Productions of Les Miserables you have seen

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have seen Les Miserables. The show was the soundtrack to my high school experience; it’s still very dear to me. I saw Colm Wilkinson as Valjean in Toronto in '98. I saw Terrence Mann as Javert on Broadway just before the show closed (before it opened again.)

This past Friday night I caught a production of the School Edition done by The Theatre Lab’s Summer Musical Theatre Institute for Teens in DC. The cast ranged in age from 13 to 19, all high schoolers. Based on what I’d heard about the Institute, I expected a good solid production.

I was blown away. Those kids were amazing!

The theater seated perhaps 150, but was a good intimate performance space. The production was done in the round (no revolving stage) with the audience on all four sides and in a small balcony above. The director broke free of the boilerplate Broadway staging and made wonderful use of the space including the balcony. (The lead-up to Javert’s suicide had me on the edge of my seat.) The pit was an electric piano, a trumpet, a violin, and percussion, which was just right for the space. Costumes were effective and sets and lighting were appropriately understated. I particularly admired their barricades: small, but undeniably barricade-like and wonderfully functional.

All that said, it was the actors who made the show. They were talented, committed, nuanced, and passionate. The chorus was predominantly female but enough capable mezzos covered the tenor parts; the sound was full and rich. The leads were stellar. It was a deeply moving performance.

Maybe high schoolers are uniquely qualified to communicate the unambiguous passions of Les Mis. Love is everything; freedom is life; tomorrow will come. I don’t know, but I’m really grateful to have seen this production. The cast should be very, very proud of their achievement. Bravissimo!

I know it’s a War Horse, but it’s a worthy show. Please tell me about your Les Miserables experiences.

I’ve seen it several times, but unfortunately I don’t remember which casts. Three or four times in Chicago and twice in New York.

My favorite experience was the second time I saw it in Chicago. Went with a school group from choir, and we had gotten those “Student Seats” at (I think) The Auditorium. $25 seats in the back row of the second balcony type seats. Just after the first line of “Bring Him Home”, Valjean’s mic went out. For a horrified second, he froze as he realized it and then…did something. Something with his posture and breath support and then suddenly we could hear him singing. Pianissimo. Falsetto. In the back friggin’ row of the second balcony. And, oh, my god, the difference in power and passion of an unamplified voice is just stunning. I could not stop crying, those silent tears of joy and pain and release. It was, bar none, the most moving and spectacular experience of my theatergoing life. I’ll never forget it. I’m actually teary again just remembering it.

ETA: For those who don’t know the song, or just want to hear it again, here’s Colm Wilkenson singing it on YouTube:

I’m going to see this production tomorrow! I’ve never seen the show before but it’s my wife’s favorite.

I’ve only seen it once. I doubt I’ll ever see it a second time.

It was September 13th, 2001, in Las Vegas. The country was still completely insane in the wake of 9/11 and I can remember people being paranoid about everything, including going to the Aladdin Theatre to watch a Broadway production It seems sort of silly in retrospect, but we didn’t really know how our lives were going to change and people were seeing terrorist threats everywhere. Somebody actually warned me that it might not be safe to go to a “Middle-Eastern themed casino.”

Yes, I’m serious.

I was twenty years old at the time and it was my first experience with musical theatre aside from a production of Peter Pan I’d seen as a little kid. I wasn’t very familiar with the story, but I’d had the majority of the soundtrack etched into my brain by my sister, who played it on repeat for months beforehand. I really had no idea what to expect in any way.

The emotion of that night was palpable and I credit that production with my passion for musicals now. How the actors were able to perform at that time and perform so well astounds me. It was as if someone had taken an actor aside and told him, “This is the last time you will ever perform in your life. This is what the world will remember you by,” and so he put every ounce of skill and passion he had into his performance. Only, the entire cast was doing this.

The theatre seats 7,000, though all of the available seating wasn’t being utilized. Still, the portion of the theatre that was open to seating was fairly full. There were points during Les Mis that there would be silence on stage for a moment, a pause in the music, and during those moments you could hear about a thousand people all sniffing or quietly crying. At one point, a shot rings out as part of the play and there was a collective gasp and even a few screams the tension was so high. Never since have I seen an audience at any other production so very on edge and so utterly empathetic towards a cast.

