Lovely Ladies

Of all the major touring productions that have come to Vancouver, Les Misérables is one that my husband and I hadn’t yet experienced. We felt we were the perfect audience to attend Broadway Across Canada’s big opening night of the 25th anniversary production.

Les Mis is considered one of the most popular stage shows worldwide. The production remains the third longest-running Broadway production of all time.

Forbach as Enjolras
[Jason Forbach as Enjolras]

If you’re not familiar with Victor Hugo’s story of love, compassion, and social injustice, this musical is the perfect introduction to the massively popular show that originally brought audiences to their feet at London’s Barbican Theatre in 1985.

Peter Lockyer as Jean Valjean
[Peter Lockyer as Jean Valjean]

Through Valjean’s redemption from hardened criminal into well-loved philanthropist, Hugo sets in motion a recurring theme of an undying love for others, particularly that of little Cosette (Erin Cearlock, Ava Della Pietra; Julie Benko and Lauren Wiley perform the role of older Cosette), who is left in Valjean’s hands when Fantine (Genevieve Leclerc) is left to die in hospital.

No more spoilers for newbies, though.

From here, I particularly want to commend Matt Kinley’s set and imagery, creating lush, at times moving backdrops during the nearly three-hour production (including intermission). According to Kinley, Hugo was a visionary, ahead of his time in experimenting with various media and processes, from sepia, pen, ink and soot to lace prints and folded Rorschach-like ink patterns on paper.

Little known is the fact that Hugo kept his paintings hidden from public exhibit as he feared they would distract from his writing. As the scenes change, images are layered to create additional depth and intensity, perfectly suited to the fabulous set designs. The musical numbers for the most part make the storyline easy to follow.

Briana Carlson-Goodman as Eponine
[Briana Carlson-Goodman as Éponine]

Particular stand out vocal talents are Peter Lockyer’s Jean Valjean, Andrew Varela’s Javert, and Briana Carlson-Goodman’s Éponine. Her character faces unrequited love and selflessness.

Master of the House
[“Master of the House”]

For fun and mischief, characters Madame Thénardier (Shawna Hamic) and Thénardier (Timothy Gulan) are scene-stealers in the “Master of the House” number. Things turn a bit darker into the second half, when battle ensues and the students build a barricade to prepare to fight the revolution.

Devin Ilaw as Marius
[Devin Ilaw as Marius]

There are tender moments at the end; I now know the part where people get watery-eyed, and this show did it for me as well.

The cast is solid together and the elaborate sets are well-utilized for the Queen E’s stage. In one scene, buildings quickly form on the stage complete with several stories of balconies, and then in an instant, a bridge with softly-lit street lamps settles in place, gorgeously bathed in blue light.

My only bother with the theatre was that our seats were under a rear-projecting TV monitor (showing the conductor) that would occasionally flicker and distract our attention during the evening.

Les Misérables 25th Anniversary Production continues through June 23 at the Queen E Theatre in Vancouver.

All photos by Kyle Froman.

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