Based on Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name, Les Misérables, has long been a Broadway favorite, making it a perfect fit for Durham Performing Arts Center’s “Magic of Broadway” season. The story, of course, begins with Jean Valjean (Patrick Dunn), a French peasant and former criminal who has served 19 years in jail. After a surprising act of kindness is bestowed upon him, Valjean decides he must transform his life, even if it means breaking his parole and being hunted down by the ruthless inspector Javert (Preston Truman Boyd).
Filled with biblical imagery, these powerful opening scenes set the stage for the transformative, touching nature of this production. And, it definitely helps that Dunn’s tortured Valjean is instantly sympathetic, a character the audience wants to root for. The same can be said for the character of Fantine, portrayed at the opening night performance by understudy Olivia Dei Cicchi. Innocent-faced and sweet-voiced, Cicchi creates a Fantine the audience feels for, especially as her life takes a fast, downward turn early in the first act. Her performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” further cements the sympathetic portrayal and is haunting in its beauty and intensity.
Nothing, however, could prepare viewers for the cuteness of Fantine’s daughter, Cosette, portrayed at this performance by tiny-voiced Kayla Teruel. The audience meets this endearingly adorable child only when Valjean comes to fetch her from the guardians she has been entrusted to: a rude innkeeper, hilariously portrayed by Jimmy Smagula, and his even-ruder wife, portrayed by a bawdy Michelle Dowdy, who milks every onstage moment and regularly sends the audience into peals of laughter. Channeling Carol Burnett’s Miss Hannigan, but more evil, Dowdy is an easy crowd-favorite, despite her character’s sinister nature.
But, with a show that’s so heavy and that deals with themes as tragic as poverty, war, and suicide, a little comic relief is greatly needed. Heavier moments come after the humor, including the company’s powerful first act closer, “One Day More;” the epic battle scenes complete with explosions and graphic depictions of death; Dunn’s version of the powerful, prayerful “Bring Him Home,” and Boyd’s gut-wrenching delivery of his “Soliloquy.” All of this is backed by special effects and costuming choices that make the story all-too-real and impressively powerful.
And, as the tale winds down to its bittersweet but ultimately hopeful ending, it’s clear that Les Mis hasn’t lost its touch. An older show set in a much older time, it still sends a message the world desperately needs to hear today: “to love another person is to see the face of God.”
SECOND OPINION: March 11th Raleigh, NC Triangle Review review by Dawn Reno Langley: https://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2020/03/cameron-mackintoshs-heartbreaking-historical-epic-les-mis-once-again-wows-dpac-crowds/.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents LES MISÉRABLES at 7:30 p.m. March 11 and 12, 8 p.m. March 13, 2 and 8 p.m. March 14, and 1 and 7 p.m. March 15 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $39.50 and up, plus taxes and fees. Click here for details about the digital lottery for $35 tickets.
DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/where-to-buy.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/369510/34216.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.
SHOW: https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/les-miserables-1 and https://www.facebook.com/events/321532671924862/.
VIDEO PREVIEWS: https://www.youtube.com/user/LesMizBway.
DPAC‘S “WRAL GREATEST HITS OF BROADWAY” SERIES: https://www.dpacnc.com/events/category/broadway.
DPAC NEWS RELEASES: https://www.dpacnc.com/home/lottery-pages/les-miserables-lottery and https://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/les-miserables-on-sale-at-dpac-august-23.
THE TOUR: https://www.lesmis.com/us-tour, http://www.networkstours.com/show/les-miserables/, https://www.ibdb.com/tour-production/les-misrables-514820, https://www.facebook.com/LesMizUS, https://www.instagram.com/lesmizUS/, https://www.snapchat.com/add/lesmizus, https://twitter.com/LesMizUS, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Mis%C3%A9rables_(musical)#US_national_tours, and https://www.youtube.com/user/LesMizBway.
TOUR CAST & CREATIVE TEAM: https://www.lesmis.com/us-tour/cast-creatives.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://www.instagram.com/dpacnc/, https://twitter.com/DPAC, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Performing_Arts_Center, and https://www.youtube.com/user/DPACLive.
Les Misérables (1862 historical novel): https://www.britannica.com/topic/Les-Miserables-novel-by-Hugo (Encyclopædia Britannica) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Mis%C3%A9rables (Wikipedia).
The Novel (e-text): http://openlibrary.org/works/OL1063591W/Les_Miserables (Open Library at the Internet Archive).
Victor Hugo (French novelist, poet, and playwright, 1802-85) https://www.britannica.com/biography/Victor-Hugo (Encyclopædia Britannica), http://www.gavroche.org/vhugo/ (Victor Hugo Central, compiled by John Newmark), http://www.victorhugo.gg/ (the States of Guernsey’s Official Victor Hugo website), and https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/victor-hugo-8950 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0401076/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_Hugo (Wikipedia).
The France of Victor Hugo: http://www.mtholyoke.edu/courses/rschwart/hist255/ (Robert Schwartz of Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA).
Les Misérables (1980 Paris, 1985 West End, and 1987 Broadway musical): http://www.lesmis.com/ (official website), https://www.mtishows.com/les-miserables-0 (Music Theatre International), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/les-misrables-5340 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Mis%C3%A9rables_(musical) (Wikipedia).
Study Guide: http://www.bard.org/education/studyguides/lesmiserables/miserables.html (Utah Shakespeare Festival).
Claude-Michel Schönberg (music): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/claude-michel-schnberg-4864 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0774744/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claude-Michel_Sch%C3%B6nberg (Wikipedia).
Alain Boublil (concept, book, and original French lyrics): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/alain-boublil-3932 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0098842/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alain_Boublil (Wikipedia).
Jean-Marc Natel (original French book, 1942-2019): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/jean-marc-natel-72569 (Internet Broadway Database) and https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0622172/ (Internet Movie Database).
Herbert Kretzmer (English lyrics): http://www.herbertkretzmer.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/herbert-kretzmer-13012 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0471014/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Kretzmer (Wikipedia).
Trevor Nunn (English book): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/trevor-nunn-15788 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0638080/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trevor_Nunn (Wikipedia).
John Caird (English book): http://www.johncaird.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/john-caird-14350 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0129035/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Caird_(director) (Wikipedia).
Les Misérables (2012 film): http://www.lesmiserablesfilm.com/ (official website), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1707386/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Mis%C3%A9rables_(2012_film) (Wikipedia).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click https://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.triangleartsreview.com/, http://www.susiepotter.com, and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.