Friday, April 4, 2014

TOP PICK -- Broadway Theater Review: Les Miserables

Les Mis-OneDayMore. Photo: MatthewMurphy
Les Mis is Back on the Broadway Boards
By Lauren Yarger

What's It All About?
The return of Les Mis, following an absence from Broadway. While the show, a long time staple of Broadway theater was gone from the Great White Way, a new re-staged version of the show began touring to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Claude Michel Schonberg musical. Directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell, it eliminates the rotating stage, scales back the barricade, eliminates some of the original 3-hour-plus story with new orchestrations (by Christopher Jahnke, Stephen Metcalfe and Stephen Brooker) and incorporates original paintings by author Victor Hugo as part of the set (Matt Kinley design), enhanced by video projections designed by Fifty Nine Productions and lighting by Paul Constable. A movie version took Hollywood by storm (sorry, I had no desire to watch it after hearing a small part from the soundtrack) and finally, it's back where it should be: on a Broadway stage.

What are the Highlights?

  • That score! Schonberg's operetta contains nothing but great songs we love to hear over and over, like "On My Own," "I Dreamed a Dream," "One Day More," "A Heart Full of Love," "A Little Fall of Rain," and more. Lyrics by Herbert Krtezmer )original French by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel) continue to move.
  • Ramin Karimloo stars as Jean Valjean -- and he sounds a lot like Colm Wilkinson, who originated the role, so if you have been listening to the original soundtrack for the last 25 years (or you've recently started listening to it after watching the movie and wondering what the vocals SHOULD sound like), you're in for a treat with him. "Bring Him Home" was as near perfect as I ever have heard it. Prayerful, it teared us up, brought goosebumps and stopped the show. The scene where the bishop gives the candle sticks also was brilliantly played.
  • Cliff Saunders and Keala Settle steal the show as the repulsive Thenardier and his wife, parents of young Eponine  and guardians of young Cosette (both roles are shared by (Angeli Negron/McKayla Twiggs). Settle is a study in fine acting, whether taking center stage or reacting in the background. "Master of the House" is a lot of fun.
  • Little Gavroche (Joshua Colley/Gaten Matarazzo). I saw Colley who lit up the stage and engaged the audience with every word and gesture. Best death scene ever.
  • Will Swenson is the relentless Javert and brings a lovely singing voice to "The Stars."

What are the Lowlights?

  • Nikki M James is miscast as Eponine. Her voice seems a bit higher than we expect for the role and she doesn't quite look comfortabe in the part. There's also no chemistry with Marius (Andy Mientus). Liked him with his true love, though: Cosette (a beautifully sopranoed Samantha Hill).
  • I saw Negron as young Cosette. She sang "Castle on a Hill" well, but still needs to develop acting skills.
  • Probably the biggest disappointment was Caissie Levy's Fantine. Songs are delivered as performances, not as heartfelt depictions of the character's experience. Style rather than soul.
More information:
  • Don't miss it. Especially if you never have seen Les Mis on stage. It plays at the Imperial Theatre, 249 west 45th St., NYC.
Christian might also like to know:
-- When it comes to a Christian message on a Broadway stage, you can't beat Les Mis. Forgiveness, redemption, helping your fellow man, living a life for God -- they're all in there.
-- Lord's name taken in vain.
-- Sexual situations

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice preseint and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (event manager for the annual awards ceremony), The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and the Drama League. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She also is a member of the Episcopal Actors' Guild, the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts and The O'Neill Theatre Center..

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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