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Les Misérables

Les Miserables

St. Louis MUNY
St. Louis, MO
August 6-15, 2007

By Alain Boublil & Claude-Michel Schönberg
Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg
Lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer
Directed by Fred Hanson
Music Direction by Dan Riddle

Cast

Ivan Rutherford as Jean Valjean; Jeff McCarthy as Javert; Robert Earl Gleason as Farmer; Damien Brett as Labourer; Mary Catherine McDonald as Innkeeper’s Wife; Michael McKeenan as Innkeeper; Tom O’Brien as The Bishop of Digne; Andrew Arrington, Michael Burton and Max Quinlan as the Constables; Simone as Fantine; Sean Montgomery as the Foreman; Samia Mounts as Factory Girl; Sara Sheperd as the Old Woman; Meggie Cansler as Crone; Robert Earl Gleason as Bamatabois; Justin Scott Brown as Fauchelevent; Damien Brett as Man on Trial; Olivia Jane Prosser as Young Cosette; Lisa Howard as Madame Thenardier; Ken Page as Thenardier; Jorden Blair as Young Eponine; Jimmy McEvoy as Gavroche; Kari Ely as Old Beggar Woman; Ruth Pferdehirt as Young Prostitute; Diana Kaarina as Eponine; Sean Montgomery as Montparnasse; Michael McKeenan as Babet; Damien Brett as Brujon; Andrew Arrington as Claquesous; Manu Narayan as Enjolras; Kevin Kern as Marius; Leah Horowitz as Cosette; Michael Burton as Feuilly; Preston Truman Boyd as Grantaire; Tom O’Brien as Loud Hailer; and Kent Overshown as Major Domo.

The ensemble comprises Cody LaShea Aaron, Andrew Arrington, Etai BenShlomo, Jesse Bernath, Karin Berutti, Preston Truman Boyd, Damien Brett, Justin Scott Brown, Michael Burton, Meggie Cansler, Nick Cosgrove, Kari Ely, Robert Earl Gleason, Lynn Humphrey, Julie Kavanagh, Michael Lowney, Mary Catherine McDonald, Michael McKeenan, Sean Montgomery, Samia Mounts, Tom O’Brien, Kent Overshown, Ruth Pferdehirt, Max Quinlan, Sara Sheperd, Kendal Sparks and Jeanne Trevor.

Review

Les Misérables, the musical based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel, has come at last to the Muny, a stage big enough for its enduring themes, its melodic largesse, and its gigantic cast.

It’s the show of the summer.

Director Fred Hanson and music director Dan Riddle establish a compelling rhythm that drives Hugo’s story of justice and mercy to its sad, yet uplifting, conclusion. Of course, they had a lot of talent to help them, both onstage and in the orchestra pit. And everybody’s in top form.

Hanson creates dramatic counterpoint by showcasing spectacular scenes on designer Michael Anania’s vivacious set against emotional “close-ups” with just one or two actors on stage. How often have we seen just one actor on the Muny stage? Almost never – and that stage is so big that we almost never want to.

Hanson, however, isn’t intimidated by bare spaces (or, for that matter, by crowded ones). His nerve pays off. At the Muny, Les Miz plays like church windows come to life: Key moments freeze.

When they do, we have a chance to assimilate the story and the characters. And what characters they are! The entire cast is superb, introducing us to Hugo’s fictional populace in nonstop, gorgeous song.

As Jean Valjean, who pays an enormous price for stealing a loaf of bread, Ivan Rutherford sings and acts with potent tenderness. His delivery of “Bring Him Home” – one of several “prayer-songs” that Les Miz creators Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg wrote for the show – is heartwrenching, especially now, with our country at war.

Jeff McCarthy is stunning as Inspector Javert, relentlessly pursuing Jean Valjean. He nearly stops the first act with his solo, “Stars;” the actual stars overhead give the song an extra dimension of pathos.

Kevin Kern makes an unforgettable Marius, irresistibly lithe and intense. No wonder both angelic Cosette (Leah Horowitz) and elfin Eponine (Diana Kaarina ) fall for him. Simone is exquisite as Fantine, Cosette’s unmarried mother, a woman who endures one humiliation after another to protect her child.

Ken Page has never been better than he is as the venal innkeeper Thenardier, and he finds a deliciously vile partner in Lisa Howard, playing his wife. Manu Narayan is eloquent as Marius’s friend Enjolras, leader of the student revolutionaries, waving the dreamy red banner of anger at injustice.

In fact, Les Miz is packed with performers whose work soars: Jimmy McEvoy as tough little Gavroche, Tom O’Brien as an insightful priest, Preston Truman Boyd as a revolutionary gallant, Samia Mounts as a “mean girl” eager to destroy Fantine, Olivia Jane Prosser as an abused child dreaming of her “castle in the clouds.”

Some of these roles are quite small. Maybe Hanson inspired the whole ensemble and the designer, who had to adapt to a theater with no ceiling (or fly space, to hang things from) for this production. Or maybe Victor Hugo did. Or maybe it goes deeper.

The Muny sometimes presents shows with religious subjects, like Jesus Christ Superstar or Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. But Les Misérables, with its theme of redemption, may be the most spiritual show to have played here in a long time. It’s an impressive conclusion to the Muny’s 2007 season: serious, smart and beautifully performed.

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