Elaborate sets aren't integral to understanding the story of Les Miserables. Listen to the soundtrack, and you'll get it. However, missing the magnificent staging that the 25th anniversary production of the beloved story brought to the Morrison Center Sept. 19 would be almost as tragic as the story itself.
Perhaps the stage crew should bound on stage and take a bow at the end of a performance, for its members take the audience into the streets of 19th century France—depicted with towering wooden structures and multiple balconies—and then whisk the tall buildings away and drop a bridge in the middle of the stage, with transitions so seamless they're hardly noticeable. Set designer Matt Kinley's creations, based on the paintings of novelist Victor Hugo, alone make the show worth seeing.
The barricade scene in Act II puts the audience behind the battle lines, and dazzles with flashing lights. Jean Valjean's journey to get Marius (Max Quinlan) to safety is expertly portrayed in a moving scene, making the seconds-long trek feel like a venture so epic it's believable that Valjean collapses to the floor when a non-treacherous area is reached.
Javert's suicide scene was equally as impressive, garnering audible gasps of surprise from theater-goers. As he stood on the edge of a bridge, the stage dark beneath him, the audience waited to see if a trap door would open when he jumped. Instead, the bridge was stripped away and Javert was suspended, plunging viewers with him through the imagined water.
While the detailed sets and rapid transitions were exquisite, the performers provided no-less magical an experience. Peter Lockyer's Valjean was impressive, capturing the complexity of the character as he deals with his sordid past, eventually running away from his dear Cosette (Lauren Wiley). His vocal skills were perhaps most on display with the tune "Bring Him Home," in which he executed his long final notes with expert precision.
Heather Jane Rolff could have filled the entire Morrison Center with her booming vocals as Madame Thenardier, and along with Timothy Gulan as Thenardier, the duo provided comic relief in the supertragedy with their conniving, despicable nature.
Wiley and Quinlan were lovely as young lovers, and it was impossible not to feel sympathy for Betsy Morgan's Fantine.
With such a talented lineup, it would have been a very sad thing to see the anniversary production of Les Miserables poorly done. Fortunately for Boiseans, the singing, orchestration and staging make this show a must see.
Les Miserables will continue through Sunday, Sept. 23, at the Morrison Center as part of the Broadway in Boise series.