By Matthew Blank
24 Mar 2014
West End actor Ramin Karimloo (Toronto's Les Miz, The Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies) makes his Broadway debut as Jean Valjean, the musical's protagonist who was imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread — forever branded as prisoner number 24601 — escapes and creates a new life for himself in 1800s France.
Leading man Karimloo admitted to Playbill magazine, "I turned [the role of Jean Valjean] down when [producer] Cameron [Mackintosh] first offered it. I didn't think I could find a way into the character of Jean Valjean. I thought maybe I could play Javert instead. And then, at the 25th Anniversary concert of Phantom, Cameron came to my dressing room and said he'd come for his pound of flesh... I owe everything to him. He's allowed me to grow as an actor, he's been my mentor, and I have the greatest respect for him."
"I told him," said producer Cameron Mackintosh, "'I want you to play it. You're not too young, you'll bring something fresh to Jean Valjean. And this is a fantastic way for you to make your Broadway debut.'"
Beginning April 3, Karimloo will not perform Thursday evenings for vocal rest. In addition, he will not perform May 19-22 due to a pre-existing professional obligation. During these performances, the role of Jean Valjean will be performed by Aaron Walpole or Nathaniel Hackmann.
The revival also stars Andy Mientus (Broadway debut, Spring Awakening national tour, "Smash," Off-Broadway's Carrie) as Marius, Tony Award nominee Will Swenson (Hair, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Little Miss Sunshine) as Javert, West End and Broadway actress Caissie Levy (Ghost, Hair, Murder Ballad) as Fantine, Tony Award winner Nikki M. James (The Book of Mormon; Fetch Clay, Make Man) as Eponine, Kyle Scatliffe (West End production of The Scottsboro Boys, Broadway debut) as Enjolras, Canadian actor Cliff Saunders (The 39 Steps, Toronto's Les Miz) as Thenardier and Tony Award nominee Keala Settle (Hands on a Hardbody) as Madame Thenardier.
Late in the show's rehearsal process, Samantha Hill (The Phantom of the Opera) took over the role of Cosette. The actress replaced Charlotte Maltby (Les Miz at the St. Louis Muny, current musical theatre student at the University of Michigan). Press representatives previously declined to comment on Maltby's departure.
Previews began March 1.
The Les Miz ensemble includes Erin Clemons, Emily Cramer (Mary Poppins), Natalie Charle Ellis (Forbidden Broadway), Jason Forbach, Heidi Giberson (Cinderella), Nathaniel Hackmann, Andrew Kober (Hair), Chris McCarrell, Melissa Mitchell, Dennis Moench (Mary Poppins), Adam Monley (Mamma Mia!), Betsy Morgan (A Little Night Music), Melissa O'Neil (Jesus Christ Superstar), Max Quinlan, John Rapson, Terance Reddick, Arbender Robinson (Hair), Christianne Tisdale (On a Clear Day You Can See Forever) and Aaron Walpole (Jesus Christ Superstar).Joshua Colley (Newsies) and Gaten Matarazzo (Priscilla Queen of the Desert), both of whom appeared in the 25th anniversary tour of Les Misérables, share the role of Gavroche; with Angeli Negron and Mckayla Twiggs (Once) sharing the role of Little Cosette and Young Eponine. Mia Sinclair Jenness (The Sound of Music Live!) appears in the ensemble and covers the roles of Little Cosette and Young Eponine.
The new production is directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell, designed by Matt Kinley (inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo) with costumes by original designer Andreane Neofitou and additional costumes by Christine Rowland, lighting by Paule Constable, sound by Mick Potter and projections by Fifty-Nine Productions. The new version inspired filmmakers to create the recent award-winning film of the same name.
The original New York production of Les Misérables premiered at the Broadway Theatre March 12, 1987, and later moved to the Imperial Oct. 17, 1990, where it played until May 18, 2003, for a total Broadway run of 6,680 performances.
The Tony-winning score includes such classics as "I Dreamed a Dream," "On My Own," "Stars," "Bring Him Home," "Do You Hear the People Sing?," "One Day More," "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables," "Master Of The House" and more.
Les Miz, written by Boublil and Schönberg, is based on the 19th-century novel by Victor Hugo. It has music by Schönberg, lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and original French text by Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel, original adaption by Trevor Nunn and John Caird and additional material by James Fenton.
The original Les Miz orchestrations are by John Cameron with new orchestrations by Christopher Jahnke and additional orchestrations by Stephen Metcalfe and Stephen Brooker.
The original London production is still running and is in its 29th year. The musical premiered at the Barbican Theatre in a co-production with the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1985. It transferred to the Palace Theatre in December of that year and then moved to its current home at the Queen's Theatre in April 2004 where it is still playing. Les Miz is the fourth longest-running Broadway production of all time.