December 12, 2014
IT'S FOUR days until Hanukkah and almost two weeks to Christmas, but a pair of local theater companies have already unwrapped their presents to us. Though profoundly dissimilar, Media Theatre's rendition of "Les Miserables" and 1812 Production's latest installment of "This Is the Week That Is," share a crucial trait: Both are top-shelf efforts that speak to the immense professionalism and talent in our regional theater landscape. Tickets to either (or both) definitely qualify as can't-miss gifts for theater-lovers on your list.
November 26, 2014 |
If I could change one thing about the Media Theatre's spectacularly sung production of Les Miserables , I'd give them $20,000 to spend on sets. After seeing Friday's opening, I'd wager they devoted most of their budget to the talented cast of local performers, Broadway veterans, and seasoned professionals that delivered a thoroughly smashing account of Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyricist Herbert Kretzmer's songs. As the convict Jean Valjean, John Smitherman unleashes a heartrending falsetto to vocally parry the chilling baritone of James Zanelli's Inspector Javert.
August 9, 2013
WHEN IT first crossed the Atlantic Ocean to America in 1985, "Les Miserables" was arguably the greatest spectacle Broadway had ever seen. With its groundbreaking, turntable-driven staging, space-dominating barricades and brilliant, reality-altering lighting schemes, "Les Miserables" provided a powerful visual experience that matched the sonic intensity of the score. But during the past decade, the venerated "sung-through" version of Victor Hugo's classic 19th-century novel of love, deceit, despair and redemption has been shrinking.
August 7, 2013 |
Javert: You are a thief. Jean Valjean: I stole a loaf of bread. Javert: You robbed a house! Jean Valjean: I broke a window pane. My sister's child was close to death. And we were starving. Javert: And you still starve again unless you learn the meaning of the law. WHEN ANTONIO Bastardo stepped onto the mound at Turner Field on April 3 for his first appearance of the 2013 season, the Phillies reliever had already pocketed more salary than most of his countrymen will in the entire fiscal year.
January 5, 2013 |
Like a grand diva who can't get enough farewell tours, Les Misérables , the stage musical version, is again on a tour stop in Philadelphia against many odds. This time, it arrives amid formidable competition from the current film version that faithfully follows the musical about oppressed masses and idealistic uprisings in post-revolutionary France. By now, the touring stage shows have a fraction of the scenery seen in the Broadway original. The film is lavishly produced with major stars and has a smaller admission fee. Yet Wednesday night's opening at the packed Academy of Music clearly justified itself, thanks to a bright, unjaded cast at the top of its collective game and exercising a freedom of interpretation not always seen in touring companies that typically seek to reproduce the original-cast experience.
January 4, 2013
REJOICE! THE barricade is back on Broad Street and parole-breaker Jean Valjean is once again being hounded through the decades by the pious zealot Inspector Javert. "Les Miserables" has returned to the Academy of Music. The revered "sung-through" musical, which opened Wednesday and runs through Jan. 13, couldn't come at a better time, as it follows by a mere eight days the release of the ballyhooed film version. As such, it is a potent reminder - with all due respect to Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, et al - that nothing beats seeing the musical adaption of Victor Hugo's sprawling, 19th-century novel about love (reciprocated and unrequited)
December 25, 2012 |
A version of this review appeared in Sunday's Arts + Entertainment section. When last seen, British director Tom Hooper had just overseen a historical biography about a stammering monarch, someone who felt ill-equipped to take the throne, a chap who couldn't get a sentence out without scrunching up in agony. The King's Speech , a runaway success. There is certainly no stammering to be had, or heard, in Les Misérables, Hooper's sweeping adaptation of the Broadway musical, and destined, one suspects, for box-office glory, too. Based on Victor Hugo's hefty classic, and given an operetta treatment that can be soaring and glorious - or, when the lyrics slip into anachronistic vernacular, wincingly lame - this big-budget movie musical summons the mighty forces of CGI to create vast tableaux of castles and monasteries, shipyards and slums, France in the tumultuous first half of the 19th century.
December 24, 2012 |
DURING MY almost-four decades as an entertainment writer-critic, I have covered every popular-arts beat, from film and TV to theater and pop music, and everything in-between (Disney ice shows, anyone?). And nothing - make that absolutely nothing - I have ever seen has thrilled, delighted and moved me more than the musical adaptation of Victor Hugo's epic novel, "Les Miserables. " Since the touring version of the worldwide smash first hit Philly in the late 1980s, I have seen "Les Miz" (as it's affectionately and universally known)
May 21, 2008 |
Let's do something completely different, said the celebrated British producer Cameron Mackintosh - in fact, let's make sure we do something different. So in 2006, he chose a handful of American theaters, including Philadelphia's Walnut Street, to produce their own versions of his Les Mis?rables on the condition that they completely restage the wildly popular but increasingly weary musical. Other than school drama groups that used a cut-down version, no one has been permitted to mess with the look and feel of Les Miz - until now. Overnight, an iconic piece of theater is open to reinterpretation for the first time since its 1985 debut by the Royal Shakespeare Company in London.
November 12, 2006 |
The passion, really, is what keeps us coming back. I'll bet that every night, the audience at the first Broadway revival of Les Mis?rables, which opened Thursday, will be filled with recidivists. They just can't help it. They have to see it again. They will not be disappointed. Les Miz, as we've come to call the musical adaptation of Victor Hugo's 1862 novel, is a sprawling, sung-through celebration of the human spirit. I've never read the novel; my second bet is that neither has much of the audience at any performance.