Since its premiere in 1985, “Les Misérables” has been a musical staple of modern theater. To this day, it remains a masterful adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel. So does the production running in Anchorage this week live up the musical’s outstanding legacy?
In short, yes. The effects are very impressive and the roles are incredibly well-performed.
“Les Misérables” tells the tale of Jean Valjean, a criminal who was arrested many years ago for stealing a loaf of bread. He is released on parole 19 years after his sentence. He tries stealing again from a priest, but the priest lets him keep what he stole so he can evade police capture. Moved by this compassionate gift, Valjean swears to become a new man — a passionate man of God that seeks to redeem his past sins.
Of course, he is only one of several characters in the story that is fleshed out in this manner, but to go into details about how well the musical fleshes out each of the very complex characters would take several long books, and possibly more than that. Just know that no matter how good or bad the performances are, the several tragedies and events that take place in the story still give audiences goosebumps even to this day. It’s familiar to many, and the show’s program contains a neat summary of the plot’s events. The story is very complex, but it’s more about the characters and overarching themes than it is about the main events that happen. It’s a nice gesture that allows the emotions of the cast to shine through, regardless of story confusion.
Thankfully, the performances by this particular run of the show are spectacular. The character of Inspector Javert in particular is given an incredibly threatening performance while still being sympathetic when he needs to be. Actor Randall Dodge fills him with an Ahab-like furor as he chases down Valjean.
Several young local actors portray the characters of Young Cosette, Young Éponine, and Gavroche, and they give the show a neat local touch. Their performances aren’t perfect, but they lend their characters a sense of childlike innocence.
The effects are very impressive. The massive onstage barricade serves as a crucial reminder that “Les Misérables” is a whole different beast on the stage than it is on the page or the screen. The lighting is used very cleverly, especially in the second act when things start taking a turn for the worse. The show remains a spectacular sight to see.
“Les Misérables” was and still is a timeless story, especially in musical, operatic form. The performances of the show’s run in Anchorage only amplify this, and it’s a show that everyone needs to see live at least once in his or her lifetime. It’s a touching and tear-jerking experience that is masterfully produced.