The current tour of "Les Miserables" might have left its most famous piece of staging behind, but with the heart, passion and care invested in this production you won't miss it one bit.
Freed of the revolving stage floor, "Les Miz" feels less mechanical, more organic. The cast seems liberated from rote singing the familiar songs, and many employ a dramatic mix of talking-singing that doesn't take away from the music but adds layers to the characters.
And these characters are angry, gloriously angry, at the injustice of their poverty and the callousness of society's upper echelons in 1830s Paris.
That anger is embodied in a youthful Fantine (Betsy Morgan), the factory worker forced into prostitution. Morgan reminds us that Fantine's signature song, "I Dreamed a Dream" is almost seething with rage at the world under its haunting melody, a far cry from the sweetly bland pop versions.
Directors Laurence Connor and James Powell let their production show off the grittiness of Victor Hugo's classic tale of redemption while delivering its hopeful message.
Chasten Harmon tempers Eponine's edge with streetwise sadness, while Max Quinlan gives Marius a beautifully believable transition from naïve boy to man. Andrew Varela's puffed-up Javert spits his self-righteous words with smug satisfaction. And J. Mark McVey boasts a powerful singing voice that shows Valjean's ragged edges at the show's start and smoothes out as his character struggles and grows, culminating in a knockout "Bring Him Home."
Little moments in the staging emphasize the story's theme of what it really means to lead a just life: Drunken student Grantaire keeps a close eye on street urchin Gavroche, creating new emotional moments. A reunion between Valjean and the kindly bishop who set him on his path to righteousness makes the finale even more poignant.
The decadence of the so-called respectable people is emphasized with a bawdy rendition of "Master of the House" and cavorting townspeople who deny Valjean a roof over his head.
And there's a nod to that iconic turntable in a stylized march sequence that effectively conveys the tension and anticipation behind the anthemic "One Day More."
Technical advances since the 1980s mean the scenes revealing Javert's fate or Valjean's journey through the Paris sewers deliver new thrills. A few opening-night technical bobbles — a stuck shutter, a bobbing spotlight — couldn't detract from the best touring production I've seen at the Bob Carr in years.
After more than a quarter of a century the "Les Miserables" rallying cry rings out refreshed, clear and strong: Do you hear the people sing? Oh, yes, and it's a glorious sound.
•What: A Florida Theatrical Association production of the touring Broadway musical
•Length: 3 hours, with intermission
•Where: Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre, 401 W. Livingston St., Orlando
•When: 8 p.m. today-Friday, Jan. 18-20; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22
•Tickets: $35.50-$93.50; very few tickets remain for the run so if interested in purchasing, don't delay