Theatre Mirror Review "Les Miserables"


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2014 by Tony Annicone

"Les Miserables"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

> Norton Singers summer show is the 8 time Tony Award winning "Les Miserables". The show was 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 of all time. The musical version is based on Victor Hugo's epic novel and tells the stories of multiple characters: including a paroled convict named Jean Valjean, who failing attempts to find honest work while on parole, breaks his parole and conceals his identity in order to live his life again; the fanatical 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;Cosette, the young daughter of Fantine, who falls in love with Marius at first sight; Eponine, the young daughter of the Thenardiers who is hopelessly in love with Marius; the Thenardiers, who own an inn and exploit their customers; Enjolras and the other students who are working to free the oppressed lower classes of France; and Gavroche, a street urchin who joins the students uprising. Director Judith Post, musical director Anthony Torelli and choreographer Judee Bottomley lead their multi-talented cast with fabulous voices in this thoroughly enjoyable epic adventure of hope and redemption in the face of despair which moves you to laughter and tears while doing so. A spontaneous standing ovation is their well deserved reward. Bravo.

Judith's blocking is marvelous as she creates picture postcards moments as is her eliciting spectacular performances from this cast. Anthony conducts a magnificent fourteen piece orchestra and they enhance the harmonic blend voices of the cast in their solos, duets, trios and quartets. Judee choreography shines in the group dances especially in "Master of the House" and "The Wedding Chorale". Rear projections are used to change the settings during the show. Robert Grady leads the cast as Jean Valjean. He brings great depth to this multi-faceted character with a checkered past who finally finds redemption by living a life of virtue. glorious voice soars off the charts especially in "Bring Him Home" when he asks God to watch over Marius during the siege at the barricade and in "Who Am I" when he confesses who he really is to save an innocent man's life. Another phenomenal song is his final solo when he asks God to bring him home during "To love another person is to see the face of God" which doesn't leave a dry eye in the audience at his rendition of it. Valjean's nemesis Javert is excellently played by Greg Gillis. He has an incredible vocal range where he belts out bass notes and then a few notes later his voice soars up to a high baritone. Greg's fabulous solos are "Stars" where he compares his hunt of Valjean to discovering order of the stars in the constellation and in "Javert's Suicide" where he commits suicide after realizing that Valjean isn't pure evil as he thought all along. The confrontation between Valjean and Javert is splendid in this show. This latter number displays how this has destroyed his lifelong view of the world. I have seen Greg grow into a well seasoned actor from a very young age and this role is one more feather in his cap.

Pattilou Normand as the sympathetic Fantine is topnotch. She wins your heart over with her acting and singing prowess in "I Dreamed a Dream" as the audience learns of her troubled past and in "Come to Me" when she begs Valjean to adopt Cosette as she lays dying. This melody is used later on for "Own My Own". Young Cosette is played by Amelie Roulleau whose pretty voice is heard in "Castle on a Cloud". Marius played superbly by Mike Davis. He has a gorgeous tenor voice which he displays in his solo "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables", a tear jerking ballad where he sings about his dead companions, in the romantic love song "A Heart Full of Love" with Cosette and Eponine, the quartet "In My Life" and "A Little Fall of Rain", the duet with Eponine when she dies in his arms. Mike's voice is also heard in the group numbers, "Red and Black", "Do You Hear the People Sing?" and "One Day More". The gorgeous ingenue Cosette is excellently played by Melissa Franklin who has a marvelous soprano voice which soars off the charts in her duets with Mike. The harmonic blend in the reprise of "A Heart Full of Love" with Robert and Mike is astounding.

The heroic Eponine is wonderfully played by Kara Nelson. Her fantastic voice is heard in "On My Own" when she decides to stand by Marius even though he is love with Cosette and in "A Little Fall of Rain" after she is fatally shot. This latter song is a gut wrenching and emotionally draining number. Kara gives this girl a backbone to stand up to her vile and despicable parents yet also gives her an endearing quality which makes the audience root for her. Her comic but despicable parents, the Thenardiers are excellently portrayed by Tim Reid and Louise Tetreault. They both of marvelous singing voices and are hilarious as they swindle their customers in "Master of the House". He is particularly loathsome in "Dog Eat Dog" as he robs the dead bodies of their possessions and they become comic again dressed to the nines as they reenter for the wedding and try to swindle Marius out of money in "Beggars at the Feast". Louise is a hoot as she sings her verse of "Master of the House" when she describes her husband's small love making prowess. She is a complete shrew as she mistreats Little Cosette in the first act.

Another dynamic presence in the show is Nate Ramsayer as Enjolras who has a glorious tenor voice and he sells the many anthems he sings with Marius and his fellow students including "Red and Black", "Do You Hear the People Sing?", "One Day More" and "Drink to Me of Days Gone By". This latter number brings tears to your eyes as you realize the students are about to be killed at the barricade. It was if the role was written with Nate in mind. One of the biggest scene stealers in this show is blond haired Jacob Parkman as Gavroche. He displays his crystal clear boy soprano voice in all his numbers, making his first appearance with the beggars in "ABC Cafe" and "Red and Black". Jacob does a marvelous job when he reveals Javert is a spy as well as in his death scene "Little People" where he is shot by sniper while trying to gather ammunition. A very talented boy at very young age who tugs at your heartstrings in this role. Kudos to the entire chorus with their fabulous voices in all their numbers, too. So for a fantastic rendition of this epic show, be sure to catch "Les Miserables" at Norton Singers before time runs out. Tell them Tony sent you.

"Les Miserables" (30 May - 7 June)
@ Wheaton College, East Main Road, NORTON MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide