“Les Miserables,” playing this weekend at the Schubert Theater, is the world’s favorite musical for a reason. Based on the classic Victor Hugo story, and written by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, “Les Miserables” is a rousing, inspiring and deliciously over-the-top musical on the grandest scale. Young ingenues sing of unrequited love and castles in clouds, men are tormented by the ghosts of their pasts, and idealistic students sing of the “blood of the martyrs of France” while an enormous red flag is waved in the background. “Les Miserables” is not new. It is not particularly deep. It is, however, a fantastically good time. It is a wonderful three-hour throwback to older-style musicals, in which the sheer strength of the singing and melody might bring tears to your eyes in spite of the sheer cheesiness of it all.
This national tour production remains entirely faithful to the Broadway production. The scenery is lavish, including a giant turntable stage and automated barricades that glide up and down and on and off the stage. The production is also similar to Broadway in the uniform strength of the cast, all of whom are extremely capable of singing their difficult roles. Where this cast is unique, however, is in the apparent youth of much of the company. Marius and Enjolras, the two leaders of the student revolutionaries, appear actually to be teenagers. Usually, the show is cast with far older-looking characters, who are therefore less sympathetic to younger audiences. The youth of this cast reinforces the often-forgotten poignancy of the musical; one can perhaps begin to believe in the idealism of their innocent youth. The deaths of the revolutionaries are more tragic when the fallen are not much older than one’s self. You may get swept up in the excitement in spite of yourself when a fellow 20-year-old gets on top of a table and begins to sing about claiming his freedom.
For a frivolous, decadent escape into musical theater, there are few choices better than the Tony-winning “Les Miserables.” Half-price student rush tickets make the evening more affordable, so check your cynicism at the door, tie on a red, white, and blue sash, and try not to sing along too loudly in your seat.
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