Whether on Broadway, in West End, or on any number of internationally recognized stages, Les Misérables, is one of the most visually stunning and vocally demanding spectacles in modern theatre. Even professional companies have attempted the difficult score and have failed or at best delivered only mediocre productions. So for a youth theatre to mount a fully staged production of this show takes a lot of daring and a more-than-dedicated cast of teens and pre-teens.

Luckily, California Youth Conservatory Theatre had both daring and a committed ensemble. In their recent production of Schonberg & Kretzmer’s adaption of Victor Hugo’s classic novel, CYC brought together an amazing ensemble coupled with energetic and devoted principals to create a truly enjoyable and thought-provoking evening.

According to their Press Release, CYC had two different casts for this production. On the night that I was able to see the production, the senior cast was performing. The senior cast consisted of primarily older, or more experienced, students in the leading roles while still allowing some of the junior students their chance to shine in smaller roles or in the ensemble itself. For a review of one of the junior cast performances, check out Sylvia Bendelstein’s review from earlier this month.

Without a doubt, two of the most engaging performances in the show came from Samantha Vesco and Joshua Pinkowski as Mrs. & Mr. Thénardier. Of course, the roles of the Thénardiers are so well written, it is difficult to go wrong with them, but Vesco and Pinkowski played them with watchful attention to physicality and excellent comedic timing. By far, one of the most amusing moments of the night came as Mrs. Thénardier tried to escape the wedding party with a few pieces of silver in tow only to have them fall from the folds of her dress and bring the party to a crashing halt.

One of the toughest challenges in youth theatre is for two actors to construct a believable romance onstage. However, Austin DeBeikes and Marisa Novak did that as Marius and Cosette. DeBeikes’ delivery was gentle, touching, and yet strong and masculine. Novak played Cosette as demure, humble, and ready to love and be loved. From the time the two characters first met on stage until the final moment when DeBeikes’ held Cosette in an embrace after her father’s death, the connection between the two actors held the audience’s trust and attention.

One of the more energetic performances of the evening came from young Aaron Acosta. His dynamism was exciting to watch, and it was unfortunate that due to an accident during the first act, Aaron had to sit out the second act. Fortunately, the actor who took over for Aaron was just as much of a pro. Reed Lievers sang “Little People” with all the strength and determination of a mouse standing up to a lion, and one could feel the heavy air when Gavroche met his ultimate end on the barricade.

Finally, as Javert, Morgan Hollingsworth offered a pitch-perfect performance, imbibing the staunch law man with stoicism and a strict moral compass which he used to judge himself and those around him. As Hollingsworth took you on Javert’s journey chasing Valjean, the one that “got away,” you might have found yourself swaying in Javert’s favor, hoping he would get his way. But at the moment when a flash of moral ambiguity forces Javert to rethink his entire world view, Hollingsworth delivered a breathtaking rendition of “Stars,” and released the spirit of Javert to the open heavens around him to be judged himself.

A review of this senior cast performance would not be complete without mentioning two of CYC’s Associate Artists. Performing as Fantine, Meg Sprink’s beautiful voice melted the hearts of anyone within earshot from the very first note, and the transformation that her character had to go through during the first thirty minutes of the play was handled with true professionalism and dedication. Also, Dirk Stenger’s performance as Valjean was wonderful to listen to. At time, his face and body language belied the truth and veracity of the words, but that was more than made up for in the quality of his voice. “God on High,” was a high point in the show.

Shaun T. Evans, CYC’s Artistic Director and the director of this production, should be very proud of the work that he has put on stage this time. 80s Pop Opera is not an easy task. And kudos also, to the man behind the vocal talent, the choral director Ed Hollingsworth. Lastly, Tom Curtright deserves mention for his Broadway-inspired sets and the ever-famous Les Mis icon, the turntable. Although there were times when the turntable was underutilized as a set change facilitator or as a way of actually driving the plot forward, the moments when the turntable was used were spectacular to watch.

~Performed February 14-March 1, 2009~

By Walter Allen
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

Jean Valjean: Dirk Stenger
Javert: Robbie Freidman, Morgan Hollingsworth
Joshua Pinowski
Miranda Nuevo
Daniel Myers/ Benjamin Munsan
Fantine: Meg Sprink
: Joshua Pinowski
Adam Burnier/Austin DeBeikes/Daniel Myers
Pimp, Fluchelevant:
Joshua Pinowski
Samy Achour
Kinsley Riley
Convict’s Wife:
Meeshi Malachowski
Young Cosette:
Ashleigh Craig, Brielle Mussomeli, Sophia Williams
Madame Thenardier:
Marisa Acosta, Samantha Vesco
Young Eponine:
Ana Garett
Thenardier: Joshua Pinkowski
Alexis Rae Tenney, Aaron Acosta, Reed Lievers
Danielle Van Orden, SaraCarr, Gabrielle Gutierrez, Chelsea Huntly-Payle
Adam Burnier
Austin Myers, Austin DeBeikes, Daniel Myers
Rebecca Myers,Marisa Novak
Marisa Acosta, Adam Burnier, Josh Guicherit, Richie Hicks, Benjamin Munson, Miranda Nuvo, Rob Simsiman:
Sammy Achour, Richie Hicks, Benjamin Munson, Rob Simsiman
Major Dom
o: Benjamin Munson
Chain Gang, Workers, Beggars, Lovely Ladies, Bar Patrons, Students, Urchins, Wedding Guests:
Aaron Acosta, Marisa Acosta, Samy Achour, Rachael Baum, Marita Bos, Adam Burnier, Blair Cannon, Sara Carr, Ashleigh Craig, Trevor Craig, Rachael Cunningham, Austin DeBeikes, Robbie Friedman, Josh Guicherit, Ana Garrett, Gabrielle Gutierrez, Brianna Hansen, Richard Hicks, Chelsea Huntley-Playle, Thomas Jenson, Taylor Kamps, Reed Lievers, Meeshi Malachowski, Jonas McMullen, Benjamin Munson, Brielle Mussomeli, Daniel Myers, Rebecca Myers, Marisa Novak, Mirenda Nuevo, Richie  O’Connell, Joshua Pinkowski, Kinsey Riley, Rob Simsiman, Alexis Rae Tenney, Claire Tipler, Danielle Van Orden, Nicholas Van Orden, Samantha Vesco, Logan Welsh and Sopia Williams



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