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Broadway Across Canada has brought the most marvellous production of Les Miserables to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver.
Linda and Ian Harrison saw it on the opening night.
The staging was dark and glowering in keeping with the theme. It was an open stage flanked with what looked like cubes stacked on top of each other. The backdrop was a projection screen. While there is no turntable, the sets move into place seamlessly providing a sense of the locales through the story. The set itself twists and turns on itself to provide the various locations.
The orchestra and singers are in balance and you can hear every word.
Javert’s final scene must be seen! The staging is truly phenomenal.
The acting and singing is wonderful.
It’s on for a short time July 10 - 15.
~ reviewed by Ian Harrison
Ian: Hi, I'm Ian Harrison and I am a theatre addict. I tried to resist going to theatre and just watch TV but nothing beats live performance. Finally, I couldn't stand it so when this chance came up we dropped everything, and took the Sky Train to Stadium Chinatown station. We shared a hamburger at Fat Burger, and then wandered over to the theatre. Seven o'clock, an hour before curtain, and the lobby is alive.
Linda: The people in the lobby are very excited, you'd think this was the first time Les Mis had come but obviously this production is creating a great deal of buzz. Because everybody in there is very excited and looking forward to coming in and seeing the show. The merchandise stand is doing a roaring business.
Ian: They are, aren't they?
Linda: They are.
Ian: Well even you, I mean you bought yourself the t-shirt.
Linda: I bought a t-shirt, I don't usually spend money yes, that's true. But I'm looking at everybody in the audience, we've got all ages in the lobby.
Ian: Yes, and some wonderful clothes.
Linda: Everybody's excited.
Linda: People are dressed every which way.
Linda: Everything from-
Ian: We've got men in shirts, and we've got men in the suits. We've got I think track pants there, well interesting yes.
Linda: That's okay, the big part is that they're here and looking forward to the production.
Linda: As are we.
Ian: Yes. Well I'm looking forward to it because it's a new take on the show that we loved so much.
Linda: Mm-hmm. And it's my first time seeing it, so I'm really excited about it.
Ian: Seriously, this is your first?
Linda: Seriously, I've not seen it before.
Ian: Oh heavens, but you've seen the movie?
Linda: I've seen the movie, I've read the book two or three times.
Linda: But the first time I'm seeing the musical production.
Ian: Ah, on stage. Yeah.
Linda: We got here at five after seven to pick up our tickets and already the lobby was crowded and the bars were lined up.
Ian: Yes, the bars are doing a thriving business aren't they?
Ian: I trust they're all getting rides home and taking taxis.
Linda: I hope so. But it certainly looks like it's a sold out house.
Ian: That was what I was getting from it.
Linda: Yeah, it really does.
After the show:
02:33 Very Impressed
Linda: We saw the Les Mis new production at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, really, really good.
Ian: It was excellent. You didn't know that, that was my voice did ya? Anyway, fantastic. The two worst things I can say about a show are: one they were phoning it in, and two what in the world was the casting director thinking? Neither of these applies to this show. This was beautifully cast, every character fit perfectly.
Linda: Yeah, they were fully fleshed out, they weren't just cardboard cut outs walking around. You felt their anguish, their excitement, their love, their passion.
Ian: Oh yeah. It was amazing. The other thing was that they were fully involved, these were actors who were really doing their job, and they did a wonderful job of it. It wasn't a second rate, “oh well we'll send Broadway across and we'll send second rate actors”. These were full fledged qualified actors who really knew their craft, and they did it wonderfully.
03:54 The Bishop
Linda: One of the characters that stood out for me was the Bishop, when he meets Valjean, the compassion that literally pours out of that man when he's talking to Valjean and dealing with him. When he gives him the extra silver, and sure everybody knows the story by now, the look on Valjean's face at receiving this kindness was incredible.
Ian: Yeah, if you've seen the movie the Bishop looks kind of wimpy. Sorry, that was my take on it. This one, I fully believed the Bishop, and I thought wow. Well first of all when I was 10 years old I came across Victor Hugo.
