Stage review

'Les Miserables' delivers clarity, conviction


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Rarely has a song been so prophetic as "One Day More" from "Les Miserables." The Victor Hugo novel-turned-blockbuster marches into its third decade of feverish popularity fueled by earnest retellings, including the one now at Pittsburgh Musical Theater.

The casting is on the money, led by Broadway veteran Peter Matthew Smith as Jean Valjean and Brad Patsy as Javert. There is the occasional shouting of the nearly impossible notes required by the Claude-Michel Schonberg score, but Mr. Smith mostly stayed within his considerable range, maintaining character resonance with a clarity not usually heard in sometimes overwrought performances of the role. In fact, clarity and conviction could be the catchwords of this production, directed by PMT founder Ken Gargaro.

'Les Miserables'
Where:  Pittsburgh Musical Theater at Byham Theater, Downtown.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets: $12.25-$44.75; 412-456-6666 or trustarts.org.

As Javert, the lawman in relentless pursuit of Valjean, Mr. Patsy was in fine voice. His Javert is not so much menacing as a determined man in turmoil, even as he attempts to crush a student uprising. Among the rebels, it's always a good day when David Toole is in the house, and he shines as love-struck Marius. He's joined by Carnegie Mellon University voice major Donovan Smith as rebel leader Enjolras, a towering presence with a voice to match.

The epic tale of redemption and rebellion against tyranny is packed with as many stirring musical numbers as you can squeeze into a three-hour show (including intermission). My chief complaint with "Les Miz" is it takes way too long to get to the students' brave stand at the barricade. The fall of Fantine (Emily Lynne Miller) gives us "I Dreamed a Dream" and the love story of Marius and the callow Cosette (Kate Toole) -- just once, don't you wish he'd pick the plucky Eponine (Victoria Buchtan) instead? -- sets Valjean's heroism and "Bring Him Home" in motion, but nothing is quite as rousing as the song of angry men.

A light in the dark proceedings is Tim Hartman as the nasty piece of work Thernadier and Victoria English as his complicitous Mrs., prime examples of why being bad on stage can be so much fun.

Music director Brent Alexander leads adept musicians who accompany without overpowering and that observed from the back row of the orchestra floor. The lighting and scenic design by Todd Nonn function in service of putting performances at the forefront.

Although there are children in the company and there were several in the audience on Friday, it should be noted that this is a story of people brought low by degradation, prostitution, violence and more before the final rise into the light of forgiveness and salvation. The production doesn't flinch from the subject matter.

The Schonberg-Alain Boublil musical marches on not just at the Byham Theater, but well into its third decade there's a new Broadway revival marching behind the Oscar-nominated film and national tour that stopped here last year. Pittsburgh Musical Theater adds to the list one "Les Miz" more, artfully told.


Sharon Eberson: seberson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1960. Twitter: SEberson_pg.

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