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Theatre Review: Les Miserables


Sacramento audiences adore “Les Mis.” Witness the cheer that went up as the show’s opening notes sounded in the Community Center Theater last Wednesday.

(music, cheering)

This is the sixth tour of “Les Mis” to pass through town since 1991. So what is it that keeps bringing people back?

Audiences like the grandeur, including a story that sweeps across three decades, and an impressively large cast that fans out across the broad stage.

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(“At the end of the day”)

Big songs, big spectacle. But “Les Mis” also has very effective solos – just one performer on stage.

(“I Dreamed a Dream”)

As for the staging, this is the darkest staging of “Les Mis” I’ve ever seen. Lead actors are positioned in little pools of light, or step through tightly focused beams – creating a sense of vast, shadowy space. Gauzy, pastel projections create the illusion that a band of rifle-toting revolutionaries are marching through city streets. Some will miss the rotating barricade in the second half, seen in past versions. But the storytelling in this new version is more linear and lean.

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“Les Mis” covers the full menu in dramatic elements – from a lavish wedding, to battles in which heroic characters die in a hail of bullets. The show has uplifting themes of forgiveness and redemption. But “Les Mis” nonetheless kills off more characters than a Shakespeare tragedy – a rare thing in a musical. This uncommon mixture of hope and despair sets the show apart. And this 25th anniversary staging  tells the story more clearly than past versions. It may be the best overall touring production of “Les Mis” Sacramento has seen.

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Broadway Sacramento hosts “Les Misérables” through Sunday, June 9th at the Sacramento Community Center Theatre.


Jeff Hudson

Contributing Arts Reporter and Theatre Critic

Jeff Hudson has been contributing arts-related stories to Capital Public Radio since 1995, with an emphasis on theater and classical music. He attends over 100 performances annually, ranging from modern musicals to medieval masses.   Read Full Bio 

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