Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Les Miserables"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2009 by Tony Annicone

"Les Miserables"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at Uncommon Theatre is 8-time Tony Award winning musical "Les Miserables". The show is a musical composed in 1980 by French composer Claude-Michel Schonberg with a libretto by Alain Boublil. Through-sung, it is perhaps the most famous of all French musicals and one of the most performed musicals world wide. The musical is based on the novel by Victor Hugo and tells the stories of multiple characters including: a paroled convict named Jean Valjean who, failing attempts to find work as an honest man with his yellow ticket of leave, breaks his parole and conceals his identity in order to live his life again; the police inspector Javert, who becomes obsessed with finding Valjean; Fantine, the single mother of Cosette, who is forced to become a prostitute to support her daughter; Marius, a French student who falls in love with Valjean's adopted daughter Cosette; Eponine, the young daughter of the Thenardiers, who is hopelessly in love with Marius; the Thenardiers, who own an inn and exploit their customers; and Enjolras and the other students who are working toward freeing the oppressed lower class of France. One of the main themes of this epic tale is the story of Javert's fall from grace by his overly obsessive behavior and Valjean's rise from despair after having been imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's starving child. After being helped by the Bishop of Digne, Valjean swears a life of living up to the Bishop's expectations of him while Javert unable to accept Valjean's heroic behavior by not killing him during the siege at the barricade, commits suicide. The truly tragic character in this show is Fantine who makes difficult choices in her life but ultimately sacrifices herself so her daughter, Cosette might have a better life. Young Cosette is left in the care of the unscrupulous Thenardiers who mistreat her horribly and she is eventually rescued and adopted by Valjean. Years later Marius, the rebel student falls in love with her at first sight. He is the only one of the students to survive the siege at the barricade. Even though M. and Madame Thenardier are evil characters in the show, they are also the comic relief. They own an inn and cheat their customers and he later on steals from the dead to become a war profiteer and a rich man by the close of the show. Their heroic daughter, Eponine who is also in love with Marius, helps Cosette and Marius find each other by leading him to Valjean's house. She is one of the first to die at the barricade while performing an act of heroism. The charismatic, handsome and natural leader of the students, Enjolras leads the students in the uprising where they meet their demise. Gavroche, a street urchin also dies heroically in the uprising, shows his courage many times before that. Director Christa Crewdson, musical and orchestra director, Mary Casale and choreographers Chris Campbell-Orrock and Meg Lowey lead their fabulous cast with their terrific voices in this thoroughly enjoyable epic adventure which moves you to tears and to laughter while doing so. A standing ovation at the end of the show is its reward.

Producers Kathy Dowd and Chris Lowey chose the best crew and cast members to pull off this epic show. Christa blocks and directs her huge 53 cast members beautifully , using many different levels for entrances and exits, keeping action in constant motion. Christa knows how to obtain the best performances in dramatic musicals, having reviewed her version of "Rent" back in 2007 which was a fantastic show, too. Mary's expertise shows in the harmonic blend of voices that soar in the group numbers, duets, trios and quartets. The harmonic sound in these young people is astounding! Chris choreographs some excellent fight scenes in the show especially between Valjean and Javert. The two story unit set is by Michael Teixeira who has stage settings slide on and off stage with ease. Michael also designed the impressive lighting for the show with its bright red to symbolize death at the barricade and light blues to evoke the mood while the multitude of beautiful costumes are by Jake Zentis (who did a fabulous job as Angel in "Rent") especially impressive are Cosette's gown and wedding dress as well as the prostitute's outfits. Darren Bunch leads the cast as Jean Valjean. He brings depth to this multi-faceted character with a checkered past, he finds redemption by living a life of virtue. Darren's glorious tenor voice soars off the charts especially in "Bring Him Home" as he asks God to keep Marius safe during the siege, and in "Who Am I?" where he confesses that he is the real Valjean to save an innocent man's life. Also Valjean's final solo, "Bring Me Home" before he dies will tug at your heartstrings evoking many tears as he asks God to bring him home as the song says "To love another person is to see the face of God''. (Also poignant is Fantine with Valjean downstage right and Eponine and the dead school chums singing on the upper level during this last number.)Javert is excellently played by Jeff Dietzel. Javert's strong convictions really flow with his annunciation of every one of his lyrics. He has an incredible bass range which will knock your socks off and then he shows off a high baritone a few notes later. Jeff's two solo numbers are "Stars" where he compares his relentless hunt of Valjean and justice to the constellation order of the stars and "Soliloquy" where he commits suicide when he realizes that Valjean is not purely evil as he thought destroying his lifelong view of the world by shooting himself in the head. The raven haired Elyse Lewis is excellent as the sympathetic, Fantine. (Having seen the original show on Broadway in 1987, Elyse runs circles around the static Randy Graff in this role why they put her in this role after Patti Lupone did the role in London, is something I will never understand.) She wins your heart over with her acting and singing prowess of "I Dreamed a Dream" as she tells the audience about her troubled past life and in "Come to Me" as she lay dying in the hospital, begging Valjean to take care of her young daughter. (This melody is used later for "On My Own") Young Cosette is played by Vini Delgadillo whose strong and beautiful voice is heard in "Castle on a Cloud".

