-Photo by Matthew Murphy
Chances are you have heard the music or story of Les Misèrables at one point. This musical theater staple, based on the novel by Victor Hugo, premiered in Paris in 1980 and has been pleasing audiences on Broadway and through international tours ever since. With classic songs like “One Day More”, “Castle on a Cloud”, and many, many more, this phenomenon show, now playing at the Academy of Music, doesn’t disappoint.
The story follows ex-con Jean Valjean, played and sung beautifully by Nick Cartell on his harrowing life journey. Cartell and Josh Davis (Javert) both play the parts with such ease and have fantastic chemistry together. Both Valjean and Javert are some of the hardest and more revered parts in musical theater because of all the notes and songs that they have to nail daily. Davis has a resounding rendition of “Stars”, and Cartell has a breathtaking version of “Bring Him Home” that left me in near tears.
The women carry their own in this as well. From Fantine, played splendidly by Melissa Mitchell, to Madame Thenardier, the coarse and vulgar innkeeper’s wife, and everyone in between. One standout is a homegrown gal! Phoenix Best is a Philadelphia native who plays the role of Èponine. I loved how Best sang “On My Own”; it left me with chills! Other standouts were Joshua Grosso as Marius, Jillian Butler as his love, Cosette, and Jordan Cole as the fierce, but little Gavroche.
I always need to give a shoutout to the students; Enjolras (Nicholas Edwards), Grantaire (Matt Moisey), and Joly (Gabriel Sidney Brown). These are the revolutionaries and they are always my favorite part of the show. The patriotism and passion they have to make their country better for all remind me of those who are trying to do the same thing today.
What I love most about this production are the scenic designs that are mostly video projections. It works with the directing, so you get a better and more dramatic picture. Long gone are the days where Javert just dives into a mattress on the ground for his [spoiler alert] suicide. This production has him literally falling into the water and watching him as he does so. This effect proves that anything can be done on stage!
Les Misèrables has a long history- from Victor Hugo to countless movies and TV shows. Simply put, the show has a little something for everyone. It’s a love story; an unrequited love. There’s redemption, rivalry, and even comic relief. All of these universal stories packed into one show. It moves you to tears, yet leaves you uplifted. That’s a true work of art.
Les Misèrables is playing at the Academy of Music until January 21st. Tickets and info can be found on the Kimmel Center’s website here.