Yet, “Les Miz” is one of the most successful of them all: the fourth longest running musical on Broadway and a winner of eight Tony awards. Why? The epic drama, the spectacle, the many powerful songs, perhaps. Whatever the reason, there’s been a lot of excitement about Theatre Cambrian’s production of Les Misérables, now onstage.
Jean Valjean, a French peasant in the early 1800s has spent 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s starving child. Once freed, he is still on parole, but branded (literally) as a convict and unable to find work or fair treatment.
He breaks his parole and vanishes to make a new life for himself, leading him to be pursued by the relentless police inspector, Javert. However, Valjean is not a bad man and an encounter with a kindly priest sets him on a lifelong quest to bring kindness and justice to others.
He becomes a town mayor and successful businessman at a time when young idealists in Paris are planning to revolt against the system that oppresses them.
Along the way, there are moments of fun for the street people (though mainly involving drinking and whoring) and a tender love story, but Les Misérables is pretty dark. And lengthy. I couldn’t recommend it for children, who would likely be too fidgety and wouldn’t understand what was going on.
Les Miz requires a large cast with many featured roles, and each of the cast members does a very good job. Some standout performances for me include Marlene Modesto as Fantine, an impoverished woman rescued by Valjean, whose daughter Cosette (played with believable naïveté by Vanessa DiFeo) is adopted by Valjean.
Anthony Briand and Irmgard Hechler camp it up as corrupt husband-and-wife innkeepers. Their daughter, Eponine, is played by Abby Lacelle in one of the show’s most endearing performances.
From the younger (David Webster as the spunky Gavroche) to the older (the always-reliable Dale Pepin, vocally powerful enough for Javert) this is a cast that impressively handles a very difficult score.
This production must also be one of the most ambitious ever for Theatre Cambrian when it comes to elaborate set, lighting effects and costumes, all to provide the spectacle the show requires.
There’s no Russell Crowe or Hugh Jackman here, but you don’t have to have seen the movie version or any other production to enjoy Theatre Cambrian’s Les Misérables. It plays Thursdays through Sundays until Nov. 2 at T.C.’s home, 40 Eyre St. in Sudbury. The box office number is 705-524-7317, or buy tickets online at theatrecambrian.ca .
Scott Overton co-hosts the morning show on Rewind 103.9 and is the author of the thriller Dead Air. He writes theatre reviews for Northern Life.