Review: ‘Les Miserables’

Long before Dr. Richard Kimble and "The Fugitive," there was Jean Valjean eluding his obsessed policeman, Inspector Javert, in Victor Hugo's novel "Les Miserables." This nationally touring Cameron Mackintosh production, rich in stagecraft and production values, reaffirms the place of this adaptation in musical history.

Long before Dr. Richard Kimble and “The Fugitive,” there was Jean Valjean eluding his obsessed policeman, Inspector Javert, in Victor Hugo’s novel “Les Miserables.” This nationally touring Cameron Mackintosh production, rich in stagecraft and production values, reaffirms the place of this adaptation in musical history; it also brings as much spectacle, and far more drama and delight, than “Sunset Boulevard” across town.

The music by Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer, under the baton of Robert S. Gustafson, abound in layers and complexity, subtle and evocative.

Even though the play runs more than three hours with intermission, directors and adapters John Caird and Trevor Nunn imbue the story with a sense of urgency.

Leading the impeccable cast is Donn Cook, who as Valjean adeptly mixes a brutish outrage with saintliness — and demonstrates a wide vocal range.

David Masenheimer’s Javert focuses his sense of justice onto the back of Valjean, as if setting this one person “right” will make up for the hungry, needy world around him.

As the Thenardiers, Gina Ferrall and J.P. Dougherty give the show needed humor, with gusto and style.

Jennifer Rae Beck (who played June in Bette Midler’s recent TV movie “Gypsy”) offers sincerity and passion as Eponine; as her wished-for lover, Marius, Hayden Adams (who replaced Ron Sharpe on opening night) epitomizes the fervor and naivete of the student revolutionaries. There’s not a weak voice in the cast of 36.

Tech credits are great, with no evidence (as is frequently the case) of touring-company cutting corners. John Napier’s set fills the cavernous Civic stage with style, the back a monochromatic wall of brick and boarded windows. A turntable swings set pieces on and off from darkness, allowing scenes to progress effortlessly.

David Hersey’s light design adds to the sense of a world in decay. And no expense seems to have been spared with Andreane Neofitou’s costumes, which range from street urchins to a fully attired rich wedding party.

After closing here, the company opens Jan. 29 in Singapore, beginning a three-month stand. Move represents an $ 8 million investment — unprecedented there for a show of this scope — by Mackintosh, who’s personally overseeing the production there as part of his hoped-for expansion into the area.

Les Miserables

Pasadena Civic Auditorium; 3,000 seats; $47 top


Cameron Mackintosh presents a musical in two acts by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, based on the novel by Victor Hugo.


Music, Schonberg; lyrics, Herbert Kretzmer; original French text, Boublil, Jean-Marc Natel; additional material, James Fenton; directed, adapted by John Caird, Trevor Nunn; executive producer, Martin McCallum; associate director and executive producer, Richard Jay-Alexander; set design, John Napier; lighting, David Hersey; costumes , Andreane Neofitou; sound, Tony Meola/Autograph; orchestral score, John Cameron; production musical supervisor, Robert Billig; musical director, Robert S. Gustafson; conductor, Gustafson. Opened, reviewed Jan. 12, 1994; runs through Jan. 22.


Jean Valjean - Donn Cook
Javert - David Masenheimer
Fantine - Alice Ripley
Thenardier - J.P. Dougherty
Madame Thenardier - Gina Ferrall
Eponine - Jennifer Rae Beck
Cosette - Barbra Russell
Marius - Hayden Adams
Enjolras - Gary Mauer
With: Eric Jay Alexander, John Aller, Ann Arvia, Eric Bennyhoff, Kelly Briggs , Allison Briner, Anne Buelteman, Philip Dyer, Daniel Eli Friedman, Timothy Gulan, Jonathan Halyalkar, Joanna Howard, Dave Hugo, Frederic C. Inkley, Brian Lynch, Cyndi Neal, Michael Oberlander, Jim Price, Michael S. Proctor, Ron Sharpe , Jessica Sheridan, Eileen Tepper, Traci Lyn Thomas, Ashley Michelle Tisdale, Lucy Vance, Sharon Wheatley, and Joanna Young.

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