Monday, June 10, 2013

Review: California Musical Theater Production of Les Miserables.

This show was spectacular.  I went in expecting a good show - but I knew it wasn't the Broadway production, or the North American Touring group - so I didn't expect it to be great.  It was.

The staging, the orchestra, and the lighting were perfect.  Really.  It was perfectly staged with great use of set pieces for multiple scenes with nothing seeming out of place.  The orchestra was perfect, volume was great, and I was amazed to hear an orchestra sounding just as good as the 25th Anniversary concert in the O2 in London.  They really were that good.

Director's staging choices: Most of it was perfect, there were only a few moments when I said "that was really awkward."
 1. When Marius and Cosette are singing "A Heart Full of Love" their voices and words sound like they are in rapture while there bodies stand stiffly 6 feet apart and they take one awkward step toward each other every four measures.  It was contrived and didn't work.
 2. I understand the Thenardier's Chop-house is full of whores, vermin and scum.  Did we need to have a couple having sex upstairs for the ENTIRE song "Master of the House?" It wasn't appropriately crass, it was just plain dumb and offensive.

Now - to the on-stage performers.

ValJean - Amazing!  I knew when Peter Lockyer sang the Soliloquy that this was a man who could nail it.  He could put in the emotion without sacrificing the musical quality. He had the ability to sing like Alfie Boe, but could let emotion come through like Hugh Jackman, but without losing the pitch or the sweetness.  I listened in serene ecstasy as Lockyer sang "Bring Him Home,"  it was perfect.  Well done sir!


Javert - Couldn't keep up with the tempo.  Andrew Varela sang well; he had the physical presence, but the songs were too fast for him.  He sounded rushed and like he couldn't enunciate well enough at that speed to make it work.  Noble effort - but poorly timed for his talent.

Fantine - Genevieve Leclerc's voice is amazing and she held her own acting.  There were a few awkward blocking moments, but she was convincing, and "I Dreamed a Dream" was felt rather than heard - which is exactly as it should be.  She let the emotion come through her, and I appreciated her sincerity.

Thenardier - Good, not great.  Timothy Gulan seemed like he remembered every few minutes that he was supposed to more evil, or more humorous.  The rest of the time he was going through the motions.

Madame Thenardier - This role has been defined for the last 2 decades by Jenny Galloway.  I have never seen anyone else come close - until Shawna Hamic.  Seriously?  That was incredible!  She is the embodiment of the character, from the book and the musical.  It was perfect, brash, funny, and at all times I thought "That's her! There is no acting, she has become the character."  Bravo Madame.  Bravo!

Cosette - Julie Benko did well.  She didn't stand out to me as good or bad, so I say well done.  If you aren't analyzed it means you played the roll so well the story just flowed on perfectly.


Marius - Devin Ilaw's voice was perfectly boyish and infatuated.  This will sound odd - but my only complaint was over enunciation.  He said and sang the words so exactly that it sounded odd, not like a young revolutionary with passion and abandon.  He had energy, and when he said "I'm doing everything all wrong" I cracked up - he did it perfectly.


Eponine:  Wow.  I've had trouble deciding who I liked better - Lea Salonga or Samantha Barks.  Well, Briana Carlson-Goodman just gave them a run for their money.  She sang "On My Own" with passion, grief, and sweetness.  Her death scene was perfect - sung in physical pain but emotional tranquility.  My only complaint was her blending - when singing with the Company or in the trio, she didn't blend well with the others.


Enjolras - Jason Forbach held his own.  That is a difficult role to sing and he did it better than Michael Maguire, but not as well as Ramin Karimloo. 

Young Cosette - Castle on a Cloud was stunning.  Well done Erin Cearlock.



Gavroche - Julian Silva was a perfect little Gamin.  He had the smiles, the winks, the great physicality and personality to make it all work.  He stood up to Javert and his last song was as heartbreaking as it could be.



Grantaire - This character finally had a memorable role when performed in the 25th Anniversary concert by Hadley Fraser.  This production had Joseph Spieldenner - he sang well, but missed a chance to make a name for himself. He was sadly, forgettable.

Overall Grade A-  

It was thoroughly enjoyable, but a few poor choices detracted from a wonderfully staged show.

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