Les Misérables, touted as the world’s most popular musical, is an intensely emotional journey through the gritty streets of early nineteenth century Paris. The reimagined National Tour of this Tony Award-winning Best Musical is in Portland until Sunday, November 12. If you’ve got tickets to any of the sold-out performances and are wondering whether to make it a date night or take your kiddo, here’s what you need to know.
Based on Victor Hugo’s epic novel, Les Misérables is a dark but uplifting story of survival and broken dreams. It follows the life of Jean Valjean, a reformed convict who went to prison for stealing a loaf of bread. After 19 years, he is released and offered a chance at redemption. In desperate need of a fresh start, he breaks his parole, assumes a new identity and turns his life around. But he is forever on the run from the law, specifically from the ruthless Inspector Javert, who’s life’s mission is to see Valjean back behind bars. The cast also includes young lovers, idealistic students, sleazy innkeepers, criminals and the destitute poor, who live in a period of French history that was ripe for rebellion. The story is more complicated than this short synopsis, so younger kids may have a hard time following along.
Officially recommended for ages 10 and up, Les Misérables is three hours long with one intermission. I think a mature ten-year-old could handle this production, but I would have waited to bring my own kids until they were teenagers. Parents should know that death and violence are present throughout. There are bawdy sexual references (verbal and physical) and a scene about prostitution (“Lovely Ladies”). There’s no nudity and it’s not nearly as bloody, graphic or in-your-face as the 2012 film version, but the content is heavy. When I watched Les Misérables for the first time on Broadway as an eighteen year-old, it was so intense and heart-breaking that I cried through the entirety of Act Two. But I loved it then, and I love it now. So did the teenage daughter of my friend, both of whom were in the audience with me on opening night.
The National Tour production is superb in every way. The orchestra and singers compliment each other perfectly, and the cast is fabulous. Led by Nick Cartell as Valjean and Preston Truman Boyd as Javert, the actors deliver strong performances and sing with incredible passion and control. Valjean’s heart-achingly beautiful prayer “Bring Him Home” sent chills up and down my arms.
Due to new security screening, theater-goers are asked to arrive by 7pm for a 7:30 curtain. Both acts of the show start on time, much to the chagrin of the people waiting in the long lines for the bathrooms during intermission.
If you weren’t able to score tickets for Les Misérables or if your kids are a bit younger, you’ll like the next three shows in the Broadway in Portland line-up. Disney’s The Lion King (January) and Annie (May) are both suitable for kids ages 5 and up. Beetlejuice (April) is recommended for kids in the 10+ crowd. For tickets to all of these productions, visit Broadway In Portland.
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