The Miserable Ones Rise High
Also see Dean's review of Jerome Bixby's The Man from Earth
This is a big production. The cast is nearly 30. The production staff and crew is even larger. I saw the touring production at Popejoy a few years ago, and I saw it on Broadway in the 1990s. They were both giant productions. I expected a trimmed-down version at the Albuquerque Little Theatre. Instead, they went all out. This Les Misérables is big, loud, deep and dark, just as it should be.
In many ways, Les Misérables shares more with opera than the typical Broadway musical. All words are in song, and you never know who's going to die. The story follows Jean Valjean who has just emerged from prison where he spent 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's child, and for trying to escape. He breaks parole to begin a new life, but he is dogged by Inspector Javert. Meanwhile, a revolution raises its bloody visage, plus a number of others things go wrong. The story is, in the words of Elbert Hubbard, "Just one damn thing after another."
Even if you can manage the heavy spectacle of Les Misérables, you still have to get quite a number of other things right. You need strong singers in all of the main roles. You need tight pacing, you need to move all of those cast members around on the stage with dexterity, you need to be able to move big heavy sets as though they're balsa wood, and you need a bunch of kids who can sing and act at the same time.
Kevin Richard Fannin does an excellent job with Jean Valjean. Other strong performances include all of the main roles: Paul Bower as Javert, Shaena Crespo as Fantine, Sasha Brigman as Young Cosette, Karliz De Marco as the grown Cosette, and John Gallegos as Marius. The rest of the cast is also wonderful, but the major roles are quite demanding and they are carried off wonderfully.
Choreography by Jessica Quindlen is terrific, likewise Lina Ramos' musical direction. These folks receive plenty of support from cast and crew too numerous to mention. The true star of this ambitious feat is Henry Avery. He makes this mammoth job look easy.
ALT has been on quite a roll in recent years. The theatre has done excellent work with some Broadway heavyweights such as Cats and Cabaret as well as solid dramas like To Kill and Mockingbird and It's a Wonderful Life. Les Misérables, though, tops them all.
Les Misérables will run at Albuquerque Little Theatre, 224 San Pasquale SW, through June 15, 2014. The show starts at 7:30 pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2:00 pm on Sundays. There will be a special performance at 7:30 pm on Thursday, June 5. Tickets are $24 for adults, $21 for seniors (65 and above), $18 for students (13 and above), and $12 for children (12 and under). You can buy tickets online at albuquerquelittletheatre.org or by phone at 242-4750, ext. 2.