I had the pleasure to catch Florence Lacey's final performance as Fantine in the Broadway production of Les Misérables this past Sunday and am happy to report that the role could not have been in better hands. I have seen Les Miz five times since it arrived in New York 10 years ago, and of all the Fantine's I have seen on Broadway, Lacey was the most suited to the role, combining her shattering voice with a deep reservoir of emotion.
Lacey's voice is one of the great Broadway instruments of the current musical theatre. She possesses a wide-ranging belt that has sent the score of Evita soaring, and she did so similarly with the vocally demanding "I Dreamed a Dream," belting the high C's with power and finesse. Many of Fantine's other passages are similarly high-placed, and Lacey managed to find the right voice in which to sing them -- belting when appropriate or subtly caressing a note for others. She also found the core of the character, showing us Fantine's sheer determination to save her daughter and her increasing vulnerability in her attempt to do so.
When Lacey made her first entrance in "At the End of the Day," the character's pain was clearly visible on her face, the harshness of her world already taking its toll. And when Valjean instructed the foreman (who harassed her earlier in the scene) to settle the dispute with another female worker, it was as though the last drop of blood had been drained from her face. She also effectively built her performance in the "Lovely Ladies" scene, working from pain into madness. By the time she sings, "Easy money, lying in a bed/Just as well they never see the hate that's in your head/Don't they know they're making love to one already dead," Fantine's physical and mental breakdown was apparent.
The most moving moment in her performance, however, may have been her second confrontation with Valjean, when he interrupts Javert's attempt to arrest her. With disbelief and despair she stared at Valjean-- the man whose earlier actions forced her into prostitution--not realizing that he will become her daughter's savior. Her deathbed duet with Valjean in "Come to Me" was also beautifully acted.
Lacey gave a consummate performance--anyone who can move me to tears after seeing this show numerous times, must be pretty good. I know I've mentioned it in this column before, but when is this talented lady going to get the chance to wrap her voice and her talons (listen to her speech after "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" on the Evita excerpts recording, and you'll hear what I mean) around Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard? Andrew Lloyd Webber, are you listening?
LES MIZ 10TH ANNIVERSARY CAST
And, speaking of Les Miz, the casting has finally been announced the for the 10th anniversary company, which will begin performances on Thursday, March 6 at the Imperial Theatre. The official premiere of this company--which brings together cast members from the Broadway, national tour and international productions--will be on March 12, ten years to the day that the show opened on Broadway.
Playing Jean Valjean will be Robert Marien, who appeared in the original Paris production of Les MisŽrables. Marien, who will be making his Broadway debut in this part, has also portrayed Valjean in Montreal and most recently in London. Christopher Innvar, who has been playing Javert in New York since September, will continue in the part with the new company. Rounding out the three lead players is Juliet Lambert as Fantine, who last appeared on Broadway as the Mistress in Passion.
The Thenardiers, who lead the rousing "Master of the House," will be played by Nick Wyman (the original Monsieur Firmin in The Phantom of the Opera) and Fuschia Walker (Effie White in Dreamgirls in the national tour and on Broadway).
The four younger roles, Eponine, Cosette, Marius and Enjolras will be played by Sarah Uriarte, Christeena Michelle Riggs, Peter Lockyer and Stephen R. Buntrock, respectively. Uriarte, who will sing one of the best known songs from the show, "On My Own," returns to the role that she played on Broadway in 1994. During the interim she has portrayed Belle in the Broadway company of Beauty and the Beast and Julie Jordan in the national tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel.
Riggs, who has portrayed Eponine on Broadway for the past year, will now get the chance to play Cosette. Lockyer, who has been in the ensemble of the Broadway company of Les Miz will now move up to the featured role of Marius. And, lastly, Buntrock, will make his Broadway debut as Enjolras after appearing in the national tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
While this new tenth anniversary company rehearses, the acclaimed national touring company will be filling the Imperial Theatre with the sounds of revolution.
That's all for now. Happy diva-watching!