It’s considered one of the greatest musicals ever written,
and Justin-Siena High School’s director, Matthew Teague Miller, knows it
well. He was in the national tour for three years, part of that time playing
Marius (opposite a Cosette that would eventually become his real-life wife).
And his insight is brought to bear on this impressive high school production.
It doesn’t hurt having some good talent, with Justin-Siena
High School having more than its fair share of remarkable vocalists. That
includes Nick Bellomy as Jean Valjean – the center of Victor Hugo’s
classic story – a man who spent twenty years in a French chain gang for
stealing a loaf of bread, and who finds life as an ex-con equally difficult.
Thanks to the kindness of a bishop, Valjean gets another chance, builds another
identity, but is always haunted by his past and the tenacious Inspector Javert.
Nick not only delivers on the extremely demanding vocals, including his
beautiful prayer Bring Him Home, he actually looks the part of a man who
is known for his strength after working twenty years in the chain gang.
The tenacious Inspector Javert is a stunning vocalist as
well, with Greg Zobel portraying an angrily determined inspector
obsessed with Valjean, his doggedly rigid self-righteousness consuming him and
his belief in a world that can only be black and white, Greg’s operatic singing
driving home his message with zealous passion whether in prayer or in hatred.
And then there’s Alexzandra Owner as Fantine, a single mother struggling
to scrounge enough money to send to the people taking care of her daughter
Cosette. Alexzandra is not your ordinary Fantine who mostly plays the victim.
She starts out as a proud, strong, and defiant woman, making her slow defeat
all the more dramatic, and her excellent vocals make for a great rendition of I
Dreamed a Dream.
Years later, the intersection of three younger lives drives
the story. An adult Cosette raised by Jean Valjean as his own, a young and
idealistic student named Marius who falls in love with Cosette, and the girl
named Eponine whose love for Marius has gone unrequited – a girl that once grew
up with Cosette. The love-at-first-sight couple of Marius and Cosette is
generally the weak point of this musical, an undeveloped relationship of two
relatively uninteresting characters. Not so in this production. Not only are
these the roles that the director and his wife performed together in the
national tour, but this production also has Robert Francis and Bridget
Huston in the roles – the Tony and Maria from Justin-Siena’s earlier
production of West Side Story. They’ve carried their chemistry over to
these roles, with both riding emotional waves of anxiety, giddiness, and
deep-felt affection. Chelsea Holifield stars as Eponine, the street-wise
girl who is head-over-heels for Marius, a man who considers her just a friend.
Chelsea is always deep within her character, her love for Marius apparent in
her touching solo On My Own and in every subtle movement, even after
But it’s not all heavy tragedy. For some comedy, we have
Thenardier and his wife, the “Masters of the House” who are the sleazy parents
of Eponine and the innkeepers paid to raise Cosette. Jeffrey Gerlomes is
Thenardier, a natural comedian who gets a little uncomfortable and embarrassed
when his wife (the hilariously greedy and uncouth Fiona Barbour) roasts
him in front of the guests (but by the time she’s done, he’s sticking his butt
out for the guests to raise their glass up the master’s ass). The two make a
great team as they haggle to sell Cosette, make a splash as wedding crashers,
and act as not-so-honest innkeepers.
The rest of the cast includes good performances by a
spry young Gavroche, a sweetly emotional Young Cosette, and a very serious
leader of the student uprising (Eric Quast), as well as the ensemble.
Even when all the lights unexpectedly blinked out. When the glitch was fixed a
few minutes later, they started back up fully in the moment. Speaking of
lights, Tom Durante’s lighting design was top-notch, getting the show
off to a cool start with the chain gang seen as silhouettes until the song
calls for the sun arising, bringing the light of dawn to the prisoners. The
ensemble of prisoners, lovely ladies, and the students willing to fight for the
right to be free end each act on inspiring notes.
April 24 - May 2, 2009
National Youth Theatre
~ Cast ~
Jean Valjean: Nick Bellomy
Javert: Greg Zobel
Fantine: Alexzandra Owner
Eponine: Chelsea Holifield
Cosette: Bridget Huston
Marius: Robert Francis
Enjolras: Eric Quast
Thenardier: Jeffrey Gerlomes
Mdm. Thenardier: Fiona Barbour
Bishop: Mark Marden
The Factory Girl: ?
Factory Foreman: ?
Mary Kate Francis
Old Woman: ?
Pimp: Jose Balsuto
Babatabois: Reese Onante
Fauchelevant: Mark Marden
~ The ABC Society ~
Combferre: Reid Francis
Courfeyrac: William Perdue
Feully: Reese Onante
Jean Prouvaire: Mark Marden
Joly: Mike Starr
~ Thenardier's Gang ~
Babet: Jose Balsuto
Brujon: Andrea Casasco
Montparnase: Caleb Heine
Mary Kate Francis
Director: Matthew Teague Miller
Lighting Design: Tom Durante
Set Design: Matthew Teague Miller
Sound Design: Sound Expressions
Costume Design: Olivia Mason
Children's Directors: Chelsea Holifield and Robert Francis
Dramaturg: Jessica Jackson
Music Director: Myles Ellis