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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
LES MISÈRABLES
at the Imperial

CUT CORNERS
By SANDY MACDONALD

  Ph: Michael Le Poer Trench

Why, if you had pockets as presumably deep as those of producer Cameron Mackintosh, would you choose to afford the latest Broadway revival of Les Misèrables the mingy production values of a threadbare bus-and-truck tour? Oh, because that’s exactly what this was, and is. Though well cast for the most part, and a thoughtul lagniappe for the stalwart troupers come home to roost, this cut-rate rendition seems geared to keeping the money machine cranking with minimal outlay.

The lighting, to start: Is ConEd charging by the lumen? So dim is Paule Constable’s design, it’s a struggle to make out features and expressions from mid-orchestra. Adding to the murk, scenic designer Matt Kinley – availing himself of indistinct projections lifted from Victor Hugo’s public-domain sketches – keeps the fog machines working at full blast.

A couple of voices manage to penetrate the gloom. Ramin Karimloo's exquisite delivery of the octave-leaping “Bring Him Home” is worth the price of admission. Will Swenson acquits himself ably as Jean Valjean’s nemesis, Inspector Javert, even if he reads as far too robust to portray a punctilious sadist. In the 2012 film version, which haunts this theatrical revenant as doggedly as Javert pursues Valjean, Russell Crowe exhibited virtually no vocal chops, but he conveyed the right malsain spirit.

Not every principal appears to have been chosen with vocal strength in mind. Nikki M. James, as Eponine, struggles in a range not suited to her markedly thin voice, until Idol-style mechanical assists – employed so ubiquitously, you’re never quite sure who’s finessing what – kick in for “On My Own,” Eponine’s big unrequited-love number, stirringly delivered.

Keala Settle injects some much-needed sparkle as the grumpily avaricious innkeeper Mme. Thénardier. For an outrageous slattern, she’s nicely nuanced. As for the remainder of the principals, it’s more a case of adequacy as opposed to mastery. In a manner as egregious as the horrifying home-ec measures employed chez Thénardier, corners have been cut, and Broadway is the poorer.

 


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