Regional Reviews: Seattle
Les Misérables at Village Theatre Delivers the Goods
As I have vowed a moratorium on seeing this staple of the modern musical theatre for the foreseeable future, it is on a positive note at least. The expert direction by Steve Tomkins and his assistant director Kathryn VanMeter keeps the by now overly familiar tale of the tenacious pursuit of the compassionate but unfortunate Jean Valjean by dogged police inspector Javert from 1815- 1832 in revolution-torn France as riveting as it is. A well-nigh perfect cast and the best Village orchestra ever (under the expert musical direction of R.J. Tancioco) make the people sing with extra power and passion in this production.
Greg Stone, once the youngest Jean Valjean ever, starting as a Broadway understudy in the late '90s and touring in the role at age 28, now has not only the soaring vocal expertise but the dramatic heft and life experience to triumph unequivocally in the role, and deliver all one could ask in his rendition of "Bring Him Home." Matching him in the tricky role of Javert is Eric Polani Jensen, who manages to mine the humanity of the unsympathetic antagonist with uncommon skill, and make a deserved heart-wrenching showpiece of his big number "Stars." Beth DeVries also hits a high watermark with her detailed and evolving portrayal of Fantine's descent into fallen womanhood. Her "I Dreamed A Dream" is a marvelous dramatic turn, and not just a showy musical showpiece.
Kirsten deLohr Helland scores with an Eponine whose rough and tumble façade cannot conceal her heartbreaking yearning for Matthew Kacergis' heroic Marius, and her "On My Own" shimmers. Kacergis is aptly teamed with Alexandra Zorn's porcelain faced yet uncloying Cosette, and Steve Czarnecki impresses as the doomed freedom fighter Enjolras. Nick deSantis and Kate Jaeger make a fine if somewhat understated pair of comic-relief villains as the Thenardiers, and Josh Feinsilber really stands out as the insolent street urchin Gavroche. With the likes of John Dewar, Mary Jo DuGaw, Jadd Davis, Adam Somers, Rachel Wilkie and Jon Lutyens fleshing out the smaller roles, the production keeps firing on all burners.
Scott Fyfe's set (yes, with a turntable) and Tom Sturge's lighting are as fine as any Village production in memory, and Cynthia Savage's costume design is likewise notable. Brent Warwick's sound design ensures the familiar lyrics are never engulfed by the rich orchestra.
Audiences still flock to see Les Misérables live on stage. What they get at this production is a far better sung and impressively acted version than they got at the movie houses this time last year.
Les Misérables runs through January 5, 2014, at Village Theatre, 303 Front Street North in Issaquah, WA and January 10-Feb 2, 2014 at Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Avenue Everett, WA. For tickets and other information go to www.villagetheatre.org.
- David Edward Hughes