The stage at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier on a weekday night is dimly lit; an orange glow makes it look like the page of a very old book, or like a photograph that is beginning to lose its colours.
A man stands in the spotlight. His clothes are ripped and there is a heavy, miserable look on his face. His name is Jean Valjean. The place is a prison in Toulon, France, 1815.
Victor Hugo’s timeless novel, Les MisÃ©rables, was adapted into a musical for the first time in 1980, by French songwriter Alain Boublil, who pitched the idea to composer Claude-Michel SchÃ¶nberg. In 1985 it was translated into English and has since become Broadway’s third most successful show, preceded by The Phantom of the Opera and Cats. Now, Les MisÃ©rables is finally coming to Montreal as part of the FrancoFolies festival.
The production is performed in French, with the original score and songs. Jean Valjean is played by Gino Quilico, a real powerhouse in every scene. Quilico marvellously channels Valjean’s anger, sadness, and pity with his gut-grabbing tenor, which will make your ears vibrate like strings. Alexandre de GrandprÃ© is Javert, the hateful officer who is constantly lurking behind Valjean’s back, convinced he must make him pay for his deeds.
Another amazing performance is the character of Fantine, played by GeneviÃ¨ve Charest, whose rendition of “J’avais rÃªvÃ©” beats any other English pop-culture versions of “I Dreamed a Dream.” Charest’s presence on stage is realistically heartfelt and emotional.
The other two most memorable performances are the lonesome, heartbroken Ã‰ponine (played by Olyvia LabbÃ©) and the little street urchin Gavroche (Ã‰milien NÃ©ron). Their tragic end fighting to end injustice and poverty underlines an inconvenient truth: we are all born alone, and eventually, we die alone too.
Overall, the production is a success. The characters seem straight out of the novel and the singing is out of this world. The romance between Cosette (Myriam Brosseau) and Marius (Carl Poliquin) can seem cumbersome and forced to some, though their singing is beautiful. The show is also a little over 3 hours long, which can be a bit too much to handle on a work night. However, such a stunning show is definitely not to be missed.
Les MisÃ©rables plays at the Francofolies until June 19. For tickets and more information, click here.