LES MISERABLES, Auditorium Theatre. A decade after it opened on Broadway (where it's still playing), this pop opera remains an icon of the Reagan era, preaching compassion for the poor and oppressed while serving up shallow spectacle to the middle-class masses. The score, by Claude-Michel Schšnberg, Alain Boublil, and Herbert Kretzmer, contains several well-crafted songs amid reams of repetitious recitative--but as brought to the big stage by director-adapters John Caird and Trevor Nunn, those songs are smothered in a wash of bombastic sound. This is the kind of show that measures emotional intensity by how far afield a vocalist's vibrato wobbles.
Telling Victor Hugo's epic story with comic book efficiency despite a running time of more than three hours, this slick touring edition achieves narrative clarity but little emotional texture. Headlining a strong-voiced cast is Gregory Calvin Stone as the handsome, stalwart Jean Valjean (the parole buster who eludes the law for 17 years); Rona Figueroa brings a pop-star stylishness to the role of the love-struck waif Eponine. But though the significance of Les Miserables as an 80s showbiz phenom is beyond dispute, the work itself never achieves the nuanced sense of dramatic discovery that would earn it such acclaim. --Albert Williams