“Les Miserables” Dynamic Thanks To Great Casting At The Muny

Students and soldiers build up the wall in the Muny production of "Les Miserables."

Students and soldiers build up the wall in the Muny production of “Les Miserables.”

Big Broadway stars heighten the drama of the already dramatic “Les Miserables” at the Muny this week with the power of “Phantom” regular, Hugh Panaro as Jean Valjean and the rich, deep tones of “Porgy and Bess” star, Norm Lewis as his nemesis, Inspector Javert. The rest of the cast is well represented by newcomers including college students who shine as well.

Director Richard Jay-Alexander has a flair for the show and wrings every gripping moment out of a story about a man who steals a loaf of bread and then is hounded for the rest of his life by the obsessed police inspector who considers him his personal case. The wonderful music and lyrics by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Herbert Kretzmer along with the original script by Alain Boublil make this show the favorite it has been for many a year. Despite the somewhat overblown and often severely miscast movie, “Les Miserables” is truly a magnificent piece of work.

Hugh Panaro as Valjean and Norm Lewis as Javert in "Les Miserables" this week at the Muny.

Hugh Panaro as Valjean and Norm Lewis as Javert in “Les Miserables” this week at the Muny.

Charlotte Maltby also shines as Fantine with nice work as well from Lindsey Mader as Eponine, Alex Prakken as Marius, Katie Travis as Cosette and Bobby Conte Thornton as Enjolras. Michael McCormick and Tiffany Green get to have the most fun of the night as the rascally Thenardier’s. The children in the cast do well too including the brave little soldier, Gavroche as portrayed by Jimmy Coogan, the lilting voice of Lilly Kanterman as the young Cosette and Lily McDonald as the young Eponine.

The rest of the cast, as I said, is made up of the teen chorus, youth chorus and a lot of young folks making their Muny- in some cases- their professional stage debuts. It works well for this show which can handle a cast of thousands. In addition, the Muny expanded the orchestra for this show- with Kevin Stites as musical director- and the result adds to the power of this production.

The stunning and workable set design of Rob Mark Morgan and the alternating dark and light moods created by lighting designer Nathan W. Scheurer are impressive. Standing ovations on opening night (at the end of the first act and a super-swell of support at the end) were an indication of how wonderful this production is. The Muny has always attracted top notch talent over the years, but they’re really going above and beyond with some A-list Broadway stars and productions that make the most of the vast Muny stage.

You have until this Sunday, July 21st to see a marvelous production of one of the most beloved musicals ever, “Les Miserables.” See it now because you’ve got the added bonus of fans that actually work and keep the air moving during the show as well as before and at intermission. So the St. Louis heat and humidity are still here, but it’s a lot more pleasant these days as you watch a Muny show.

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