Friday, November 10, 2006

"Les Miz" -- The Reviews

I must admit, I'm a bit astonished by the polite reviews for the revival of "Les Miserables." I really like the show -- its score is filled with one terrific number after another -- and indeed it's pretty indestructable. I saw a bus-and-truck tour in a cavernous auditorium in Florida and the rousing group numbers like "One Day More" were still stirring. I saw a tired company on Broadway around '93, as well. And I'm still waiting to see a grat cast. The NYT does single out Daphne Rubin-Vega (beloved for her role in "Rent") as miscast as Fantine. But I thought most of the leads were extremely weak vocally so I'm astonished that reviews in Variety and TheaterMania describe it as basically "well sung." The Daily News' Joe D. does single out those who fall short. And the NY Post agrees, except for thinking Jean Valjean is well-sung. To me, Alexander Gemignani as Jean Valjean can't sustain his notes and has to cut them off short, especially on his weak high register, which makes "Bring Him Home" more nerve-wracking than moving. During "One Day More," he is drowned out rather than riding that wave of rousing voices. Celia Keenan-Bolger screeches out "On My Own," painfully aware that she's got a "big" number, selling the song rather than letting it build emotionally and -- again -- without the vocals to back it up. And Rubin-Vega is indeed bizarrely inappropriate for Fantine's big number "I Dreamed A Dream." My guest felt exactly the same as me and the crowd on the night before opening was papered with enthusiastic friends of the cast who whooped and hollered (as they should) but were distinctly on their own. A good third of the crowd remained seated until they finally reluctantly rose and the cast barely squeezed out a second bow before the applause died away. USA Today says they like the cast but hate the show. I'll defend the show itself and the stirring anthems sung by the cast still work wonders. But anyone who says this show was well-sung is tone deaf.

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