And this was the best production of Les Misérables
that I've ever seen. I haven't loved the show this much since the 1st National Tour.
Here are two press reviews:
Regardless of where or how “Les Miz” is produced, its success generally rides on the actor playing Valjean--one of the most demanding roles of all time. Broadway vet Hugh Panaro fills the difficult bill in a seemingly effortless fashion.
His multi-octave voice is, of course, wondrous (if it weren’t he wouldn’t have the part). But the native Philadelphian’s acting is equally superb. He forcefully conveys the many emotions--anger, moral outrage and self-pity among them--that roil his character’s psyche.
- from Courier Post
Hugh Panaro gives an outstanding performance in the Walnut Theatre's remarkably nuanced production of the epic musical....The show's chief asset is Broadway veteran Hugh Panaro's robust, passionate, and delicately sung performance as Jean Valjean, the convict who must make a new life for himself all the while running from the doggedly unforgiving Inspector Javert (rendered powerfully, if sometimes woodenly, by Paul Schoeffler). Panaro, who has long scraggy hair and a Robinson Crusoe-like beard as the show begins, transforms remarkably over the17 years covered in the musical. After Valjean's release from prison, the actor emerges with matinee-idol good looks that eventually give way to an elder statesman hunkyness that brings to mind Charlton Heston before his NRA days.
- from Theatermania
Those reviews make me so happy because Hugh truly, truly deserved them. The audience buzz during intermission and following the standing ovations was very enthusiastic and, at the after-party, his costars like Paul and Josh were praising Hugh constantly.
As personal bias aside, Hugh was the best Valjean I've ever seen. Any doubts about whether he looks mature enough or has the physical stature to pull it off are unneeded. He was perfect. I went in with very high expectations and, well, he exceeded them. Last year, I told someone that every time I think I know how incredible Hugh is, he does something to amaze me all over again.
His performance was, for me, emotionally overwhelming at times.
I'll try to do a bit of a review by scene...because there are a lot of moments that stood out for me. I'll do that either later this morning or when I get home from work tonight.
But I have to comment on his "Bring Him Home." Vocally, it was exquisite enough to make me cry. And his acting was incredible. He made the song what it was meant to be...a prayer. A beautiful, desperate prayer and it came right from his heart and soul.
I'll comment on the rest of the cast later, but I have to give props to Josh Young. He is a wonderful Marius. A gorgeous voice and he made me like Marius again...something I hadn't done since seeing Hugh in the role. I can't wait to see him in this again and in future roles. He's a total sweetheart. After chatting with him on Facebook for a couple of weeks, it was great to meet him. And he's so dreamy looking...I have a photo with myself, Hugh, and Josh...and I hope it turned out well.
The after-party was quite fun. Nothing as big and fussy as the "Lestat" premiere.
I got the longest hug ever from Hugh. We haven't seen each other face-to-face for ages and, when he saw me, he said, "Paula!!!!!!!" And hugged me so long that I was wondering if he was ever going to let me go!
We continued our little tradition of having him sign my leather jacket for each role I see him in...Phantom, Lestat, Bobby from "Company," and now this.
He said, "You brought the jacket!!!!" He asked me where I wanted it signed. I told him to decide himself. He picked a spot on the left front below the shoulder and wrote:
A Full of Love on the Opening Night of Les Misérables - XOXO - Hugh Panaro
and added a little arrow that, when the jacket is worn, points towards my heart.
He's just too sweet.
We also kept up our tradition of doing a little video for the site...the light was bad, but it's so cute.
More details and pics later.