Theater Review: Les Miserables
© The Flash List | Sherri Tilley | July 4, 2014
Based on the novel by Victor Hugo
Photos (below) by Karen Almond
Month after month, the question arises:
Is Dallas too big for its arts and cultural britches?
Regardless of your stance on whether Dallas ranks among our nation's top 'most cultured' communities, you'll likely agree that Dallas Theater Center's new production of Les Miserables is definitely a theatrical step in the right direction. This outstanding reinterpretation of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg's classic masterpiece brilliantly provides a sense of timelessness, as if the story could be taking place in the past, present, or even the future.
Locking in an exclusive contract before the show re-opened on Broadway this year, DTC now brings one of the world's most popular musicals to the most flexible theater space in the world. The foundational integrity of this iconic piece remains completely intact and is sure to please even discriminating audiences who have grown accustomed to the epic storyline and glorious music featuring songs like "On My Own," "I Dreamed a Dream," "One Day More," and others; but artistic director Kevin Moriarty's creative collaboration with director Liesl Tommy yields a freshened-up, contemporary viewpoint and a deeply immersive experience which puts theatergoers right into the heart of the action. The entire play is powerfully sung, and dramatic scenes move quickly in this ageless tale of economic struggle and political unrest; so, if you haven't seen the musical before now, familiarizing yourself with the plot summary is a good idea and will go a long way toward the appreciation of the rich fullness of the production.
Costumes (designed by Jacob Climer) span centuries as ex-con Jean Valjean (critically-acclaimed actor Nehal Joshi) sports a modern-day orange prison uniform and "24601" chest tattoo while he's graciously assisted by Medieval-looking monks in hooded robes but simultaneously harassed by futuristic SWAT-type military officers in menacing full riot gear. Ladies (and men) of the evening wear neon garb and platform 'stripper' heels as the unfortunately unemployed factory worker Fantine (Allison Blackwell) is reluctantly brought into their fold, and police inspector Javert (Edward Watts) diligently pursues justice in black-trench-coated Matrix style.
Daisy Dukes and urban braids adorn the street-savvy Eponine (Elizabeth Judd), and a Mac laptop sits on the table at a student rebellion meeting during which Marius (Justin Keyes) reveals his newfound affection for the beautiful Cossette (Dorcas Leung) who seems as equally inquisitive as reclusive. The comically skeezy 'pick-pocketing innkeeper' turned 'ruthless gang leader' Thenardier (Steven Michael Walters) sports a thick head of dark dreadlocks giving him the appearance of Johnny Depp as Boy George on a Cirque du Soleil stage, and his big-bosomed wife Madame Thenardier (Christia Mantzke) looks hilariously like a Peggy Bundy caricature that's plopped right out of a Toulouse-Lautrec painting.
An enticingly ambiguous surrealism is achieved through the use of remarkable live orchestra music, exciting special effects, strategic lighting design, and a tilted raked stage which provides improved viewing of the actors. By the time we experienced one of the first dramatic casualties portrayed in the revolution, a lone gentle flute melody wafted calmly through the air just before the faint sound of a distant car alarm was heard … and it all seemed perfectly appropriate.
So "at the end of the day," everybody can "raise a glass to the master of the house." Thanks to Kevin Moriarty along with the creative team and cast of Les Mis, Dallas just might be on a performing arts growth spurt.
See Les Miserables now as it runs at Dallas Theater Center through Sunday, August 17, 2014 with tickets starting at just $15.00. Feel free to take part in Dallas Theater Center's Come Early program, an informative 30-minute lecture that will be offered at no cost before every performance of every play at DTC. Beginning one hour before each show in the Wells Fargo Come Early Lounge, you can hear a member of the cast or artistic staff share the play's origin and context as well as insights into the creative process behind the production. You may also want to stay late afterward for the free, brief, post-show conversation with a cast member (sponsored by Dr Pepper Snapple Group) where you can interact with the artists and hear dialogue about various interpretations from other audience members. With the DTC Stage Pass, you can attend as many Dallas Theater Center performances as you'd like for just $25 per month. Just show up to the theater up to an hour and a half before show time and get the best available ticket for that performance.
For more information, see event details for Les Miserables.