A juggernaut entertainment since its 1985 premiere, “Les Misérables” has undergone many incarnations, including the controversial 25th anniversary production that pitted original director Trevor Nunn against producer Cameron Mackintosh, and the recent film starring Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe.
Certainly onstage, it’s a dauntingly elephantine enterprise requiring a huge cast and the kind of lavish production elements that seem beyond the compass of a typical regional theater.
However, as has been amply proved over the course of many shows and many years, McCoy Rigby Entertainment is anything but typical. And although the current production of “Les Miz” at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts has been necessarily scaled down to meet the budget and constraints of a regional theater, the result is nonetheless a towering achievement.
Brian Kite's magisterial staging brings intimacy and immediacy to Victor Hugo’s peripatetic plot about Jean Valjean, a saintly fugitive convict whose life has been forever blighted by the theft of a loaf of bread. Musical director John Glaudini, who also leads the orchestra, handles the demanding score in masterly style.
It helps that Kite and Glaudini are working with a Broadway-worthy cast helmed by James Barbour in the pivotal role of Valjean. Tall and imposing, Barbour is simply transcendent. In fact, he’s so good, it’s difficult to imagine that the rest of the cast will be able to measure up. Yet they do, spectacularly, from Randall Dodge’s monomaniacal Inspector Javert right down to Young Cosette, played by pure-voiced Emilie LaFontaine. As the comically villainous Thenardiers, Jeff Skowron and Meeghan Holaway are both riotously repugnant characters straight out of a nightmare.
Steven Young's stellar lighting design combines well with Cliff Simon's set. Of course, Simon labors in the shadow of John Napier's legendary original design, but although it's cumbersome at intervals, his set is a game effort, sightly and serviceable.
“Les Misérables,” La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada. 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Also June 15 and 22 at 7 p.m. Ends June 22. $20-$70. (562) 944-9801 or (714) 994-6310. www.lamiradatheatre.com. Running time: 2 hours, 50 minutes.