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 Hendricken 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, takes place from 1815 to 1844 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 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 Brian Codeiro, musical director, Ritche Sylvia,conductor, Stephanie Smith and choreographer,Teresa Pearson lead their fabulous 55 member 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 of the show is its reward.

Brian blocks his huge cast beautifully moving them up and down a two story unit set and obtaining excellent portrayals from these young performers while doing so. Ritche's harmonic blend of voices soar in the group numbers, duets, trios and quartets while Stephanie conducts a terrific 12 piece orchestra including the topnotch percussionist, Karen Mellor. Teresa's choreography shines in many numbers including "Lovely Ladies", "Master of the House" and "The Wedding Chorale. (The bawdiness in the prostitute's dance is hilarious.) The topnotch unit set is by Brother John Kiernan which consists of tall platforms, turrets, a tall bridge overhead as well as moveable stairways and barricade walls and contains a cut out of the French flag where the narration of each scene is shown including the date and place in France. He is also the technical director with cast members moving the set pieces on and off stage quickly, keeping the show in constant motion. The multitude of costumes are by Jan Nagle with the most colorful ones being worn by the leading ladies. James Patefield 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. James' 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 with Eponine and Fantine singing behind him on two turrets while he starts to ascend into heaven on the third one. They sing the poignant lines "To love another person is to see the face of God".( I have reviewed James many times including "Joseph" and "My Favorite Year") Javert is excellently played by Christopher Maymon. He has an incredible bass range which will knock your socks off and then he shows off a high baritone a few notes later. Chris' 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. (I have reviewed Chris is "Music Man", "Joseph" and "My Favorite Year" and his voice has grown and matured so much since I first saw him) Malari Martin, pretty redhead, is excellent as the sympathetic, Fantine. (Having seen the original show on Broadway in 1987, Malari runs circles around the static Randy Graff in this role.) 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 the hospital, begging Valjean to take care of her young daughter. (This melody is used later for "On My Own") (I reviewed Malari in "My Favorite Year" and "Peter Pan".) Young Cosette is played by Kali Malone whose strong and beautiful voice is heard in "Castle on a Cloud".

Casey Sheehan 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 as they appear as ghostly specters around the set, 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". Casey's voice is also heard in the group numbers "Red and Black", "Do You Hear the People Sing?" and "One Day More".(I first heard Casey sing the Benjamin Calypso last year in "Joseph) The gorgeous ingenue, Cosette is played by Casey Cook who has a marvelous soprano voice which soars off the charts in her duets with Casey. (She played the Narrator in "Joseph" last year.)The harmonic blend in the reprise of "Heart Full of Love" with Casey and James is astounding. The heroic Eponine is wonderfully played by Tessa Ricci. 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. Tessa 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 Connor O'Rourke and Rebecca Rosenberg as M. & Madame Thenandier. ( I reviewed both of them in "My Favorite Year" and he played Smee in "Peter Pan")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 the wedding scene to swindle Marius out of money during "Beggars at the Feast". Rebecca is a hoot as she sings her verse of "Master of the House" where she describes her husband's small love making prowess. Another dynamic presence in the show is Alex McKhann 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". One of the biggest scene stealers in this show is Christopher Davey as Gavroche who makes his first appearance with the street beggars, the ABC Cafe and "Little People" where he reveals Javert is a spy. He heroically dies trying to collect more ammunition and is shot by a sniper. Kudos also to the chorus with their fabulous voices in all their numbers, too. So for an fabulous rendition of this popular show be sure to catch "Les Miserables" before time runs out. Tell them Tony sent you.

"Les Miserables" (27 March - 4 April)
BISHOP HENDRICKEN HIGH SCHOOL
Warwick Avenue, WARWICK RI
1 (401) 739-3450

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