As advertised "Les Miserables" delivers entertainment on the kind of scale that has become standard in musical shows. It's one that Shea's Performing Arts Center excels in presenting. Tuesday was the start of its fourth appearance here, in a first-rate touring production.
It's everything you imagine a pop opera is supposed to be. The music is unambiguously plain and simple -- feel good here, feel sad there, feel up, feel down -- and is over-orchestrated, over-loud, and over-emoted (everything is sung).
No surprise that converting Victor Hugo's mammoth novel -- he could write no other -- into musical theater collapses the whole thing to fairy tale dimensions. Ex-con Jean Valjean and policeman Javert continually bump into each other, exchange a song, spin away on the stage turntable.
Much emphasis is placed on young love, a change from the rowdy prostitutes and loose women, but not necessarily for the better. The yearning songs are of surpassing blandness, though romantically set and lighted and sung with throat-catching emotion.
Everything is heavily miked: good for the Shea's with its uncooperative acoustics. This creates a pop music intimacy and makes it seem more cinema-like. That may be the point of these large, expensive shows.
The cast is very good. J. P. Dougherty's rascally Thernardier singing and performing "Master of the House" and "Beggars at the Feast" was great fun, a relief from all the long-winded seriousness.
Rating:***** Three-hour musical by Claude- Michel Schonberg and Alan Boublil, based on the Victor Hu go classic. Performances at 7:30 tonight and Thursday, at 8 Friday, at 2 and 8 Saturday, at 2 and 7:30 Sunday. Shea's Performing Arts Center, 646 Main St. (Ticketmas ter/852-5000).