‘Les Misérables’ Onstage at Benedum for Cultural Trusts PNC Broadway Series (Tues., 11/22/22)

LES MISÉRABLES (musical) by Alain Boublil, Jean-Marc Natel, and Claude-Michel Schönberg, with English lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer. Touring production at the Benedum. November 22 – 27.

The June Rebellion of 1832 lasted only a few days. But it lives on in Victor Hugo's novel and, of course, in the new touring production of 'Les Miz.' Photo: Johan Persson

The June Rebellion of 1832 lasted only a few days, yet it lives on in Victor Hugo’s novel and, of course, onstage in ‘Les Miz.’ Photo: Johan Persson

Which Broadway musical is the GOAT? Nostalgia drives some people to argue for old classics and recency bias favors shows like Hamilton, but a strong contender straddling the worlds of old and new is Les Misérables. Just recall that Les Miz is actually a French musical, having premiered in Paris in 1980. An English-language version didn’t appear until 1985, in London. Finally in 1987 came the Broadway premiere, and the rest (as far as we Americans are concerned) is history. Keep in mind, too, that Les Miz is seldom considered a perfect musical. Lead writer Alan Boublil and lyricist Jean-Marc Natel took tremendous liberties in cutting Victor Hugo’s epic novel down to performable size. There are key characters not fleshed out and places where the narrative is only skimmed. The writers and the composer, Claude-Michel Schönberg, caught flak from critics who felt Hugo’s story had been oversimplified and sentimentalized. 

So then, what’s great about Les Miz? It has songs and scenes that are unforgettable: Fantine’s “I Dreamed a Dream.” The brief but fiery appearances of the revolutionary, Enjorlas. Every fan has a list of favorites, and by the way, the original story by Hugo is darn good. The musical, despite its cuts, dramatizes many high points powerfully, creating an experience that has moved millions. The latest touring production of Les Misérables stops in Pittsburgh for an eight-show run through the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh series. Benedum Center, 237 7th St., Cultural District. (M.V.)

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Mike Vargo

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