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Exceptional cast, tragic plot fuel 'Les Miserables'

With an amazing musical adaption of Victor Hugo’s literary masterpiece, Les Miserables, a heart-wrenching tale of romantic entanglements amidst a war-torn French village is brought to life on stage. Children’s Musical Theatreworks (CMT) delivered this impressive performance, Aug. 5-13.

In the world of Les Miserables, the year is 1832. Paris is experiencing a series of political uprisings, rendering the Parisians impoverished and desperate. Jean Valjean (Miguel Molinar), immediately evokes the audience’s sympathy when he is imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread.

Upon his release, he is caught robbing a bishop. Graciously, the bishop decides not to press charges against Jean Valjean, but urges him to give his life to God and turn from his deceitful ways. The bishop’s advice is heeded and Valjean, now a devout Christian, eventually becomes mayor of the small French town he resides in.

When a young factory worker, Fantine (Kelsey Sutton), is discovered to be pregnant, she is fired from her job. After giving birth to a beautiful little girl, Cosette (Amber Lewis), the jobless Fantine is forced to turn to prostitution lest they become destitute.

The Thenardiers, a pair of conniving inn-keepers, agree to take in Cosette and raise her with their own daughter of a similar age, Eponine (Catriona Fray). The Thenardiers abuse Cosette and demand increasingly large sums of money from Fantine to care the girl — though they often pocket the money themselves.

As Jean Valjean established the factory that used to employ Fantine, he is made aware of her plight and decides to rescue Cosette from her cruel guardians. The Thenardiers pretend Cosette is a valuable member of their household and trick Jean Valjean into paying a sizable price before agreeing to relinquish their claims on her.

Fantine grows very ill and in her last moments Jean Valjean vows to put all of his efforts toward raising and protecting Cosette. Her journey into adulthood is complicated by an ardent love affair with Marius (Trent Dahlin), a revolutionary who is plotting to overthrow the corrupt French government with a group of students in what is to be known as the June Rebellion. Their relationship is devastating to Eponine, who is secretly in love with Marius and dislikes Cosette.

I must admit that I was a bit skeptical when I heard of CMT’s plan to produce Les Miserables. The plot is tragic and requires very talented actors to properly create and convey an emotional connection with the audience. The show’s success also relies heavily on performing many challenging musical numbers. I had heard many accounts of how incredible the musicality and plot of this somber classic are and I enjoyed CMT’s rendition immensely as, overall, their performance was excellent.

Molinar’s portrayal of Jean Valjean was exquisite. His angelic voice carried a combination of vulnerability and quiet strength that made his role relatable and broke listeners’ hearts.

Lewis and Fray delivered equally impressive performances. They possess a delicate grace that gave their characters a sense of believability. Vocally, these female leads excelled technically and in their attempts to connect emotionally to the audience.

Thenardier (Jordan Laemmlen) and Madame Thenardier (Megan Rupe) were by far my favorite characters. The pair’s fantastic voices and ability to remain in character while singing impressed me. The combination of their movements, manners of speaking and exaggerated facial expressions created wonderfully peculiar personalities, capturing the heart of each viewer. Although they were a villainous couple, their lines were delivered with humor, lessening the severity of their deceitful ways.

The set and props were elaborate, and included multi-story buildings which gave each scene a believable and appropriate atmosphere. The costumes were beautifully done and the ensemble underwent multiple clothing changes.

My only critical note is that it was occasionally difficult for me to understand the actors while they were singing or speaking, so I had slight trouble keeping up with the plot developments.

CMT’s collective talent and professionalism exceeded my expectations. This was my first viewing of one of their productions and I look forward to the privilege of attending their future musicals.

CMT is currently performing Camp Rock, Aug. 19-27.

For more drama reviews, read the March 25 article, Young actors shine in ‘The Little Mermaid, Jr.’

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    Kristen RosenthalNov 18, 2011 at 12:01 am

    Gourd burning is such a fun activity. and my gourd is now a duck.