Theatre Mirror Reviews "Les Miserables"


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2014 by Tony Annicone

"Les Miserables"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The Tony Award winning musical "Les Miserables" makes its glorious debut in Norwell, Ma as the epic summer show at Company Theatre with its terrific 35 member cast. The story from Victor Hugo's novel set in 19th century France, is told through a romantic sung thru musical score. Jean Valjean is released from 19 years of unjust imprisonment, only to find a world of mistrust and mistreatment. He breaks his parole in hopes of starting a new life, but is relentlessly pursued by police inspector Javert. Set against the student uprising of 1832, Javert must confront his ideals after Valjean spares his life and saves the student revolutionary who has captured the heart of his adopted daughter, Cosette. "Les Miserables" is the story of a life-long struggle for redemption, and is a powerful affirmation of the human spirit. Directors Zoe Bradford and Jordie Saucerman, musical director Michael Joseph and choreographer Sally Ashton Forrest create a masterpiece of an epic musical, bringing you to laughter and tears at all the appropriate moments, winning their cast a spontaneous standing ovation as its reward.

Zoe and Jordie elicit spectacular performances from their cast, creating picture postcard moments that are breathtaking. I have been reviewing their epic shows for the past 11 years since "Ragtime" in 2003 and this is another feather in their cap. They block the show perfectly, too. Michael conducts a fifteen piece orchestra that sounds incredible. They enhance the quality of the solos, duets, trios and group numbers. Michael creates a harmonic blend that can't be beat in this 369 page score. Sally's choreography really shines in the group numbers "Master of the House" and "The Wedding Chorale". The incredible set is by James Valentin and Zoe and the marvelous colorful costumes are by Sharon Kivnik. Leading this 35 member cast is Michael Warner as Jean Valjean. He brings depth to this multi-faceted character with a checkered past by living a life of virtue. Michael's glorious tenor voice soars off the charts in "Who Am I?" when he confesses who he is to save another man's life and especially in "Bring Him Home" when he begs God to let Marius live. This song tugs at your heartstrings, leaving you sobbing uncontrollably at Michael's brilliant rendition. Another powerful song is Valjean's final solo before he dies and asks God to bring him home. "To love another person is to see the face of God" insures that there isn't a dry eye in the house. Bravo.

Andrew Giordano is terrific as Valjean's nemesis, Javert. He has a magnificent vocal range where he belts out bass notes and soars up to a tenor a few notes later. Andrew's fantastic solos are "Stars" where he compares his hunting of Valjean to hunting stars in their constellations and in "Javert's Suicide" where he kills himself when he realizes Valjean isn't the pure evil he thought he was. This realization destroys Javert's lifelong view of the world. Andrew is one of the best Javert's I have seen and has perfect diction in everything he sings. The confrontation between Valjean and Javert is riveting in this rendition.Jessica Golden is topnotch as Fantine. She wins your heart with her acting and singing prowess in "I Dreamed a Dream" as you learn about her troubled past and "Come to Me" when she begs Valjean to adopt Cosette as Fantine is dying. This melody is used later for "On My Own". Young Cosette is well played by Catherine Olivere and Sarah Bilodeau where they display their pretty voice in "Castle on a Cloud". They play the role on an alternating basis.

Marius is excellently played by tall, blond and handsome, Brendan Paine. He has a gorgeous tenor voice which he uses in his solo, the tear jerking "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" when he sings about his dead companions, in the romantic love song "A Heart Full of Love" with Cosette and Eponine, in the quartet "In My Life" and in the duet "A Little Fall of Rain" when Eponine dies in his arms. Brenden'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 gorgoeus blonde 17 year old Erin McMillen who has a terrific soprano voice which soars off the charts in her duets with Brendan. The harmonic blend in "A Heart Full of Love" with Michael and Brendan is splendid. The heroic Eponine is wonderfully played by Jennifer Beth Glick. Her marvelous voice is heard in "On My Own" when she decides to help Marius even though he is in love with Cosette and in "A Little Fall of Rain" when she succubs to being fatally shot. Jennifer gives this young girl a backbone to stand up to vile and despicable parents yet also gives her an endearing quality which makes the audience root for her. She is a phenomenal actress whom I last reviewed as Kim in "Miss Saigon" in 2007. Her comic yet despicable parents are excellently portrayed by Christopher Hagberg and Maryann Zschau. They both have terrific voices and are hilarious as they swindle their customers in "Master of the House". He is extremely gruesome as he robs the dead bodies in "Dog Eat Dog" and they both become comic again dressed to the nines to try to swindle Marius at the "Beggars at the Feast". Maryann is a hoot when she sings of her husband's small prowess during "Master of the House" and is a harpie when she mistreats Little Cosette in the first act.

Another dynamic presence in the show is James Anthony Fernandes as Enjolras. He has a strong tenor voice and sells the many anthems with Marius and his fellow students including "Red and Black", "Do You Hear the People Sing?", "One Day More" and "Drink with Me to Days Gone By". This latter number brings tears to your eyes when you realize they are going to their deaths on the barricades. One of the biggest scene stealers in this show is ten year old Oliver Trejo as Gavroche. He uses his soprano boy voice in all his numbers. His first with the beggars at "ABC Cafe" and "Red and Black". He sings "Little People" twice, when he reveals that Javert is a spy and again when he is killed on the barricade performing an heroic act. Jackson Parker and Austin Bennett play the role at alternate performances. Kudos to the whole chorus on their splendid singing voices. Run, do not walk to the box office to obtain your tickets for this blockbuster hit musical. Once again Company Theatre has another hit show in "Les Miserables". Tell them Tony sent you.

"Les Miserables" (24 July - 17 August)
@ 30 Accord Park Drive, NORWELL MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide