Les Miserable (for the second and last time)

When Val and I first started dating, she treated me to Les Miserables at the Hobby Center for Performing Arts in Houston, Texas.  I was ecstatic.  This was a show I dreamed of seeing for ever and now I finally get to see it and how this moving circle thing with people walking on it works….

I also didn’t know and/or realize this would be the beginning of a long, long list of shows that Val and I would end up seeing in our lives together.  

Now back in Houston I left feeling, in a word, “meh” about the whole experience.  But then again, I’ve hated the acoustics in that theater (don’t get me started about the 2nd time I saw Rent and couldn’t even hear the first act) so I wasn’t surprised.  

So when we heard that Les Mis was coming to Chicago, we bought the season ticket package and were off!  It was the first show of the new season!

this was taken leaving Wicked 2 months before

So we were off with some high hopes of seeing this epic show in a new light.  I read about how it’s been redone for the 25th Anniversary.  The turning center of the stage is gone.  There’s new stage scenery and some new technology?  I’m interested!

Unfortunately though, we left with the same “meh” feeling once more.  I think that was the last chance I’m giving Les Miserables on stage.  Though the music continues to move me.  I think we just haven’t seen any strong individuals in this show.  No one’s voice is carrying the way that they use to in the Les Mis shows of old (and on CDs) so our expectations are high.  As an ensemble though the weight that the songs have is amazing.  

Luckily we knew the lyrics because some of them ended up getting lost for whatever reason.  Muffled sounds.  So weird in such a great theater!  Valjean was just a loud singer.  Nothing to write home about.  Fantine made me cringe at times.  Éponine was actually one of my favorites. And then later on the train ride home we had a laugh about how the auditions must be for Young Cossette.  The child’s voice almost sounds recorded because no matter what production you’re seeing ‘Castle on a Cloud’ sounds *exactly* the same!  

The changes I happened to like while Val did not.  The lack of the moving stage didn’t bother me too much.  Now there’s a screen behind them showing a road (or sewer etc) and the perception of it makes it seem like they’re actually moving.  The sewer scene made me slightly nauseous even with how it made my sense feel like I was watching a movie!  Also, *SPOILER ALERT* for the death of Javier, that was much better than the actor jumping off the “bridge” and down the stage hole below.  He is now hoisted and hovers flailing his arms and legs while the scene moves behind him quickly giving the illusion of falling down.  It was beautiful (I guess as suicide can be?) and that image has still stuck with me.  

Also of course, the epic battle scene (or as I like to call it “EVERYONE DIES!!!”).  They really make you feel like you’re behind the barricade with them.  Feel every loud gun shot and feel for every fallen solider.  

All-in-all I’m very happy we tried again.  Oddly enough though the new Les Miserables in Concert was on WTTW when we got home off the train and we ended up watching most of that for the rest of the evening.  Now THAT is what the singing in our show should have sounded like!!  Besides Nick Jonas that is.  Talk about one of these things is not like the other.  His voice does NOT carry with the power in everyone else’s.  Kinda feel for the guy…..

What are your experiences with Les Miserables?  Have you seen the updated version?  Like it or loathe it?