Sunday, January 6, 2013

Les Miserables

My wife and I enjoy musical theater, and good music in general, and my favorite stage musical is Les Miserables by a wide margin. Over the last year or so, daughter Julia has become obsessed with Les Miz through the magic of YouTube and the iPad. When we saw that a traveling company of the 25th anniversary staging was coming to the Academy of Music, it seemed a logical thing for Julia to ask Santa for as her big Christmas wish. Santa came through in a big way, and so yesterday the three of us went into the city for the 2pm Saturday matinee.

Amp and I have seen the show three times, but none of them recently. Our first time seeing this would have been in the late 1980's in Philadelphia, probably at the Forrest Theater. For that show, Craig Schulman (one of the more famous American Jean Valjeans) was the lead but we saw his understudy Mark McVey instead. The second time we saw it in Philly a few years later, Mark McVey was the lead, but we saw his understudy instead. Finally, things came full circle the third time we saw the show a few years later on Broadway, when we saw Schulman as Valjean (in a show that also featured pop star Ricky Martin as Marius...weakly I might add).

Our seats for this show were in the third row, center balcony, and gave us a fantastic vantage. Julia was so excited I thought she might burst while waiting for the show to begin. I saw the conductor enter the pit under stage center, and saw him raise the baton to launch into the overture, but Julia did not, and when the music started she pretty much jumped out of her chair. We all had a good laugh at that.

The new 25th anniversary staging of the show had minor differences from what we had seen before, and everything was terrific. The cast was great (Peter Lockyer as Valjean, Andrew Varela as Javert), the orchestra was tight, Julia was in her own personal heaven, and it was a truly great show. I would say that this was as good if not better than any of the other shows we had seen over the years, which is saying a lot. All the highlight songs were fantastic, the cast was strong, and the show had as much emotional impact on me this time as it had in all prior viewings (yes, I do tear up a little when Valjean dies...). Javert, my favorite character, was fantastic, and his suicide scene was staged amazingly well when he plunges from the bridge into the swirling waters below. Two of my favorite songs are Javert's Stars and Soliloquy (Javert's Suicide), and both were sung with the passion and... ferocity... that they require. I was very pleased.

It was a wonderful afternoon out in the city, and Julia absolutely loved it. The look on her face all throughout the show and afterwards was priceless. Nothing gives me a warmer feeling inside than making my children happy, and this was a great day for Julia.

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