Linda: It's okay.
Ian: I'm getting motions from off side. Anyway, when I was 10 years old I came across Victor Hugo, and that particular segment was what I read. Jean Valjean, the Bishop, it affected me very strongly and I have to look at it now and say, wow, it has never gone away. I'm nearly 70 and it still hits me very hard.
Linda: The interesting thing about this production though, is it moved, you didn't realize how long you were in the theatre 'cause you got so caught up in the story that was being told. That is a credit to the actors and the director, and the music, because the music keeps it moving. This is opera, but this is contemporary opera, and the themes expressed in the play can be seen in today's world beautifully. The scene with Fantine in the factory is typical of the, if you wish, Me Too movement. Only it's more the women who turn on her, but it's still very contemporary and to have it shown in a traveling production where of necessity the sets must be at minimum and still have all that feeling come across.
06:16 The Set
Ian: Oh those sets were fantastic. You would not ... You've got to see the sets, they have done a wonderful job. They don't have the turntable, the only turntable in the entire world for Les Mis is in London, so I don't know if you want to spend that kind of money. On the other hand the sets do it justice, they have wonderful sets. The only time I was a little concerned was when the barricades came out, and I was looking at that and thinking, “what is this? A tank?” It took me a minute to figure out exactly what was going on. But the sets are magnificent.
Linda: They're very sombre, but at the same time it gives you the sense, the mood of the people at the time. It really brings that all together in the production, with the characters and then the sets' sort of towering over them. 'Cause they're very tall, very, very tall, right up to the ceiling. You get the feeling of oppression coming down, extremely well done. We cannot recommend it highly enough.
Ian: The rear projection, there's a rear projection screen, or a projection screen anyway that did wonderful things for the show. So that at one point Jean Valjean is towing, I can't remember the young mans name, anyway-
Ian: ... Marius, he's pulling Marius through the sewers and the rear projection makes it work. It really looks, and you've got the sort of low fog. They may have overdone that or they may not have been able to pull that out with the fans-
Linda: I thought there was a little too much of it.
Linda: But it didn't come out into the audience, it didn't affect anything other than made it a little murkier and maybe a little more difficult to see some of the things happening on stage. But it still helped you see how it must have been then.
08:30 Favourite Scene and Spoiler
Ian: Yeah. The one scene that blew us completely out of our seats-
Linda: And no spoilers here, no spoilers.
Ian: Okay, we can't tell you exactly how they did it, but when Javert kills himself. He got into this position, and I'm watching that, and thinking how the hell are they going to do that.
Linda: All we can tell us is that it's definitely well staged.
Ian: Brilliantly staged.
Linda: It just blows your mind.
Ian: Yup, you've got to see that. You really do.
09:06 The Music
Linda: The music of course carries you away, the orchestra was just bang-on the whole time.
Linda: The singers, all the actors of course are well trained singers. You can actually hear the words, which is great, when they're singing you can hear the words.
Ian: I was astounded.
Linda: They're not overpowering each other. So all in all a great production, I would definitely recommend if you get a chance to go, you should, because no matter where you are in that theater you are going to see classic beautiful theatrical entertainment.
09:44 Turn Off Your Phone!!
Ian: Do us a favour, do everyone in the theatre a favour, turn your cell phone off and don't check for messages in the middle of the show.
Linda: That was the most annoying thing, you'd see a flash of light and you'd think, “what?” You'd lose your focus on the show. People, stop that! For three and a half hours get off your cell phone and leave it alone, and enjoy the spectacle in front of you.
10:11 Final Thoughts
Ian: Because it is a spectacle, it's a magnificent show. There's a reason why it ran so long on Broadway, this is-
Linda: Still running in London.
Ian: Still running in London, this is a really good show. It's on until-
Linda: July 15th.
Ian: ... July 15th.
Linda: So make sure you get your tickets and go.
Ian: Oh I am sure there are going to be a number of people who are disappointed because they don't get tickets.
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