Revolution is in the air at Bass Hall.
All this turmoil is attributable to the touring production of the venerable musical Les Misérables, which opened an eight-performance run at the downtown venue Wednesday.
This refurbished version of the show, created to honor the 25th anniversary of its legendary run, is so well staged and performed that you will likely want to grab your musket and throw in with the rebels.
Most people are familiar with the plot of this show. But, in case you are not, Les Miz, as it is affectionately known, is based on Victor Hugo's 1862 novel about social and political injustice in early 19th century France. The focus of the action is Jean Valjean (Peter Lockyer), a man long imprisoned for the theft of a loaf of bread who finds post-revolution France to be a hostile place for an ex-con.
He ultimately takes a new name, prospers and even manages to raise Cosette (Lauren Wiley), the child of another unfortunate soul. But his life is disrupted when he becomes involved in a short-lived uprising in 1832 known as the June Rebellion. And, through all this, Valjean is doggedly pursued by Javert (Andrew Varela), a man who loves the law more than life itself.
If that doesn't sound like a typical feel-good musical, it isn't. This show, which features music by Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer, is an opera -- not only because it has no spoken dialogue, but also because it has the sweep and scope of that form.
It is a dark story, and Paule Constable's lighting design emphasizes that point with a plan that is as shadowy as a Rembrandt painting. Matt Kinley's set (which jettisons the turntable associated with the original production) is also excellent, especially in its use of moving and still projected backdrops.
The pit orchestra of 14, conducted by music director Lawrence Goldberg, often sounds twice that large. And those musicians might be playing that well because they are inspired by backing such fabulous voices.