Touring cast of "Les Misérables." Photo credit: Matthew Murphy
Cameron Mackintosh’s production of the Tony award-winning musical "Les Misérables," now playing at The Paramount, is fresh from New York. The show played two and half years on Broadway and the touring production on stage now in Seattle features much of the Broadway cast and set. And it shows.
The bottom line
This production of “Les Misérables” moved me to tears at several points. It was just that beautiful. Its all-star cast, reimagined set design (no more turntable!) and timelessly inspiring story made this production stand out as one of the best performances I’ve seen in Seattle. My 12-year-old daughter loved it, too.
For those unfamiliar with “Les Mis,” as it's often called, the story involves several different plot lines, scene changes and secondary characters. But the main story follows an ex-convict, Jean Valjean, who breaks parole and spends his life on the run from his parole officer, Inspector Javert. The story spans from 1815 (right after Jean Valjean’s release) through France’s June Rebellion in 1844. It recounts Jean Valjean’s transformation from a bitter and suspicious man to a loving and self-sacrificing adoptive father who ultimately spends his life serving others.
The ensemble numbers were in such perfect harmony they gave me chills. The orchestral music sounded so good I initially thought it was a recording, and several vocalists in the cast gave breathtakingly thrilling performances. In particular, Mary Kate Moore's (Fantine) voice soared in “I Dreamed a Dream.” And Nick Cartell (Jean Valjean) sang “Bring Him Home” with such a beautiful balance of power and pianissimo that it was perhaps the best performance of that number I have ever heard. (I can’t even listen to the recording I have of it today without being disappointed now.)
Though many scenes of “Les Mis” are bleak, it’s still a fun show for kids. Its fast pace and high drama keep everyone engaged. Plus, hilariously on-point performances by J. Anthony Crane (Thenardier) and Amelia Cormach (Madame Thenardier) offered comic relief. Their performance of “Master of the House” brought down the house on the night we were there.
Parents should know
- As I mentioned, the story is a bit complicated and lines are delivered in verse. If you’re bringing kids, review the program and story line with them before the show starts to make it easier to follow.
- Though “Les Misérables” ultimately has a deeply inspiring and uplifting message, there are several mature themes addressed in the show that may not be appropriate for smaller children including sexual assault, prostitution, rape, battery, poverty, slavery and war. The production’s website recommends it for ages 10 and up.
- War scenes are fairly long and feature very loud cannon sounds and the firing of (fake) guns that sounded very realistic to me. I jumped quite a bit during these scenes, given recent events in the news.
- The run time is close to three hours with a 20-minute intermission. It didn’t feel that long. My 12-year-old is hitting the stage where she acts unimpressed with everything but she couldn't hide how captivated she was for the three-plus hours of the show.
- The lobby has concessions and snacks, including alcoholic beverages.
- If you’re bringing kids (or you have a weak bladder like me), consider picking a seat that allows you to exit the theater easily for bathroom breaks. The short intermission isn’t enough time to make it to the restroom given the extremely long lines.
If you go…
When: "Les Misérables" plays through Sunday, June 17. Tickets are going quickly! Tip: For best availability and lowest ticket price, aim for a weekday performance.
Where: The Paramount Theatre at 911 Pine St., Seattle.
Tickets: Buy online or in person at The Paramount Theatre's box office (Monday–Friday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.) Prices are $80 and up.
Parking: Several garages and pay lots are nearby the theater, though street parking, if you can find it, makes for a quicker getaway after the show. Consider transit or a Lyft or Uber to avoid parking hassles.