Luke Doyle as Marius has a gorgeous tenor voice which he shows off in his solo, "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables", a tear jerking song about his dead comrades, in the romantic ballad "A Heart Full of Love with Cosette and Eponine, the quartet "In My Life", and the duet as Eponine dies called "A Little Fall of Rain". Luke's voice is also heard in the group numbers "Red and Black", "Do You Hear the People Sing?" and "One Day More". I have reviewed Luke as a dancer in Hendricken shows and at LaSalle last year in "Millie".(A comic scene stealer in this show is red headed Matt Hawley who sings a comic verse of "Red and Black" where he makes fun of Marius' falling in love at first sight.) The gorgeous ingenue, Cosette is played by Meg Lowey who is a lovely blonde, has a marvelous soprano voice which soars off the charts in her duets with Luke. The harmonic blend in the reprise of "Heart Full of Love" with Luke and Darren is astounding. The heroic Eponine is wonderfully played by Olivia Cawley, a gorgeous brunette. Her fantastic voice is heard in "On My Own" where she decides to stand by Marius even though he is in love with Cosette, and after she is fatally shot in "A Little Fall of Rain" which is a tear jerking and emotionally draining number. Olivia gives the character a backbone with an endearing quality which makes the audience root for her. Eponine's comic but despicable parents are excellently played by Billy Thompson and Elle Brigida as M. & Madame Thenandier. They are hilarious in "Master of the House" as they swindle their customers. He is particularly loathsome as he robs the dead bodies in "Dog Eat Dog" and comic again as they reenter dressed to the nines in white wigs to swindle Marius out of money during "Beggars at the Feast". Elle, a statuesque red head, is a hoot as she sings her verse of "Master of the House" where she describes her husband's small love making prowess.(Elle stuffs silverware down the bodice of her gown and the dance choreographed by Meg Lowey is hilarious as she jangles all the silverware hidden there.) Another dynamic presence in the show is Matty Dowd as Enjolras who has a glorious tenor voice which sells many of the anthems he sings with his fellow students and Marius including "Red and Black", "Do You Hear the People Sing?," "One Day More" and "Drink to me of Days Gone By".(Matt's voice and acting have grown better and stronger since I last reviewed him four years ago in "Pirates of Penzance") One of the biggest scene stealers in this show is Andrew Purdy as Gavroche who makes his first appearance with the street beggars at the beginning of the show. He shows off his powerful singing voice in the reprise of "Look Down", at the ABC Cafe and in "Little People" where he reveals Javert is a spy. He heroically dies trying to collect more ammunition and is shot by a sniper. (Only 11 years old Andrew recently appeared as an orphan child in the National Tour of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at PPAC.) Johnny Fullerton who has an amazing tenor voice plays the kindly Bishop and gets to sing several solo sections during the show as one of Marius' school chums. Johnny is also an expert dancer having reviewed him last year as Jimmy Smith in "Thoroughly Modern Millie". Kudos also to the talented chorus with their fabulous voices in all their numbers, too. So for an excellent rendition of this famous show, be sure to catch "Les Miserables" before it is too late. Tell them Tony sent you.

"Les Miserables" (17 - 19 April)
UNCOMMON THEATRE COMPANY
1 School Street, FOXBORO MA
1 (508) 698-3098

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