11 March 2012
I now know why they abbreviate the title so frequently; I wouldn't want to be using the word "miserable" too often either!
First, let me make it clear that I KNOW Les Miz has been an international blockbuster for a quarter of a century. I just never understood why. From a distance, it (like Phantom, et alia) simply seemed to value BIG and LOTS over all else. After last night's performance at the Bushnell in Hartford, I'm only further baffled.
My wife and I had never seen it, and, a few weeks ago, seeing that it was returning to the Bushnell, she off-handily commented that perhaps we should finally. An opportunity to get a couple tickets appeared, so I seized the day.
Here, however, are the reasons my lovely bride and I left at intermission:
The plot development goes something like this: a good person (man/woman/child) is treated badly by a group of bad people until another good person rescues aforesaid good person. Alternate this scene with another in which various groups of base people act basely and make phallic references (preferably with props) to the great amusement of the audience. Throw in some revolutionaries and a love story that happens so quickly it'll make your head spin, and you've got the Les Miz "Cliff's Notes."
The music is repetitive. By the time we got to the final song of Act I, the refrain "One More Day," just seemed like a taunt to the audience.
The lyrics are prosaic. When our hero Jean Valjean struggles with the decision to either reveal his identity or let an innocent man go to prison, he just as well could have been deciding between the McDonald's filet-o-fish and the roast beef au jus at Arby's. Yes, he's damned either way; we get it.
The singing was, on the whole, loud but not very good. The approach seemed to be that, at some point in every "song," the performer needed to yelp or growl or shout. Indeed, Cosette's mother did nothing but scream. (Thank God, she died early on.) No wonder people think those American Idols are such good singers.
"Javert" had a fine voice, but he pretty much kept singing the same thing, "I'll catch that guy some someday, yes, that guy -- prisoner number 90210 (thanks, Martha!) -- whom I've been chasing for decades and who was standing right next to me only a minute ago, but now seems to have disappeared again! I hate it when that happens."
It is a handsome production smartly executed, but simply too dark. (The sun NEVER shone in early-19th-century France?)
To add to the joy, a young lady in the row behind us -- but luckily several seats down -- threw up in the middle of Act I, which added to the urgency of the show...will we get to intermission before the smell becomes overwhelming?
As my wife commented, "She must be a critic."
To which I responded, "If only I had thought of it!"
Ah, c'est la guerre.
Posted by Gilbert Gigliotti at 9:19 AM