Theatre Mirror Reviews-"Les Miserables"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


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entire contents copyright 2014 by Tony Annicone

"Les Miserables"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

North Shore Music Theatre's fall production is "Les Miserables", the 8 time Tony Award winning musical. This musical version was composed in 1980 by French composer Claude-Michel Schonberg with a libretto by Alain Boublil. Through-sung, it is probably the most famous of all French musicals and is one of the most performed musicals. Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, "Les Miserables" tells an enthralling epic story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption. The world's most popular musical examines the metamorphosis of ex-prisoner Jean Valjean who agrees to care for a dying factory worker's young daughter, all the while being hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert. Director/choreographer Marc Robin and musical director Andrew Bryan lead their multi-talented cast with fantastic 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 thunderous standing ovation is their well earned reward. Bravo!

Marc blocks and choreographs the show excellently especially impressive is the last death scene of Valjean and end of Act 1 blocking for "One More Day" as well as the dance steps in "Master of the House" and "Beggars at the Feast". Andrew conducts a 14 piece orchestra and they enhance the harmonic balance of the voices in the solos, duets, trios, quartets and group numbers of the show. The diction of the cast is perfect and every word they sing is understood and their voices are phenomenal. Will Ray leads the cast and is fabulous as Jean Valjean. He brings great depth to this multidimensional character with a checkered past who finds redemption by living a life of virtue. Will's glorious high tenor voice soars off the charts especially in "Bring Him Home" when he prays over Marius at the siege at the barricade and in "Who Am I?" when he confesses who he really is to save another man's life. Another one of Will's terrific songs 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 ensures there isn't a dry eye in the audience during it. I last reviewed Will as Warner in "Legally Blonde" at NSMT in 2011.

Valjean's nemesis is well played by Danny Rothman. He has a huge vocal range where he belts out some bass notes and then displays his high baritone a few notes later. Danny's two solo numbers are "Stars" where he compares his hunt of Valjean to discovering the order of the stars in the constellation and in "Javert's Suicide" where he commits suicide after he realizes Valjean isn't pure evil like he thought all along. This realization shatters his lifelong view of the world. The confrontations between the two leads are splendid to behold in this superb rendition.Daniella Dalli is marvelous as the sympathetic Fantine. She wins the hearts of the audience with her acting and singing prowess in "I Dreamed a Dream" which describes her troubled past and in "Come to Me" when she begs Valjean to care for Cosette. This latter number is done as she lay dying in the hospital and evokes many tears from the crowd at her expert delivery. This melody is used later for "On My Own" in Act 2. Daniella is much better than the static Randy Graff who played Fantine when I saw the Broadway show back in 1987. Young Cosette is played by 9 year old Carly Williams whose pretty voice is heard in "Castle on a Cloud" and her frightened expressions while being threatened by the Innkeeper's wife are also well done.

Marius is excellently played by Blake Stadnik. He has a fantastic tenor voice which he displays in his solo "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables'',a poignant ballad he sings about his dead companions as well as in the romantic love song with Cosette and Eponine, "A Heart Full of Love", the quartet "In My Life" and "A Little Fall of Rain", the duet with Eponine as she dies in his arms. Blake also sings in the group numbers, "Red and Black", "Do You Hear the People Sing?" and "One Day More." The gorgeous ingenue Cosette is wonderfully played by Siri Howard who has a glorious soprano voice which soars off the charts in her duets with Blake. The harmonic blend in the reprise of "A Heart Full of Love" with Will and Blake is astounding. Siri's last scene with her adopted father is also beautifully portrayed.

  The heroic Eponie is marvelously played by Lizzie Klemperer. Her fantastic voice is heard in "On My Own" when she decides to stand by Marius even though he is in love with Cosette and in a "Little Fall of Rain" after she is fatally shot. This latter song is a gutwrenching and emotionally draining number with terrific chemistry between Lizzie and Blake. Lizzie gives Eponine a backbone to stand up to her vile and despicable parents but also an endearing quality which makes the audience root for her at the same time. Her comic but despicable parents are well played by Gary Troy and Tregoney Shepherd. They both have splendid singing voices and are hilarious as they swindle their customers out of their belongings in "Master of the House." He grabs his crotch and pees in a bottle during "Master of the House" and  is particularly loathsome in "Dog Eat Dog" as he robs the dead bodies in the sewers after the siege. They become comic again as they try to swindle Marius at his wedding while dressed to the nines in "Beggars at the Feast". Tregoney is hilarious as she sings her verse of "Master of the House" describing her husband's small love making prowess and is an absolute shrew as she mistreats Little Cosette in Act 1.

Another dynamic presence is Steve Czarnecki as Enjolras who has a fabulous tenor voice as he sells his many anthems 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 last song is done before the students are killed at the barricade and it moves you to tears at its poignant and touching rendition. One of the biggest scene stealers in the show is 9 year old Gavin Swartz as Gavroche. He displays his strong voice in "ABC Cafe" with the street people and in his solo "Little People" where he exposes Javert as a spy and again when he is shot by a sniper while gathering ammunition. Gavin tugs at your heartstrings in this role. Kudos to the entire chorus for their magnificent voices and perfect diction in all their numbers, too. So for a phenomenal rendition of this epic masterpiece, run do not walk to the box office to obtain your tickets for "Les Miserables" before they are sold out. Tell them Tony sent you. Also tell them this is Tony's 1300th review!

"Les Miserables" (28 October - 16 November)
@ 62 Dunham Road, BEVERLY MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide