Even with a high-tech visual makeover, isn’t it too soon for “Les Misérables” to be strolling back into town?
“Les Miz” was the finest of the 1980s mega-musicals that originated in London and went on to rake in big bucks all over the world. The original Broadway production played 6,680 performances from 1987 through 2003. In 2006, it returned to Broadway for a yearlong encore run. And its starry film version premiered just a year ago.
This revival, which toured the country for three years before landing on Broadway, forgoes the revolving stage — a signature touch of the original show — in favor of nonstop digital projections inspired by Victor Hugo’s paintings.
Although it offers many rich new details and an emphasis on violence, the revival is marred by miscasting and bad singing. Often it feels as if you’re watching “American Idol Presents Les Misérables.”
During the prologue, Ramin Karimloo makes for a buff and gruff Jean Valjean. But once that passes, he goes on to deliver a mechanical performance.
Will Swenson, who was so vibrant in the “Hair” revival, is an underwhelming Javert, lacking any sense of authority.
Caissie Levy is a wholly ineffective Fantine and her screaming rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” is painful. As Eponine, Nikki M. James is stylistically at odds with everyone else. She lacks vulnerability and her voice is completely unsuited for the ballad “On My Own.” As the Thenardiers, Cliff Saunders and Keala Settle chew up the scenery but produce few genuine laughs.
The one real standout is Kyle Scatliffe, who is making his Broadway debut as the student revolutionary Enjolras.
The revival is disheartening for those who were raised on the original show, which had an elegant and extremely effective simplicity. What “Les Miz” really needs is a rest. Too much of even a great musical can be nauseating. This “Les Miz” feels less like a revival than a ritual.