Review: ‘Les Misérables’ is powerful, enthralling and not miserable
“Les Misérables,” a show centered around the 1832 June Rebellion in France that follows one man’s path from rags to riches and saving those along the way, arrived at Houston’s Hobby Center Jan. 24. The French club at Rice took full advantage of the visit, arranging guest lecturers to come speak about the French Revolution, as well as arranging a lunch with cast members for all students to attend.
Many students tried to get tickets through the student discount the club offered, with several hopefuls waitlisted for a ticket before the show. Regular-priced tickets also flew off the website for the show, and press tickets came with the caveat that you had to RSVP at least three times to ensure your attendance to the show. Needless to say, the show was raved about before the first curtain even rose.
Overall, the performance of “Les Misérables” proved to be one of the most spectacular shows the Hobby Center has seen in a while. The singers were amazing, complementing each other while still proving to be individual vocal powerhouses. From start to finish, they captivated the audience, even the large percent who snuck in after the opening number with their phone flashlights glaring for the world to see. Each number proved to be a dramatic affair, and the show received a standing ovation at the end.
The show’s set featured a cyclorama backdrop, which is the very last backdrop that a show has on stage. “Les Misérables” exhibited remarkably good usage of the cyclorama by mixing the solid colors with projections. Shows at the Hobby Center have tried to go for this effect before (such as Legally Blonde last spring) with limited success. Usually, putting projections on the cyclorama looks tacky, as if the production didn’t have a big enough budget to spring for building anything.
In the case of “Les Misérables,” however, the projections perfectly complemented the scenes that they hung above. Though some of the projections went overboard in the obviousness of what they were displaying, overall they added more to the show than they took away. In particular, the use of the projections on the cyclorama was an ingenious way to demonstrate the scenes under the streets of Paris in the sewers.
The show also had an excellent use of both stage combat and stunts, with many characters falling off of various high points and into the battle wreckage or rivers below. Gasps from the audience were regularly heard as one character or another fell to their end, and those that fell in view of the audience displayed admirable commitment to their parts as they landed on top of what must have been uncomfortable hard wood. The show also used several live gunshots to add to the intensity of the scenes, a striking auditory choice in contrast to the continuation of the battle soundtrack sequence that was being played.
“Les Misérables” is one of the most successful shows Broadway has ever seen, and this tour serves as a reminder as to why. The show is dramatic, features beautiful songs and dances and taps into the French Revolution, a part of history that people remain fascinated with to this day. The cast of the production delivered a fantastic performance, and they definitely swept the city of Houston into the songs of revolution.
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