Review of Les Misérables at the Fox Theatre

    The wonderful staging of Les Misérables at the Fox Theatre is not the same touring production that came to St. Louis many times before closing here on July 23, 2006.

    The signal feature of earlier production was the use of a turntable to allow the action to flow from one scene to another without delay. The importance of quick scene changes cannot be overstated in a three-hour show.

    The current tour is based on a staging devised in 2009 to celebrate Les Miz’s 25th anniversary. The reimagined production uses projections rather than a turntable to expedite scene changes. The background in the opening scene, for example, is a projected ship. The prisoners who were originally in a chain gang are now galley slaves. After the show’s hero, Jean Valjean, receives his parole, the ship dissolves into the background for the next scene.

    The projections were realized by Finn Ross and Fifty Nine Productions. The associate projection designers for the North American tour were Simon Harding and Jonathon Lyle. Among the most impressive effects are the journey through the sewers of Paris and one character’s plunge from a bridge to the river below.

    High praise for the for the fluidity of the staging must also go to:

    • The set and image design by Matt Kinley, whose inspiration came from paintings by Victor Hugo, the author of the novel on which the show is based
    • The lighting design by Paule Constable
    • The musical staging by Geoffrey Garratt
    • The direction by James Powell and Laurence Connor

    Comparable technical excellence can be found in the costumes by Andreane Neofitou, additional costume designs by Christine Rowland and Paul Wills, and the sound by Mick Potter. The fine orchestra was conducted by Brian Eads.

    The cast is headed by Nick Cartell as Jean Valjean, who builds a new life for himself after jumping parole, and Preston Truman Boyd as Inspector Javert, Valjean’s relentless pursuer. They both give deeply felt, richly sung performances.

    Also featured in the excellent are Matt Crowle as Thénardier, Christina Rose Hall as Madame Thénardier, Haley Dortch as Fantine, Devin Archer as Enjolras, Christine Heesun Hwang as Éponine, Gregory Lee Rodriguez as Marius, and Addie Morales as Cosette. On opening night, Gabriel Lafazan was Gavroche, Hazel Vogel was Young Eponine, and Cora Jane Messer was Little Cosette.

    “Les Miserable” continues through January 22 at the Fox Theatre, 527 North Grand Boulevard.

    —Gerry Kowarsky

    Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade
    Inspector Javert (Preston Truman Boyd, left) faces off with Jean Valjean (Nick Cartell) in
    Les Misérables.