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NOBODY BEATS 'LES MIZ'

Trying to come up with a reason to see Les Miserables yet again when it opens in Tampa on Tuesday? Ah, but this is not the same ol' Les Miz. We checked out the reimagined 25th anniversary production at a recent stop in Orlando. Here are a few observations:

It's faster: The mostly all-sung musical set in 1830s Paris has been pared down to 3 hours, and it's noticeably quicker-paced.

New look: Gone is the revolving stage - a famous piece of the Broadway show's staging - but no matter. In its place are new stagings shaped by towering set pieces that quickly slide on and off stage and are accompanied by projected backdrops inspired by Victor Hugo paintings. The multistory set moves swiftly between scenes, the giant pieces locking together to transition within seconds, from the innkeeper's crusty home during a rollicking Master of the House, to a serene Parisian bridge at night in Javert's Stars, to the ramshackle underground basement where the revolutionaries gather to plot uprising in Red and Black. Look for some especially cool effects in the second act, during Javert's final song and the dingy tunnel scenes.

Pitch-perfect cast: The tour is lead by seasoned Les Miserables veteran J. Mark McVey as Jean Valjean. He made his Broadway debut in the role decades ago. And goosebumps are guaranteed as the cast marches forward under a red flag in One Day More, the epic cast anthem that sets in motion the play's second act. We dare you to hold in the tears.

mstark@tampabay.com

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Les Miserables

The play opens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and runs through Feb. 12 at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. Tickets start at $38.50. (813) 229-7827. strazcenter.org.

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