Stage review: "Les Miserables"

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    “Les Miserables” — the Boublil/Schonberg/Kretzmer version — is an opera. We know this because all parts are sung. Opera requires impeccable voices. The “Miz” currently playing at the Ahmanson Theatre misses in this regard.

    If one’s first reaction is to think this production’s music is “canned,” perhaps it is because the orchestra is overamplified.

    And if the orchestra is overamplified, it may be to cover up the inadequacy of many of the voices.

    Do you hear the people sing? Some. One can understand every word of the young performers, Maggie Martinsen and Alison Fidel, who alternate roles as young Cosette and young Eponine, and Cameron Teitelman as Gavroche.

    Among the adults, some can’t hit the high notes, one can’t voice the lows.

    Still, the Victor Hugo story remains majestic and personal, timeless and timely. It poses questions of conscience, self-awareness, unselfish love and, of course, revolution.

    And revolve the production does. Yes, it is the original Trevor Nunn/John Caird production, with its huge revolving stage that lets scene changes be visual magic and the massive barricades of the young French revolutionaries whirl back and forth.

    The acting is fine, skilled and sincere.

    As Valjean, Ivan Rutherford is compelling, huge in physical presence and impressive in vocal range. Stephen Bishop offers a subtly evil Javert, but he unfortunately doesn’t age as well as Rutherford’s Valjean.

    Kevin Earler is an inspired leader as Enjolras, Tim Howar a sweet romantic as Marius. Regan Thiel provides a gentle Cosette, Sutton Foster a gamine Eponine who sings a genuine, show-stopping “On My Own.”

    J.P. Dougherty and Aymee Garcia play the scene-stealing Thnardiers with contagious energy.

    For those who like their productions “big,” this is it. Lighting (David Hersey), sets (John Napier) and sound (David Andrews Rodgers, musical director, and Andrew Bruce/Autograph, sound) are as huge as “opera” gets — so far.

    “Les Miserables” plays through Feb. 12 at the Ahmanson Theatre at the Los Angeles Music Center. Tel. 213.628.2772 or online at www.TaperAhmanson.com.