Les Miserables

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The scenery and staging has gotten a technological facelift in this 25th anniversary production of the musical, Les Misérables, performed at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. The technical elements will reach out and grab you out of your seat.
The first act of Les Misérables is about Jean Valjean, a former prisoner who chooses to start his life as a new person instead of being an outcast. He changes his name to Monsieur Madeleine and becomes a factory owner in Montreul-Sur-Mer, France. Fantine, one of the girls that works in his factory, has an illegitimate child and the older women force her to quit her job. She must sell everything to provide for her daughter, Cosette, who is sick. When Fantine gets injured and is on her deathbed, Jean Valjean goes to see her in the hospital and Fantine tells him of her child in need. He promises to take care of Cosette and Fantine dies. Jean Valjean finds Cosette who is being taken care of by the Thenardiers, and pays for her to come with him. They move to Paris and Cosette grows up. Cosette falls in love with a student named Marius, but Marius’s friend, Eponine, the Thenardiers’ daughter, falls in love with Marius.
In Act Two, Marius and his friends create a barricade against the French army because the students are a part of the French Revolution. After delivering a letter to Cosette from Marius, Eponine is killed by the French army when she tries to get to the barricade. Marius becomes distraught and in the middle of the night, the French army attacks and all the students are killed but Marius. At this point, Cosette still doesn’t know that her “father” is an ex-prisoner so on Cosette and Marius’s wedding day, Valjean tell Marius who he really is and Valjean dies soon after.
The lighting aspects of Les Misérables were amazing and very creative. The backgrounds in many of the acts were projections of paintings by Victor Hugo. When Valjean was carrying Marius through the sewers, the background on the cyc was a picture of a sewer but it became closer and further away which ever way the actor would go. It was very neat. The lighting designer, Paule Constable really made all the projections on the cyc become alive. To me, if I focused on the projection, I felt like I was watching a 3D movie.
My favorite way they used the projection was in the sixth act of Act Two when Javert, a policeman who tries to capture Valjean when he figures out who he is, commits suicide. He stood on top of a piece of railing which was supposed to be a bridge where he would plunge to his death. I had no idea how they were going to do this because all Javert could do was jump off the railing and onto the floor. When he jumped off the railing, he was suspended in air and the background projection showed a black, watery abyss slowly growing bigger so you could tell he was falling to his death because he would drown. The technical aspects of the musical were much better than the musical itself.
All in all, the technical elements of Les Misérables were wonderful. The lighting aspects especially. I recommend seeing if it you love interesting ways of using lighting and sound to make a production even better.





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