At the final curtain call, the cast was crying. People were still drying their tears as they walked out. I suppose it was a combination of many in the cast coming from New York and the heightened anxiety and emotions of the country at the time, as well as, honestly, it just being a beautiful story.

I doubt I’ll see it a second time because I can’t imagine anything ever comparing to the raw power of that night.

I saw the original Broadway production for my 13th birthday – it was a Very Big Deal – even though I grew up in New York and went to the theater fairly frequently we rarely went to the sort of play that’s sold out 3 months in advance. My parents took me to a French Bistro for dinner beforehand to get in the zone. :slight_smile: I had just finished the novel, which I adored, so, basically I was beside myself in anticipation, and was not let down.

Best. Birthday. Evar.

Twice. Once would have been in Chicago in the fall of 1991 (we had it as an activity before grad school classes started). And once in New York, would have been in the mid 90s.

Man, I love that show. I think it’s a British cast that I listen to, and have memorized. My favorite phrase is

In your multitudes
Scarce to be counted
Filling the darkness)
With order and light

and that lovely note on “light”. I was waiting for it in NYC, when of course someone coughed at that note. GRRR.

You got to see Colm Wilkinson and Terrence Mann! That’s is so awesome, and I’ll admit I’m a bit jealous. :wink: I’ve seen it twice at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway, but I forget the cast names.

As for the teenagers, I never quite understood why either of my high schools outright refused to even consider doing Les Miz. You can only see high schoolers perform Grease or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory so many times before wanting to pluck out your own eyes with eyelash curlers. I suppose the rights are very expensive, but my schools were also very well-to-do. Besides, the messages Les Miz sends to today’s cynical teenagers are extremely important: one can live down the sins of his past, there is inherent goodness in even the dregs of society, and that humanity will prevail.

I one reason that high schools won’t do it is because it is so vocally demanding…you’d have to have an awful lot of very talented and probably well-trained singers to be able to do it

I saw it one in SF in the nosebleeds, and the 2nd time in London on the orchestra level. It seemed like such a smaller production the second time around, but the thing I remember the most is that the UK show had cut parts of the original show out (most notably, the little kid’s “Little People” song, which really diluted the impact of his death later on).

Very true. Also, its hard to cast a 17 year old as Valjean without causing some snickers. Big voice or no, its a role that requires a certain gravitas. A Valjean that looks like he’s about the right age to take a swing at Cosette himself is a bit… awkward.

It is also technically demanding, particularly in set and costume, and to get around the technical requirements (ie to have a stage-wide turntable to show both sides of the barricade) requires a leap of imagination and directorial skill not commonly found in a high school drama department, and not commonly achieved in a 1-semester time frame.

Let me second that! Valjean must be a tenor of some training and must have a certain height and bulk to be believable. The high schooler I saw last week had a fantastic stage presence and was utterly convincing.

Agreed on the difficulties of time and costuming, particularly for that size of a cast.

Part of my delight in theater of all shapes and sizes is seeing what production crews do with their available resources. The turntable and double-sided barricades are showpieces from the Mackintosh production. They’re not necessary for a successful show the way Valjean is necessary for a successsful show. :smiley:

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen the show.

I saw it for the first time in April, 1987, at the Broadway Theatre at W. 53rd St. Colm Wilkinson was Valjean. Terrence Mann was Javert. Frances Ruffelle was Eponine. Judy Kuhn was Cosette. And Randi Graff was Fantine. It was an extraordinary show. It had been running less than a month and had garnered alsmost universal praise from the critics.

I remember I had seen “Starlight Express” the previous night and been pretty unimpressed with the whole thing except for the actress who played Dinah… and to go from that ho-hum experience to Les Mis simply blew me away. The girl I was dating at the time was also bowled over; we spent the whole trip back talking about how great the show was and listening to the hastily purchased soundtrack. (On cassette, of course, because who had a CD player in their car then? Not me, anyway).

My one copy is a cassette tape transcribed off my father’s album.

