic young men sing their way into a doomed revolution and…you get the idea. The high notes had the audience sobbing. Nick Cartel’s last note of “Bring Him Home” is otherworldly.

The sets have been updated from the full stage turn table of my youth. Projections based on Victor Hugo’s drawings are used to great effect. The Paris sewers never looked so good on stage. If you go, prepare for a good cry, some serious vocal envy, and a well-rounded, lovely show.

Master of the House “Les Miserables” Photo: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

Les Miserables will play at The Orpheum through July 23rd.

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Vita Hewitt

Vita Hewitt

Vita is a half Chinese-Malaysian, photograph taking, plant foraging, vegetable garden growing, astronaut impersonating, conceptual art creating Bay Area human. She loves exploring the intricacies of the Bay Area Art Scene.