Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Also see John's review of The Crucible
Set in 19th century France, the story of Les Misérables starts in the year of Napoleon's final defeat and follows the lives of its main characters over a twenty-year period. The story culminates in the Paris Uprising of 1832, often mistaken for the much earlier French Revolution which ended in 1799. The plot focuses on the struggles of the main character, ex-convict Jean Valjean, as he seeks to redeem himself from his past mistakes. It examines the impact of Valjean's actions, and the nature of good, evil and the law. It is certainly a profound commentary on the climate of the French political and social systems of the time and an insightful look at romantic, familial and altruistic love. In addition to this musical adaptation which stays mostly true to the original book, there have been more than 40 film adaptations of Victor Hugo's "Les Misérables."
The original French production of the musical opened in Paris in September of 1980 at the Palais des Sports. Though it was an instant hit with French audiences, it was forced to close after the booking contract expired. The first production in English opened in London on October 8, 1985 at the Barbican Arts Centre. On December 4, 1985 it transferred to the Palace Theatre, and then on April 3, 2004 moved to the Queen's Theatre where it is still playing. The U.S. production opened on Broadway on March 12, 1987 at the Broadway Theatre. It was nominated for twelve Tony Awards, winning eight, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. On October 10, 1990 it moved to the Imperial Theatre where it closed on May 18, 2003 after 6,680 performances. The Broadway revival opened on November 9, 2006 at the Broadhurst Theatre, closing on January 6, 2008 after 496 performances.
This Actors' Playhouse production of Les Misérables surpasses expectations. Magnificently sung and staged, the show is South Florida theatre at its best. It is wonderfully carried by David Michael Felty as Jean Valjean. Combined with admirable singing and acting talent, he embodies the role with passion and heart. "Bring Him Home" is rarely so beautifully sung. He is well paired with Trent Blanton as Valjean's adversary Javert. Blanton's "Soliloquy" stands as one of the show's best moments.
Among such solid performances, many stand out, but still a few need examining. Nikka Wahl as Cosette allows her singing voice to be a bit too trilly, and has the tendency to sing sharp. Christopher Hudson Myers seems awfully perky as Marius, and his vocal placement has a tinny timbre that is more pop-Broadway than it should be for the style of the show. A young Cruz Santiago shines with promising talent as Gavroche. A lovely Melissa Minyard is heartbreaking as Fantine, singing "I Dreamed a Dream." Gwen Hollander is winning as the waifish Eponine on "On My Own." Both Gary Marachek and Margot Moreland are deliciously lewd as the comical M. & Mme. Thenardier. "Master of the House" is understandably an audience favorite. In such a winning show, all that is missing is a better executed, more detailed set to give the production and its audience all that it deserves. Bravo!
Les Misérables will be appearing through April 5, 2009 at the Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre. Actors' Playhouse is a Florida Presenting Cultural Organization and a nonprofit professional regional theatre hiring local and non-local Equity and non-Equity actors. In addition to its Mainstage season, Actors' Playhouse produces a year-round five-show season of Musical Theatre for Young Audiences, a National Children's Theatre Festival, and a Theatre Conservatory and Summer Camp Program. Actors' Playhouse is located at 280 Miracle Mile in Coral Gables, Florida. Information and tickets may be obtained by contacting the theater at their box office at (305) 444-9293, or online at www.actorsplayhouse.org.
Lighting Design: Patrick Tennent
Sound Design: Alexander Herrin
Costume Design: Colleen Grady
Production Stage Manager: Carl Waisanen
*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage managers in the United States.