Or do you just compare them to those who came before?
We went to see Les Misérables at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre last night, and although I thought most of the performances were quite good, I kept comparing the actors to their equivalents from both the 2012 movie version and (mainly) to the 25th Anniversary Concert.
Peter Lockyer as Jean “All this for stealing a fucking loaf of bread?” Valjean was better in the early scenes as a ragged and broken prisoner; once he was reborn as Monsieur Madeleine, he lacked the necessary gravitas. And although it wouldn’t take much to improve upon Russell Crowe’s Javert, I still prefer Norm Lewis from the 25th Anniversary Concert over Andrew Varela. Canadian actress Genevieve Leclerc was fine (if a bit shouty during I Dreamed a Dream) as Fantine; although I find it interesting that the Vancouver Sun’s review doesn’t even reference her or the role.
And Éponine. I’m a sucker for On My Own (Joey Potter’s version on Dawson’s Creek not withstanding), and can judge a performance based on how many tissues I go through during that song. I remember seeing Les Misérables in London’s West End and bawling my eyes out, but last night, nary a tear until the second act during her death scene. Briana Carlon-Goodman was a great singer and actress, but it was just missing that spark that makes me connect with the character.
Despite being a relatively minor role with just a few lines, Grantaire has always been one of my favourite Les Misérables characters, and my overall enjoyment can hinge on how the actor plays him. Unfortunately, last night he was played as a lewd drunk, with none of the dark humour and solemnity of a man who understands that the uprising is doomed; the show did away with any connection between Grantaire and Enjorlas, thereby removing Grantaire’s very reason for being part of the revolution.
Right now, as I write this blog post, I’ve got the 25th Anniversary Concert playing in a separate video, mostly to wipe out the memory of last night’s Grantaire and restore Hadley Fraser’s interpretation as the foremost in my mind.
I remember being wowed by the revolving turntable that was central to the original production’s staging, and that has been sadly lost in the 25th anniversary production. No turning barricade? Sacrilège! The final battle sequence loses a bit of its impact by not being able to follow Gavroche through to the other side of the barricade.
Other than my complete and utter disappointment in Grantaire, these are all pretty nit-picky comments, and I did enjoy myself. Each time I see a musical here in Vancouver, I’m compelled to book another trip to London or New York for more!
Did you see Les Misérables while it was in Vancouver? How did it compare to other productions?