Let Me Take You to Broadway
Yesterday, my friend and I went to see Les Miserables on Broadway in Times Square. A friend was so kind and offered to line up at the theater to get us the $37 rush tickets. She lined up at 8:30 a.m. till 10 a.m., when the box office opened.
My dad rode the subway with us, and then since we only had two tickets, he dropped us off. We got obstructed view seats, up in the balcony in a box with two other ladies. The chairs were like diner-style chairs and they creaked (really weird), but the good thing was we could move the chairs anywhere in the space we had.
We didn't bring binoculars, and were so happy that we didn't need to. The auditorium wasn't that big as say, David Koch Theater in Lincoln Center. From our seats we were near to the stage. Looking down at the orchestra seats, I 'd say that even though we could not see the left side of the stage and the background projections, I'd much rather sit where we sat than so close to the stage ($170 seats). I have never been to a Broadway show, and I thought having the orchestra playing underneath the stage really cool.
Lights dimmed, voices subsided. The orchestra began. It felt surreal hearing the orchestra swell together live. I couldn't really believe that we were finally seeing the show.
Jean Valjean was amazing. Especially in the beginning. His voice soared through the room, so rich and so strong. The verse with "this is all that I have known"... was bold and you could hear the passion in his voice. But 'Bring Him Home' - his voice was so soft and gentle, yet it still was clear and it felt so much like a prayer. I cried. Sometimes he sounded like an instrument.
Yet when he shouts at Javert during Fantine's death scene, he doesn't have much expression on his face. Just a blank expression with blazing eyes.
Javert fit his character very well. He made Javert intimidating, and had a penetrating voice. His suicide was really well done. (More on that later)
Fantine – we loved her. At first when “I Dreamed a Dream” began, I couldn’t see her because she was all the way on the right. I thought, “Great, she’s going to sing this song where I can’t see her?” But she moved forward into the middle. I loved her range of dynamics and how she played around with the rhythm just a little for a couple words. But we loved it best when she sang, “as they turn your dream to shame”, where the song climbs five notes higher in one breath. I held my breath as she sang it. Instead of weakening in the end, her transitions kept getting stronger with each higher note. I didn’t know it possible to hold her breath for so long while getting stronger with every second.
Cosette—little Cosette was cute. We both agreed that she sang “Castle on a Cloud” kind of rushed though. Older Cosette was pretty, but we both thought she was too old to be a youthful Cosette. “Too much vibrato,” my friend said. We liked Amanda Seyfried, Cosette in the movie version, sang “A Heart Full of Love” prettier.
Marius—at intermission, we were discussing how Marius didn’t really impress us. But he redeemed himself with “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”. His voice soared through the room, and he definitely sang with passion.
Enjolras -- was also really good, well cast and a good leader.
Gavroche—was talented. I liked him a lot and cried at his death. It was heart-wrenching.
The innkeepers – were skinny. They actually were really good, even though their character is ungodly.
Eponine – noticed I saved her for last? We thought she was miscast. She seemed too old for Eponine. She has talent, yes, but her voice was very deep and the stanza in “On My Own” where it goes like, his world so full of happiness/that I have never known, she just raced through the sentences; didn’t emphasize it at all and just held her voice for “known”. We were kind of upset. But “A Little Fall of Rain” made me cry.
I loved the set and admired the smooth and swift transitions between scenes. There were cool features like three story buildings with people in the balcony. But we couldn’t really see the projections. I know they were cool. When Jean Valjean carries Marius through the sewer, he carries him on his shoulder, without arms. I could see a bit of the projections with made it look like he was walking deeper into the sewer.
Javert’s suicide was the coolest in terms of how he died. (Wow, that just sounded really weird.) Wires lowered down a bridge railing two feet high, and he knelt in prayer fashion behind it. Then mid-way into his song, he hoisted himself and balanced on the wide railing. I was looking out for something to represent water. Dry ice, steam, anything. But all there was the black floor of the stage and nothing behind him. I thought, “What’s he going to do…fall flat on his face or something? Please no.” (Later I found out my friend was thinking the same thing.) Suddenly the railing lifted from the ground, and he was in mid-air. I could see part of the projection displaying dark, rolling waves. Javert slowly glided back into the waves (at least that is what I assumed) and I believe it showed the waves cover him. Impressive.
When they got to the scene where Jean Valjean releases Javert from the barricade and shoots into the air instead of killing him, I was like, “Ooh, he’s going to shoot the gun just like in the book!” But I got distracted and looked away for a second and then boom! He shot it. I jumped. Then people laughed. I thought, “What’s so funny?”
Then back in the car, my friend asked, “Were the guns real??” I said that was what I wanted to ask her.
“You know he shot it late, right?”
“Huh? No!” I told her how I wasn’t looking when he did, and how I was interested to see if he was really going to do it.
“You mean you didn’t hear the people snickering?? He thought it was loaded already and it wasn’t. So he had to reload it again and shoot it again.”
“Then it was late!” I laughed. “The conductor must have been like, “violins—quick, improvise!”
The battle scenes –the timing of gunshots and cannonballs and all were well-timed. But ten different deaths in one minute didn’t seem authentic.
But the singers all had microphones. I also didn’t really care for the innkeeper songs. During “Lovely Ladies”, my friend and I exchanged ‘the’ look. During “Castle on a Cloud”, I think they added a line. While Cosette hummed it sweetly, the inkeeper’s wife started mimicking her in a mocking voice like, “na, na, na, na, na, na, na, naaa”. That was funny. I noticed people clapped more for the songs with inappropriate things in it.
The ending. In Jean Valjean’s death, all of sudden , this voice started coming out of nowhere, and was so beautiful it sounded like a recording. It was Fantine’s ghost. I really mean it when I say that her voice was…angelic. My favorite line – “To love another person is to see the face of God.” And then it slips into “Do You Hear the People Sing”.
The crowd gave a standing ovation.
I concluded that the Broadway Les Miserables is amazing.
And we went home. What you have just read was what we talked about.
My rating? 9/10 – one less because of Eponine.
I definitely hope to see this again.