Beloved ‘Les Miserables’ comes back to Pittsburgh
Cameron Mackintosh’s epic musical “Les Miserables” is one of those special productions that tend to draw massive crowds wherever they go.
The national tour that last came through Pittsburgh in 2013 featured a remastered 25th anniversary edition with new staging — minus the traditional iconic turntable revolving stage — and reimagined scenery inspired by the paintings of French poet and novelist Victor Hugo, writer of the “Les Miserables” novel in 1862.
The same nearly new production is coming back Nov. 26-Dec. 1 for an eight-performance stop at the Benedum Center as part of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh series.
Even those who still remember the haunting melodies of “Bring Him Home,” “One Day More” and “I Dreamed a Dream” and the exciting onstage action of a changing 19th-century France might want to consider viewing another performance of the show — if only for just one reason: Nick Cartell.
The actor and singer who put his brand on the hit touring production as Jean Valjean, “Prisoner 24601” and the main protagonist in “Les Mis,” won’t be back again — at least not in his current role.
Giving up Valjean
After two and a half years portraying his character in Claude-Michel Schönberg’s legendary musical, Cartell is ready to move on.
“It’s time for me to take a break,” the actor originally from Scottsdale, Ariz., said in a phone call from East Lansing, Mich., where the cast and crew were welcomed by an early winter snowstorm a few stops before Pittsburgh.
“I’ll take time during the holidays to regroup in New York, and then it’s back to the grindstone,” he said.
Like a promise to his fans, he added, “I’m not going to stop singing. I would love to do another musical. But after two and a half years — and 83 cities and over 800 shows — it’s time to move on.”
He admitted that the character of Valjean is an exhausting role to perform — in a musical that runs a full three hours “but moves quickly. From the beginning of the show, it’s like I’m getting shot out of a cannon. I have to be ready to go,” he said.
Before ‘Les Mis’
Cartell was last seen on Broadway in Cirque Du Soleil’s “Paramour” and “Scandalous: The Musical,” in addition to a 2012 Tony Award-nominated revival of “Jesus Christ Superstar” and a U.S. and Canadian tour of “The Phantom of the Opera.”
He earned his BFA in theater performance at Arizona State University and was principal soloist with South Coast Symphony and has performed with Phoenix Symphony.
His wife, Christine, is also an actor based in New York who predominately does film and television work. They make a point of making time for each other.
“We try not to go three or four weeks without seeing each other,” he said, “and we do FaceTime every day.”
Since the “Les Miserables” tour will be in Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving, his wife will join him and company members for a Thanksgiving meal together.
“There’s a lot of camaraderie and love in our cast,” he said. “We’re all in it together.”
His final performance with the musical will be Dec. 8 in Waterbury, Conn.
“Playing Jean Valjean has been more than a dream come true, but it’s time to head home and see what new adventures await,” Cartell wrote on Facebook. “At the beginning of this journey, I couldn’t imagine how much a show and a role could change my life; it has done that and more.”
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.