I saw the original cast, not long after it opened. *Les Misérables *has always been one of my favorite novels, and I was extremely skeptical about it being transformed into a musical. Needless to say, I was very pleasantly surprised.

I’ve seen it twice, both in Chicago. The first was at the Auditorium Theatre in May 1991 and the second was at the Cadillac Theatre (I think?) in April 2005. Both were fantastic.

I just came back from a weekend in New York City, where I saw it for my first time on Friday night at the Broadhurst Theatre! I went in quite cold, knowing that Jean Valjean got in trouble for stealing a loaf of bread and then ran through some sewers in Paris, and nothing else. Needless to say, I was blown away! The songs were rousing and epic, and I’ve since acquired the cast recording and have been playing it ever since. I love those big, powerful, multi-part numbers, and the story hit on almost all of my favorite themes: duty, honor, loyalty, self-sacrifice, obsession, true love, the blurred lines between heroes and villains. I cried more than once, I admit it, and my girlfriend was a mess through most of it (and she had seen it a couple times before).

But the entire Broadway experience was amazing. We had fifth row center orchestra seats, close enough to smell the gunpowder and see the sweat on everyone’s faces. Drew Sarich played Valjean, Robert Hunt played Javert, Lea Salonga played Fantine (apparently she’s someone up-and-coming on Broadway?), and the entire cast was strong and fierce and incredibly talented.

We saw a Broadway blooper when the dying Gavroche threw the bag of bullets to the guy at the top of the barricade (I forget his name), but it was a weak throw and the bag didn’t get high enough, instead getting caught on some rubble on the wrong side. We were close enough to see the guy on top give an absolute look of shock and fright, but he recovered a split-second later and the show went on. I loved it!

Just as cool: the night before, we saw Rent at the Nederlander Theatre, with two of the original cast members: Anthony Rapp as Mark and Adam Pascal as Roger (who we met on his way into the theater – very nice guy, but obviously in a hurry). We both love Rent and have seen it twice over the last year with the same touring cast, but it was wild seeing it on Broadway with Anthony and Adam reprising their roles. They looked like they were having the time of their lives, and had amazing chemistry on the Mark/Roger duets. Tamrya Gray (who my girlfriend informed me was an American Idol favorite) played an amazing Mimi, although we still think nobody can touch the awesomeness of Rosario Dawson in the movie.

I saw a very tiny adaptation of just the songs, while a narrator just kind of glossed over the talking bits. I wasn’t too sold on the Javert–I guess because you don’t really see his transition first hand, when he sings his last number I sort of laughed.

“La dee da de daaaaaAAAAAAUGH!”

(Does this make me a bad person?)

Um… yeah, she has done one or two things.

She created the role of Kim in Miss Saigon, and won a Tony for it. She also has played Eponine in Les Mis, was the singing voice of Princess Jasmine in “Aladdin,” and she was in the revival of Flower Drom Song.

I envy you – I’ve seen her sing Eponine, and I would love to watch her sing Fantine.

I’m not a big Broadway follower so I had no idea, although I’m starting to become more of a fan (I also saw Wicked and The Lion King earlier this year in Florida). She was wonderful and heartbreaking as Fantine – I like her more than the singer on the original cast recording.

I am so jealous! Details, I want details! How was he?

Back in June I ‘discovered’ the awesomeness of Drew Sarich courtesy of Youtube (in particular his incredible performance as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar from 2005 in Austria), and was astonished by the coincidence of him taking over the Jean Valjean role last week. He has such a gorgeous tenor and an incredible, effortless vocal range. (Plus? Hot.) But he seems awfully young and rock-oriented for the Valjean role. (BTW, in this revival of Les Mis he’s also played Javert, Grantaire and Enjolras!)

Through, uh, various channels I’ve heard a snippet of his “Who am I?” where he hits an amazingly high, true note at the end, but I know I’ll need to see the show to catch the all-important “Bring Him Home.” I probably won’t get to see the show for another few weeks.

Sorry for the gushing but I’d love to know how Sarich did as Valjean. Tell, tell! :slight_smile: