Bold new staging of 'Les Miz' comes to Sarasota

mclear@bradenton.comFebruary 28, 2013 

Even if you've seen "Les Miserables," Briana Carlson-Goodman said, you need to see the new "Les Miserables."

"It's an amazing new reimagining of 'Les Miz,' " Carlson-Goodman said. "Even if people don't notice the differences in the details, they'll notice the difference in the storytelling. That's one thing we're hearing from audiences everywhere we go. People are saying, 'I understood the storytelling and the plot better than I ever did before.' "

Carlson-Goodman plays Eponine, the innkeeper's daughter who's at the center of one of the shows' saddest subplots, in the current national touring production of the classic musical. It's coming March 5 to Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall for a six-day run.

The differences in this new "reimagining" of the show should be obvious to anyone who knows it well. The set has been so radically altered that even the iconic turntable is gone. Changes in setting are accomplished with the help of projections inspired by paintings by Victor Hugo, the author of the novel "Les Miserables."

Such alterations help the audience make sense of the very complicated narrative. Making sense of the story line has been a problem for a lot of audiences over the years, because the story takes place over the course of three decades, and is told entirely in song.

The current tour, which started in October 2010, marks the 25th anniversary of the show. It debuted in London in 1985, and hit Broadway two years later. It ranks as the fourth-longest-running show in Broadway history.

A revival that opened in 2006 ran for another 14 months.

This new version will be the second Broadway revival. Carlson-Goodman and her castmates just recently found out that "Les Miz" will hit Broadway again in 2014. That doesn't necessarily mean that Carlson-Goodman, or anyone else who's in the show when it comes here, will appear on the Great White Way.

"No one's counting on that," she said. "We're just excited that 'Les Miz' will live on and that another generation of people will get to see it on Broadway. As a New Yorker, it would be great for me to get to perform in my hometown, but I've been in this business long enough to know that anything can change in an instant."

Carlson-Goodman has performed the role of Eponine for about eight months. She was an ensemble member, and the understudy for the role of Eponine, when the tour started in 2010.

She left for a few months, during which she landed her first network TV role as a guest star on "Person of Interest." She also got married during that hiatus to actor/singer Justin Flagg.

"We do really well," she said. "We see each other every two or three weeks. Touring can be tough, especially because you're away from your family and your friends. But I get to do things I'd never get to do, I get to go to all these great cities, and now sometimes I get to do that with my husband."

She'll also get to see some family when she's here. Carlson-Goodman's grandmother, Ruth Goodman, is a long-time seasonal Sarasota resident.

Details: March 5-10 at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Show times: 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 1:30 and 7 p.m. Sunday. Information: 941-953-3368 or vanwezel.org.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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