All good things are made to last–Airstreams, Louis Vuitton luggage and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Waterfall House are some examples. But what is it that makes a musical like, Les Misérables, remain so emotionally and culturally compelling to us today in 2011? Let’s be honest–nothing about it has really changed significantly since it debuted on Broadway in 1987. Could it be that everyone (whether they know it or not) is just a sucker for a good old-fashioned redemption story set to familiar and moving music? Perhaps it’s the nearly 29 on stage deaths that occur, or the complicated love triangle between attractive young Parisian men and women. But most likely it’s the less topical ingredients at the heart of Les Mis that have allowed it to endure as the third longest running musical in history. Really, it is about grace and the personal revolutions we experience in the midst of social and political ones, and how those moments make us better humans, authentically.
What started out in the early/mid ’80s as a successful French concept album written by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, was brought to the London stage by British theater producer, Cameron Mackintosh. Nearly 25 years after it’s debut, the dazzling musical is breaking new box office records all over again with its effectively re-imagined scenery inspired by the paintings of the classic novel’s author, Victor Hugo. The old production featured a turntable, designed by John Napier, to rotate and provide the shifts in scenery. This is now accomplished with the paintings and multi-media projections. At times, the two serve merely as backdrops, and at others they are slightly more impressive. At the end of the first act, revolutionaries march triumphantly to ‘One Day More,’ and actually appear to be marching down the street. It’s amazing how technology can subtly enhance how one experiences something they already have imprinted on their hearts, and actually make it better without disturbing the balance and original idea. Call it a dose of theatrical Botox.
The current run of Les Misérables (which plays through September 10th at the DCPA) is nothing short of epic in every scope–this is something that has remained consistent in past touring and Broadway offerings, aside from obvious and improved visual changes. Pointing out specific performances would be doing it some injustice, because it is the entire company who pull the whole thing off and bring out it’s soul. Classic songs like ‘I Dreamed a Dream,’ ‘On My Own,’ and ‘Bring Him Home’ coaxed the very hairs on people’s necks on end. It truly is everything it should be–moving, funny, colorful and glorious. The updates Mackintosh and his team have applied to the unmistakably, five-star production are both tasteful and fully appropriate. It’s funny to think that it just might run another 25 years.
August 30-September 10
for tickets and info visit www.denvercenter.org or call 303.893.4100