Disclaimer: this is an extremely biased review. Its author reads Victor Hugo’s masterpiece yearly and weeps upon hearing the first notes of the incomparable musical’s overture. Other critics balked when, after only three and a half years, Les Misérables returned to Broadway for a revival. Not her! Actually, scoring the press tickets was why she became a critic. She also wrote this intro in the third person.
Whether you’re ready again or not, Jean Valjean and the chain gang are back for six months more to inspire and awe, although this production suffers from some unfortunate miscasting, notably the otherwise adorable Daphne Rubin-Vega as the virtuous Fantine. Her performance is good but her gasping, gulping vocal delivery is completely wrong for the demands of Claude-Michel Schönberg’s incomparable score; it is impossible to enjoy the majestic ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ sung in staccato. Norm Lewis as Javert is also a mismatch. Handsome and perhaps too young to play the relentless inspector, he has a beautiful voice and masters Javert’s rectitude yet possesses none of the bulldog menace that epitomizes his hunt for Valjean.
These disappointments aside, the other great performances satisfy. Dashing Aaron Lazar is excellent as the rebel student leader Enjolras — indeed, the students are all terrific, their scenes replacing the Valjean/Javert dynamic as the passionate heart of this production. Ultimately, Hugo’s story is as timeless as ever, Cameron Mackintosh’s production is ingenious and Trevor Nunn’s direction is taut. Different voices, different stages — Les Misérables continues to stand on its own.