It dominated Broadway for decades, disappeared for about five minutes, and was briefly revived in 2006. Now, hot on the heels of a 2012 Hollywood version, Les Misérables is back in all its melodramatic splendor. This latest remount arrives in New York after touring for a few years, and it has the pared-down efficiency of a road production; the show has been streamlined and speeded up, with brisk tempos and digitized projections for backdrops.
Victor Hugo’s tale of love and moral redemption centers around the 1832 rebellion in Paris, but the musical glosses over the politics and goes for the heartstrings. This staging rarely slows to let us take in the narrative’s finer points, but Ramin Karimloo delivers a commanding performance as the reformed fugitive Jean Valjean, the fullest character, dramatically speaking; Karimloo finds an arc and a grace to carry him from prison to sainthood (with a gym body acquired somewhere on the way). In a cast that sometimes pushes too hard, there are several standouts, including Cliff Saunders and Keala Settle, who bring true wickedness to the grotesque comic foils Monsieur and Madame Thénardier. The Les Miz revolution may never die — but here it largely feels new and improved.