It is a story—based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel—that many know well, a tear-jerking epic. Jean Valjean (Ron Sharpe) has spent 19 years in prison for stealing bread to feed his sister’s child. After being released, he is marked as a prisoner for life, unable to earn normal wages or fully fit into society. A priest takes pity and allows him to steal silver, even lying to the police when they find Valjean. Years later, Valjean has become a factory owner and mayor, a man of honor. The story is of his generous heart, his rescue of Cosette, his flight from the lawman Javert for breaking parole and, most of all, his enduing valor.
Sharpe plays his role with a sweeping force. In fact, there are no weak links in the cast . Jenny Latimer provides a memorable Cosette, with other strong performances by Benjamin Magnuson as the innkeeper Thenardier and Justin Scott Brown as Marius. Of course, there are those enduring, well-crafted songs, like “I Dreamed a Dream,” (unfortunately, not as crisply performed here as the other songs) “Who Am I?” and “One Day More.” Despite its focus on greed and deception, “Master of the House”—performed by Thenardier and his wife—is a cheery, fun number, as well.
As familiar as that story and those songs may be, this production is worth every penny. For its 25th anniversary season, it was reworked in London to be more dramatic and evocative than ever. Sure, the story remains consistent, but the set design, by Matt Kinley, has incorporated projection design, such as streetscapes—inspired by Hugo’s own paintings—and subterranean layers. The results include an unforgettable scene in which Javert, despondent after being saved by Valjean, flings himself off a bridge, an effect captured with a cable suspension, lighting and the moving projection.
The technology complements the story perfectly, adding subtle flares and capturing the imagination, thereby proving that an old dog, and a favorite one at that, can learn new tricks. Audiences won’t be disappointed in "Les Miz," in its new form—that is, if they can still buy tickets.
Les Misérables @ Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, 801-355-2787, Through–June 5, $35-$92.50. BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com, ArtTix.org