National tour of Les Misérables a testament to the human spirit at Kansas City’s Music Hall
Do you hear the people sing? Well, you can through the May 7.
Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Les Misérables is on-stage at Kansas City’s Music Hall May 2-7. Earlier this month, The Pitch sat down with cast member Christine Heesun Hwang to discuss compassion, love, and the human spirit that has kept the show alive for so many years.
Last night’s performance began with the iconic horn intro sounding from the orchestra, immediately silencing the audience with the soaring orchestration by Alain Boubil and Claude-Michel Schönberg. The clever styling by the composers introduces musical themes that correlate with each character, appearing in various iterations throughout the show and making a fun scavenger hunt of melodies throughout. Additionally, Mackintosh brought the stage to life with massive set pieces and elaborate animated backdrops that effectively set the scene throughout the show.
Nick Cartell (playing Jean Valjean) was perfectly cast as the driving force of the show, bringing power to the role with impressive tenor belts and an especially heart-melting performance of “Bring Him Home” that, despite the devastating scene at hand, was met with a roaring crowd in the middle of Act Two. Furthermore, Cartell’s integrity with the character affirmed the humanity of each character, even the militant Javert (Preston Truman Boyd), embodying the theme of kindness and compassion for all.
Fantine (Haley Dortch) and Éponine (u/s Nicole Morris) were the heartbreakers of the night, both actresses giving incredibly eye-watering performances of their devastatingly misunderstood characters. Despite having under 30 minutes of stage time all night, Dortch’s “I Dreamed a Dream” was laden with effortless belts and legato lines that stole the first act of the show. Morris’ Éponine was a lovely depiction of the lost, lovesick heroine. Morris brought an intelligent spirit and a continual sense of unrequited love and loneliness with each sung phrase.
Her back-to-back performances of “On My Own” and “A Little Fall of Rain,” were a total knife to the chest on the sadness scale.
The show’s ensemble was perhaps the most entertaining part of the night, with each unique character never leaving room for an empty moment on stage. “At the End of the Day” and “Lovely Ladies” were sinister tunes, bringing the audience to the slimy underbelly of France while also leaving room for questioning the morality of the elite’s manipulative attitude to the impoverished, paving the way for the later revolt. The soaring action cry of “One Day More” closed the first act with a sense of empowerment only a showstopping ensemble can provide.
We would be remiss to not discuss the sleazy mainstage act by the Thénardiers (Matt Crowle and Christina Rose Hall) that were simultaneously despicable and an audience favorite with each appearance. Crowle’s performance was a nice deviation from some of the more devastating scenes, with playful vocals and posture that are best described as “rodent-like,” a description that was confirmed in his scenes acting as a sewer rat, poking around corpses for his next treasure. Though not exactly a source of a redeeming character-arch, the perfect unhappily married couple is featured in a jovial “Beggars at the Feast,” laden in rich fabrics of the bourgeoise, once again thrilling the audience with a perfectly chaotic jaunt before the curtain closed.
Overall, the touring production lives up to its countless awards and global acclaim, with a timeless story and fantastic casting that left the audience in an ovation at the night’s end. Though first-time audience members beware: the show introduces a wide cast of characters with relationships that quickly become confusing as many of the lyrics get lost in the orchestra. If you’re completely unfamiliar with the story, it might not be a bad idea to scan a plot summary prior to the performance. Nonetheless, this show is an all-around delight that has been and will continue to be a generational favorite.
The show will run May 2-7 at Music Hall. Tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster or the American Theatre Guild’s website.