Les Miz No. 5

by Kiko Matsing

Broadhurst Theater Lea as Fantine Lea Salonga

I did not expect to see a Broadway musical on my short trip to NY; what I mainly looked forward to was a liesurely visit to MoMA and a bit of sightseeing. As it turned out, a friend who works as postdoc at Yeshiva University, in the Bronx, had access to discounted tickets. It was just too hard to resist cheap orchestra seats for Les Misérables, which included Miss Saigon‘s Lea Salonga in the cast. Les Miz, in the first place, is my favorite musical, and, as a matter of fact, the only one I really watch; I have seen it twice in Manila, on the West End, and in Houston. Its story of grace overcoming justice, of the transforming power of forgiveness, painted over a broad canvas, never fails to move me to tears. With Lea Salonga playing the heart-rending Fantine, this Broadway Les Miz truly caps my long-time devotion to this musical.

In retrospect, though, I am still quite impressed at the Filipino production in Meralco Theater by Repertory Philippines. The minor deficiency in set and costume design–the originals just being richer and more detailed–is nevertheless overcompensated by the sparkling performance of the cast. I can still vividly remember Carla Martinez as Fantine, Audie Gemora as Javert, Baby Barredo/Joy Virata and Chinggoy Alonzo/Miguel Faustman as the Thénardiers, and Jaime Blanche as Marius. Only Cocoy Laurel and Leo Valdez seemed to have delivered a Jean Valjean that lacked the required weightiness despite heartfelt performances.

The audience slowly filed out of the theater and dispersed into Times Square. Only a small crowd of Filipinos still hung around Broadhurst Theater. Suddenly, there were cheers and giggling. Lea Salonga exited a side door, greeting her fans with her usual winning smile, and began signing autographs. Startled and starstruck, I pushed my playbill in her hand.