From the very first powerful notes of Overture/Work Song, Broadway Across Canada (BAC)‘s production of Les Misérables immediately sent goosebumps up my arms and neck. I sat on the edge of my seat, my lips mouthing the words of each song as one number led into the next. Despite having never seen Les Mis performed live before, it was a soundtrack that I grew up on. With my mum being a musical fanatic (and Les Misérables being among her favourite), I knew all the words to the play from the time I was a young child. From the get-go, I had listened to Colm Wilkinson as Jean Valjean on a soundtrack from the ’90s and truly couldn’t imagine anyone else portraying the character with the passion and beauty that he did.
Coming to see BAC‘s production, I was worried that my first time seeing the musical would not live up to the expectations that I couldn’t but help set up in my mind; however, with the first few lines carried throughout the theatre by Nick Cartell (Valjean in the 2018 production I saw), I was completely floored. The goosebumps started. My eyes widened. I knew that the foundation for this incredible show had been blissfully set.
For me, though Jean Valjean is the prime and most important casting of the musical, all the other characters are of extreme importance. That being said, with each characters’ introduction to the stage and each song that they sung, I fell more and more in love with this production of Les Mis; from Javert’s (Josh Davis) stern and deep voice, Cossette’s (Jillian Butler) high but sweet vocal range, Marius’ (Joshua Grosso) gentle and level serenades, and Éponine’s (Emily Bautista) strong yet beautiful intonations. Not to mention the Thénardiers’ obnoxious and bellowing numbers (and acting) — though they’re an infuriating pair, they certainly are critical casting and hit the nail right on the head.
Each character and their respective actor/actress within the play was so well cast, and portrayed their part so incredibly well.
Of course, with such an amazing cast, it also takes an equally amazing costuming and stage crew to pull together one unanimous piece of perfection. The BAC team are a brilliant group of people who have put a tremendous amount of time, thought, and effort into their production. This was evident in the Edmonton show that I saw at the Northern Alberta Jubilee, and is undoubtedly so at every single production that the company puts on.
I was equally enamoured by the elaborate sets and stunning costuming as I was by the performers utilizing them on the stage before me.
This all comes together in a way that makes you feel as if you are living amongst each of these very three-dimensional characters. You feel the resentment and fear of Jean Valjean, yet the frustration and justification of Javert. You feel the innocence and loneliness of Cosette wandering the gated courtyard of her home, the flurry of young love that Marius is swept up by when he sees her, and the desperate love and yearning that Éponine feels as Marius slips through her fingers. Of course, there is also the anger and bravery of Enjolras as he pushes for a revolution, creating a fire for justice within your own heart as the “pain goes on and on” (yes, that was a reference to Empty Chairs at Empty Tables).
What is so beautiful about Les Misérables is that despite it taking place so long ago and being rather unlike the goings-on of modern-day Canada (or even France where it takes place, for that matter), the human emotion conveyed throughout the entirety of the musical is something that is absolutely timeless.
I would honestly and truly go see Broadway Across Canada (BAC)‘s production of Les Misérables a million times over, and take as many people as I know along with me to see it, too.
Edmonton truly is an incredible city to revel in the arts, and Broadway Across Canada‘s production of Les Misérables was a prime example of what Canada’s west — and Canada in general — has to offer.
Have you ever seen Les Misérables? What’s your favourite broadway production? Let me know in the comments!