by Canyon Crest Academy
Les Miserables, written by Victor Hugo, is one of the world's greatest masterpieces ever written. It is a tale of redemption, love, and sacrifice. It follows the story of Jean Valjean and his plight of redemption after stealing a loaf of bread for his starving family. Valjean is released from prison after a 19-year sentence, but breaks his parole to start a new life and become a better human being. However, he is not relieved of the relentless Inspector Javert who hunts fugitive Valjean down.
Les Miserables is the musical adaptation of the French Historical novel. Music by Claude-Michel Schonberg, original lyrics by Alain Boubill, with an English translation by Herbert Kretzmer.
The musical cuts a 1,463-page historical novel into a two-hour show. Of course we are on one fast ride through the life of Jean Valjean and those he touches---like riding a fast train and grasping every bit of scenery as it whips by.
Canyon Crest Academy's Les Miserables: Student Edition was directed by Amy Blatt and starred Cameron Chang as Jean Valjean, Mark Steiz as Javert, Samantha Tulle as Fantine, Steve Macario as Marius, Alison Norwood as Cosette and Jerrin Padre as Eponine.
On the evening I attended, the show was riddled with mic issues, which is truly unfortunate for these talented students. Mr. Chang has the vocals for Valjean and he deserves mention for his hard work in bringing this character to life. It is no easy task, and he does his best despite the mic woes which at times distorted his great vocals. His moment on stage for me was "Bring Him Home." It was tender, heartfelt, and perfect.
Mr. Steiz's performance as the obsessed Javert was solid in "Stars," and "Soliloquy-Javert's Suicide." I found his character believable. Macario's Marius conveyed a heartfelt loss of his comrades ("Empty Chairs and Empty Tables"). His voice was fitting for the role, and Miss Norwood played a charming Cosette.
The big standouts in this production for this reviewer were Fantine and Eponine. Occasionally, these particular roles are over-sung and over dramatized, but these two young ladies were exceptional. Miss Tulle's portrayal of a tragic Fantine was subtle, honest and poignant. At a young age she was able to convey her heartbreak unequivocally in "I Dreamed a Dream," to her undoing in "Lovely Ladies," and finally her death, "Come to Me." Nothing short of stellar vocals and acting on her part.
Miss Padres' interpretation was everything one would want in an Eponine, which is great acting, true emoting, and a fine belt voice. She gave me chills in "On My Own." She also had great command of the stage and she added depth to "A Heart Full of Love."
In Hugo's version our greedy innkeepers are dark and menacing characters, but in our musical version they are more caricatures of the comical fare. The Thenardiers in this production were played by Tyler Faison (Thenardier) and Grace Candon (Madame Thenardier), who were especially amusing in "The Bargain." Miss Candon was even more brassy in "Master of the House."
Our Enjolras Ben Sutton eagerly led the students and beggars in, "Do You Hear the People Sing?" and "Red and Black." And, for the first time I experienced Gavroche being portrayed by a female actress (Halle Hoffman). Miss Hoffman did an admirable job as the scruffy young lad in "Little People."
The ensemble in this show was massive and many times they would enter through the aisles of the theatre and filled the front of the stage. While I enjoyed this in some scenes, I would have also like to see more on stage presence in such numbers as "Do You Hear the People Sing?" It resembled a concert style show as opposed to a theatrical version.
I did enjoy "Turning" which was beautifully done, and the final scene where Valjean passes and reunites with Fantine and Eponine was visually gorgeous.
In closing, I commend the director for having her students read the novel to learn more about their characters, because it is the only way to truly appreciate the story and characters of Hugo's Les Miserables. For it is an epic tale of redemption, love, and sacrifice.
Performed March 20 - 29, 2014
D. Jacqueline Young
~ Cast ~
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