Les Miz

Nick Cartell, portraying Jean Valjean, gives an uplifting performance of “Bring Him Home” in “Les Misérables.”

There’s a moment in the second act of “Les Misérables,” at Centennial Hall through Sept. 9, that makes the price of a ticket more than worth it:

Nick Cartell as Jean Valjean, who has spent his life dodging arrest and being good to others, is sitting on the barricade the student revolutionaries have built. While those around him sleep, he sings “Bring Him Home,” a prayer that the man his daughter loves will survive the impending battle.

Cartell brought us to church. This is a gorgeous song, and he did it beautiful justice.

But for the bulk of the Sept. 4 opening performance of this Broadway road show, everything was not quite so copacetic. Centennial Hall’s muddy acoustics never make loud musicals easy. The mics for minor characters crackled at times, and sometimes weren’t on at all. The singing was mighty — until it became screechy — and the orchestra at times seemed too loud.

You could chalk it up to opening night bugs, but this production has been on the road since last fall. There should not be bugs.

Still, it has gotten excellent reviews while it’s been on the road. And at times you can see why reviewers have embraced it:

  • Mary Kate Moore played Fantine, and her voice has a purity that served her well when she sang “I Dreamed a Dream.”
  • Paige Smallwood was deeply rooted in the character of Éponine, and her heartbreaking “On My Own” was riveting.
  • Josh Davis’ relentless Javert, the man who devotes his life to tracking down Valjean for jumping parole, was frightening in his persistence and moving when he realizes his sense of justice doesn’t hold up to Valjean’s kindness.
  • Comic relief in this musical based on Victor Hugo’s book came from Matt Moisey and Allison Guinn, who played the reprehensible, thieving and greedy innkeepers. However, the delicious “Master of the House” became a bit of a mess as the actors fought the orchestra.

This is the reworked version of the play about injustice, greed and love. While some things are missed — the revolving barricade is no more — the use of multimedia, which includes projections of Hugo’s art used in the novel, deepened the darkness of the story.

But this version — or maybe it was just this production — lacks the emotional punch we’ve come to expect with “Les Misérables.”

We should have been roused when the students sang “One More Day,” and heartbroken when “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” was sung.

We weren’t.

But the moment that Cartell sings “Bring Him Home” was so exquisite that we can almost forgive what wasn’t.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@tucson.com or 573-4128. On Twitter: @kallenStar


Kathleen has covered the arts for the Star for 20 years. Previously, she covered business, news and features for the Tucson Citizen. A near-native of Tucson, she is continually amazed about the Old Pueblo's arts scene and feels lucky to be covering it.