Musings on “Les Mis” at the movies

Our daughter, Lizabeth, has grown up at the crossroads of classic and contemporary Broadway — appreciating everything from Les Miserables and Chorus Line to In the Heights and Into the Woods.

We spent Wednesday night at the Riverview Cinemark Mesa 16

Wednesday night we did one of our favorite musicals together — Mesa-style, as the Cinemark Mesa 16 theater presented a special event for a single-evening of musical theater magic.

We saw the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert – presented by Cameron Mackintosh in association with Universal Pictures.

We last enjoyed his work at ASU Gammage, where we saw the Disney and Cameron Mackintosh production of Mary Poppins – a surprisingly spectacular telling of a story I once considered merely fair rather than fabulous.

We expected a full crowd for Wednesday’s movie event, arriving more than an hour before showtime. Turns out that only a mom and daughter duo snuggled under a blue fleece blanket dotted with multi-color snowflakes beat us to it, claiming the front and center seats I so often covet.

We used the extra time to explore the Mesa Riverview – a retail center you may know only by its most visible tenant – Bass Pro Shops (a nifty place when you’re shopping for the campers and fisherfolk in your life).

They’ve a good selection of restaurants and shops you won’t find in many other places.

There’s a Scout Shop for all things Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and an indoor pool inside one of three sites for Hubbard Family Swim School (their outdoor pool in Phoenix is a longtime favorite among Valley swimmers both casual and competitive).

Our favorite that night was Yodipity Yogurt, which sports ten yogurt flavors and dozens of possible toppings it’s hard to find elsewhere. We sat coloring pictures at a long counter where guests can string up their artwork using metal clips along a wire washline of sorts.

In a spacious courtyard outside the cinema entrance, there’s a fountain with an artistic flair — plus oodles of pristine white benches what make for some serious relaxation on a fair-weather afternoon or evening.

The Cinemark in Mesa also presents The Metropolitan Opera Live in HD events

We were pleased to find the theater nearly full when we returned, though rather dismayed by the gentleman who’d settled into the seat clearly sporting Lizabeth’s “Wild Things” sweat jacket. Happily, she asserted herself and reclaimed the spot she’d chosen early on.

The evening was special for several reasons, including the relative rarity of our time alone together outside the confines of dirty dishes or looming deadlines. Also the theater’s spectacular sound sytem that left me feeling each cast, chorus and orchestra member was right there with us in Mesa.

And the opportunity to see Nick Jonas, viewed by too many as a mere pop idol, return to his Broadway roots with such a mature performance in the role of Marius (Jonas played Gavroche in Les Mis on Broadway, but these aren’t his only theater credits). 

I must say, however, that there was nothing lovely about the lip-flapping and laughter of the the three teen girls seated behind us during the Les Mis concert presentation.

It’s all good and fine to get all tingly when Marius kisses Cosette, but I like Liz’s advice on this one: Just keep it to yourself. Listen, appreciate and respect the work.

Shows this spectacular don’t happen by accident — and it was Victor Hugo, not Nick Jonas, who first gave us Les Miserables. More history, ladies. Less heart throb — please.

Les Mis is one of those rare shows we can never get enough of. The concert performance we saw that evening in Mesa will soon be available on DVD.

No fan of Les Mis should pass up the chance to experience it, preferably on a big screen surrounded by fellow Les Mis aficionados.

For those eager to experience Les Mis live for the first or umpteenth time, Valley venues present at least two opportunities in the current season.

Creative Stages Youth Theatre in Peoria presents the school edition of Les Mis April 15-May 1, 2011 — giving me a whole new appreciation for tax day. (A change from the originally scheduled run.)

The Broadway touring production of Les Mis comes to ASU Gammage July 7-12, 2011. I loved it there the first time and I expect to love it again.

The June timing couldn’t be better for those of us gift shopping for graduating seniors, June birthday babies, romantic occassions like first dates or anniversary celebrations and such.

I guess Lizabeth won’t be too terribly surprised with her 18th birthday gift…

– Lynn

Note: When you think movie theaters, think St. Mary’s Food Bank — which will be accepting frozen turkey and non-perishable food donations  as well as cash donations at select Harkins Theatres and other sites on “2010 Super Saturday” — Sat, Nov 20. Click here to learn more.

Coming up: The year in arts

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