Friday, November 10, 2006

Critics: Les Misérables Round Two

Critics: Les Misérables Round Two

Last evening, after a relatively brief period away from the Great White Way, Les Misérables came roaring back to life. Critics seemed, well, somewhat ambivalent on the whole, with at least one daring to suggest that the emperor may, in fact, have never really had any clothes in the first place.

Despite awarding three stars alongside bromides like the cast "suffers from a general air of exaggeration that has a road show feel to it," Clive Barnes of New York Post asks and answers the inevitable question: "So is Les Miz as good as before? Not quite -- it doesn't wear as well as (Stephen) Sondheim or (Andrew) Lloyd Webber. But its two principal performers (Alexander Gemignani and Norm Lewis) effortlessly evoke the glories of its past."

Somewhat more enthusiastic is David Rooney of Variety saying, "...undeniably, it still works, stirring audiences for 20 years and counting....And even if it does stint on subtlety, it's hard to resist the sweeping saga's pull when its creatives have clearly brought such passionate conviction to the telling....The surprise factor in this hasty revival is the top-tier cast. Without the brief absence, it's inconceivable this longtime Broadway fixture could have attracted such A talent."

Admitting that "Les Miz was never a show I felt compelled to revisit," New York's Daily News' Joe Dziemianowicz nevertheless states: "Even with a few cast flaws, this production is unquestionably a powerful night of theater."

Describing it as "revival by Xerox," The New York Times' Ben Brantley says of this fascimile: "What you have isn’t the real thing, but a hyper-enlarged scrapbook memento....But it lacks the fiery passion in performance without which the show is all build-up in search of a climax....Much of the problem lies with the principal players: talented individuals all, the majority with impressive Broadway track records, and almost all uncomfortably cast."

In offering up just two stars, USA Today's critic Elysa Gardner dares to question the fuss about the actual material: "There are moments in this Les Miz, as the faithful call Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg's swollen adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel, when more skeptical viewers will swear they are witnessing one of Spamalot's satirical sequences....Herbert Kretzmer's plodding, pretentious lyrics embellish the obvious with tortured rhymes and the occasional witless joke."

Given the appetite theatregoers have had for this spectacle, will Les Misérables ultimately prove critic-proof? And given the current plans for a six-month run, will it even matter?

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
The Turntable Spins Again: Les Misérables Revival Opens On Broadway (November 9, 2006)
Apple Tree In Good Company Among SOB Readers (November 6, 2006)
Casting Call (Week Ending June 7, 2006) (June 7, 2006)
Les Misérables' Broadway Revival to Boast Must-See Cast (June 5, 2006)

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