Laurence Connor and James Powell's direction of the current tour is energetic and lively from opening to close. There are cleverly paid notes of homage to Trevor Nunn and John Caird's original direction of the piece. Yet, the team really takes advantage of being able to breathe new life into the show, almost completely restaging every scene. Likewise, they have taken the opportunity to present a grittier and more realistic LES MISERABLES. The cheery polish of the 1987 Broadway production has been entirely removed. The proletariats look filthy and bereft of any quality of life, showcasing how miserable they truly are. Mannerisms and the way the cast carry their bodies on stage reflect their social standings as well, emphasizing the disparity of French social classes in the early 1800s.
Starring as Jean Valjean, the charismatic and charming Peter Lockyer fascinates and entrances the audience with his crisp and powerful dramatic tenor instrument. Valjean's "Soliloquy," "Who Am I?," and "Bring Him Home" soar off the stage and affect the audience with grace and practiced poise. In addition to manipulating emotions with his masterful vocals, Peter Lockyer commands the audience with genuine and perfected acting ability. The audience watches him transform from a youthful and vibrant man freed from prison to an aged and dying man, and no step along the arc is anything short of being pristinely believable.
As the villainous yet altogether human Javert, Andrew Varela is simply stunning. After his performance of "Stars," a palpable buzz of electricity filled the auditorium eliciting thunderous applause and cheers. My legs tingled to stand and deliver a standing ovation at that very moment. He continued to impress the audience with his authoritative, booming and rich bass-baritone instrument on numbers like "The Confrontation" and Javert's "Soliloquy." Moreover, Andrew Varela makes his Javert empathetic, presenting him as a man that longs to be moral, righteous, and to do his job to the best of his ability.
Playing Marius, Max Quinlan has a great presence on the stage and stirs the audience with his luxurious tenor voice. Compared to the bombastic power of the other male leads, his soft and elegiac rendition of "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" (which is also fantastically staged) is delightfully heartbreaking and emotional. Max Quinlan captures and displays Marius' charisma and easily wins the audience to his favor, leaving us no option but to root for him to survive the attack on the barricade and get the girl.
Briana Carson-Goodman's Éponine is a fully-realized revelation. She commands the stage with her tomboy presence, easily proving to the audience that she is just as tough as the male students at the barricade. Mix in Briana Carson-Goodman's gorgeous mezzo-soprano instrument, and her Éponine gently finds her place in our hearts, leaving us devastated after "On My Own" and in emotional shambles at the end of "A Little Fall of Rain."
Fantine, sung by Betsy Morgan, is incredibly powerful and strong. Her approach brings the audience to a refreshingly different and bombastic rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream." Betsy Morgan fills the stage and the auditorium with personality, pizzazz, and a wall of sound, which leaves the audience breathlessly stunned for all the right reasons. Her softer side is displayed during the heart rending "Come to Me."