At the end of the day, Les Misérables will always be one of my favorite stories and musical productions. The intricacy of the score, the tenacity of the vocals ~ the story that takes you on a journey of redemption. We’ve been waiting some time for the US tour of the Broadway musical Les Misérables to arrive in Orlando. It just landed and will be performing October 22nd through the 27th at the Dr. Phillips Center. It was such a pleasure to be invited as media to see the show on opening night. Seeing the musical succeeded in rekindling the heart full of love I’ve had for this story.
This post is in partnership with the Dr. Phillips Center. I was invited to view this Orlando Broadway Series performance in exchange for my honest review. While my ticket was complimentary, my opinions are 100% mine and mine alone. This post does contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure policy for more information.
Les Misérables ~ It’s Origin
Les Misérables was a Victor Hugo novel first published in 1862. Set in 19th century France, it tells the story of one man’s redemptive journey from serving time to the fulfillment of grace bestowed upon him. It is said to be a timeless testament of the human spirit.
The production came to the stage, first in London, back in 1985 and made its way to the United States in 1986. Over the course of years, the complex story-line and score have entertained and pulled on the heart strings of audiences far and wide.
I, myself, have been a fan since my teens, having seen the production twice prior to seeing it here in Orlando. During high school, the popularity of the musical was immense and I can remember both performing a musical revue with our show choir and attending a performance in New York City with our theatre department. Yes, even though the story contains risque topics and lewd actions at times, the story captured our hearts as if they were prisoners on the chain gang in the opening scene. The songs have remained forever in my memory.
Les Misérables in Orlando
Les Misérables was the first production of the 2019-2020 Broadway season here in Orlando at the Dr. Phillips Center. It opened to a full house and crowds of applause, obviously speaking to the fact that its popularity has never wavered. I attended as media and brought Hubby along with me, since the second time I saw the production was with him near immediately after we got married over two decades ago. I guess you can say it is somewhat sentimental for us. Not to mention, this just happens to be one of Hubby’s favorite stories of redemption. It gets him every time and he loves to revisit it around Easter every year.
Breaking Down The Opening Night Performance
As expected, the musical talent in this production was phenomenal. If you’re not familiar with the stage production, the nearly three to four hour musical is presented completely in song. Barely is a spoken word heard. Can you imagine the diaphragmatic strength that takes? Of course, it has to be noted that perfect pitch must be a character requirement for every audition because the number of key changes, unique intervals and intentional dissidence demands perfection. I barely heard a note fall short or rise above its intended pitch. It was impressive.
The harmonies were spectacular, as well. I am a huge fan of hearing parts blend together perfectly and this performance brought us that strength and quality. I admit that I felt it was a little weak towards the end, but it wasn’t a pitch thing. It was truly a strength thing ~ but this is coming from a person who has high expectations for this story.
Vocally speaking, I was most impressed by Nick Cartell’s performance of “Bring Him Home.” A beautiful song in its own right, it is also a very difficult piece to master both technically and emotionally. He carried us with him in his “prayer” and we all felt his desire and plea to see Marius make it through the battle. I believe he even earned himself a few standing to their feet at the close of the song.
While not personally a huge fan of the character of Cosette (I honestly could not tell you why ~ perhaps the movie ruined it for me), I will say that Olivia Del Cicchi (who was understudying that night) effortlessly hit those heaven-bound notes. It was truly angelic at times.
I will say that I “appreciated” the set for this production. I cannot say that I loved it. The previous two productions were seen with the rotating stage, which has become synonymous with Les Mis for me. However, I would assume that a tour would find it difficult to travel with such a prop. Taking that into consideration, I will say that the set design served its purpose and we were able to sense and feel the environment to which we were taken – in the sewers, in a brothel, at an inn, standing on (or falling from) a bridge.
With regard to the acting, I was primarily impressed. If I were to be bluntly honest, Cartell’s opening scene was a little too dramatic for me, but he grew on me very quickly and settled into his role. I enjoyed watching his evolution on stage. Cartell embodied Valjean and grew from prisoner to saint very eloquently and effectively.
There was one other standout for me. While the remainder of the cast was successful in their portrayals, the entire audience was intrigued and infatuated with the young woman who played Madame Thénardier, Allison Guinn. Her natural ability to spark laughter was inviting and the entire house was affected when she was on the stage in that role.
There Were A Few Moments…
It wouldn’t be me or lend credibility to my review if I didn’t have something to share that I wish had been different. If I had to share the few things that struck a chord with me, I would start with the first half of the first act. It was almost painfully on fast forward and felt a little discombobulated. Had I not known the story, it would have been confusing. On my way out of the house, I was speaking with an older gentleman and he concurred, stating that this portion of the performance just didn’t feel it matched the quality of the production he had come to expect. To give credit where credit is due, however, the story did became easier to follow and enjoy as the show progressed.
Oh, forgive me for this one, but there were two characters who just fell flat for me. I honestly had difficulty accepting Matt Shingledecker as Enjolras. While he demonstrated strong vocal talent, there was just something that didn’t seem right. Sadly, I just could not get past it.
In addition, Jimmy Smagula’s performance of Thénardier just did not mesmerize me either. I’m not alone in that, either. He simply did not seem to generate the boisterous laughter and reaction his stage wife (Guinn) produced. In essence, he was good ~ just not captivating.
The story of a man who goes from chain gang to saint continues to charm the masses. While this performance lacked a little bit of the anticipated luster, it was opening night and still an evening well spent. The songs are once again burned in my memory and in my heart and I am once again reminded that redemption is possible.
The tour remains in Orlando until the 27th of October. From there, it moves on and may very well be coming to your home town.
- For tickets to see it at the Dr. Phillips Center, you can visit their site at: https://www.drphillipscenter.org/events/tickets/2019/les-miserables/
- For future performances and dates elsewhere, click here: Les Miserables National Tour.
About the Dr. Phillips Center…
The Dr. Phillips Center is a exquisitely designed performing arts center. Its aim is to create experiences that educate as much as they entertain. From Broadway performances and stand up comedy to symphonies and award ceremonies, the center inspires creativity by providing programming an entire community can support and enjoy.
In addition, there is an educational component to the center. Throughout the year, there are various opportunities and classes for those who are artistically inspired. The center believes in making the arts accessible to all people from all walks of life, from all over the world. For more information on what the Dr. Phillips Center of the Performing Arts offers, please visit their website: Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center.
They would love to invite you to join them on this journey.
Video credit (used with permission): Angie, This is the Motherhood
What else is coming to the Dr. Phillips Center? Click here: Future events
To see a complete list of the 2019-2020 #OrlandoBroadwaySeries Season, click here: 2019-2020 Season
Enjoy this review? Check out some of my other Dr. Phillips Center reviews below:
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