Viva La Revolution! 'Les Miserables' Takes the Arsht by Storm

The cast in


The cast in "One Day More" from "Les Misérables." (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

Mary Damiano, Theater Critic

Do you hear the people sing? They’ve been singing since “Les Miserables” premiered in London more than 40 years ago, and now theater lovers can catch a rousing production of the beloved musical at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami through Sunday, June 23.

While “Les Miserables” opened on Broadway in 1987, the West End production, which opened across the pond in 1985 is still going strong, making the show one of the longest-running musicals in the world.


"Master of the House" from "Les Misérables." (Photo by Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade)

Based on the 1862 novel by Victor Hugo, “Les Miserables” introduced the theater world to convict Jean Valjean, who, as the show opens, is granted parole after spending 20 years doing hard labor five years for stealing a loaf of bread for his starving nephew and another 15 for trying to escape. But starting a new life isn’t easy for a convicted felon, and he steals some silver from a bishop who gave him food and shelter.

When Valjean is apprehended by police, the bishop tells the authorities that he gave Valjean the silver, and then gifts him a pair of silver candlesticks.

Valjean has never known such kindness, and in one of the most moving moments in a musical bursting with moving moments, the bishop says he has bought Valjean’s soul for God, instructing him to use the silver to begin in a new life. Valjean, confused but strengthened by the bishop’s big heart, resolves to redeem himself and become worthy of the bishop’s bargain, then destroys his parole card, an act that turns him into a wanted criminal and fugitive.

“The Confrontation” - (From L) Preston Truman Boyd as Javert & Nick Cartell as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables (Photo by
Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade)


“The Confrontation” - (From L) Preston Truman Boyd as Javert & Nick Cartell as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables (Photo by Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade)

His journey toward redemption spans 16 years, as he assumes another identity, becomes a wealthy mayor and factory owner; tries to save factory worker-turned-prostitute, Fantine; takes guardianship of Fantine’s young daughter Cossette; and later, puts his life on the line to save Marius, the man that a now grown-up Cossette loves. Throughout those 16 years, Valjean is pursued by police inspector Javert, who lives by an unwavering moral code and belief that a man cannot redeem himself and must be severely punished for even the smallest crime of survival.

The national tour of “Les Miserables” is a reimagined version of the original Broadway production, with changes and tweaks that ardent fans of the show will notice. Many of those changes make the show’s overall message more literal, but also deepens and intensifies the drama and the characters’ inner conflicts.

The first act is uneven, with songs sung in a way that fails to fulfill their potential or level of emotion. But the puzzling choices in the first act are made up for in act two, which soars as a rousing ride through love, hope, sacrifice, and ultimate redemption.


"Bring Him Home" features Nick Cartell as Jean Valjean in the national tour of "Les Misérables" at the Adrienne Arsht Center, Miami. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

Nick Cartell excels as Valjean, using his heavenly voice to sing the hell out of Claude-Michel Schonberg and Hebert Kretzmer’s music and lyrics. His powerful rendition of “Soliloquy” in the first act illustrates Valjean’s inner turmoil and resolve, while his heartbreaking performance of “Bring Him Home” is surpassed only by his reprise of the song toward the end of the show.

As Javert, Preston Truman Boyd is appropriately villainous as Valjean’s relentless nemesis. He shines in the second act as Javert’s bewilderment sets in over his strict code, and delivers a spectacular performance of Javert’s final song, “Soliloquy,” against the backdrop of thrilling special effects.

The show’s comic relief is provided by Matt Crowle and Victoria Huston-Elem, who portray the Thenardiers, larcenous innkeepers turned larcenous street thieves. Crowle is a standout, incorporating his quirky physicality into the role, creating some hilarious visuals.

“Beggars at the Feast” features, from left, Matt Crowle as Thénardier and Victoria Huston-Elem as Madame Thénardier in the national tour of


“Beggars at the Feast” features, from left, Matt Crowle as Thénardier and Victoria Huston-Elem as Madame Thénardier in the national tour of "Les Misérables" now at the Adrienne Arsht Center.(Photo by Matthew Murphy)

As grown-up Eponine, Mya Rena Hunter is a showstopper as she eschews wistfulness and turns “On My Own” into an angry, frustrated anthem to unrequited love. Delaney Guyer has a lovely voice and brings gumption to innocent Cossette. Jake David Smith, as Marius, embodies the struggle between idealistic, revolutionary fervor and his love for Cossette.

Paule Constable’s lighting design is glorious, alternating between candlelit ambiance and shadows and mist, enhancing the mood of each scene. Mick Potter’s sound design, coupled with the acoustics at the Arsht, is crisp and clear, a necessity for any show, but especially one in which nearly every word is sung. The projections, by Finn Ross and Fifty-nine Productions, and set and image design by Matt Kinley, combine to create a strong sense of place and movement.

Decades after its debut, “Les Miserables” is still a spectacle, a crowd-pleaser likely to elicit cheers and tears, and leave audience members in awe of the power of musical theater. Don’t wait one day more to experience this classic.

If You Go

  • What: “Les Miserables”
  • When: Through Sunday, June 23
  • Where: Ziff Ballet Opera House at The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami.
  • Tickets: $45 -$165
  • Information: For tickets and information, visit

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