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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Les Misérables

Also see Susan's review of Next To Normal

In the years since Les Misérables premiered on Broadway in 1986, many of its visual images have become iconic: the constant motion of scenery on a double turntable; the wedge formation of rebels streaming toward the audience with an enormous red flag waving overhead; the poetically posed deaths of fighters on an elaborately constructed barricade. Director Eric Schaeffer's reconceived production of the musical at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, includes none of those familiar elements, but it's as moving and engrossing as ever.

This production brings together veterans of the pop opera by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, based on Victor Hugo's classic novel, with some of the Washington area's most noteworthy musical actors. Schaeffer is working with a 28-member cast and 14 musicians in the MAX black box theater space, which, in its current configuration, seats 280 people on three sides of the stage.

Les Miserables
"One Day More"

What this production loses in spectacle it gains in intimacy: the actors are face to face with the audience, extending the action beyond the boundaries of the stage. Walt Spangler's scenic design, supported by Mark Lanks' vivid lighting design, conjures a succession of scenes from a floor grate, an elevated platform, broken windows and ceiling panels, barricades that incorporate staircases and ladders and (rather mystifyingly) several chairs hoisted above the stage floor on pulleys.

Part of Schaeffer's vision is that the cast comprises a community; most of the performers play numerous roles. The standouts include Felicia Curry, who gives a heartrending performance as Eponine; Andrew Call, an intense, idealistic Marius, well matched with Stephanie Waters, a Cosette with both beauty and backbone; Tracy Lynn Olivera, a Fantine who fights to keep her dignity; and Sherri L. Edelen as the gleefully crass Madame Thénardier, who succeeds in stealing focus from Christopher Bloch as her equally larcenous husband.

The two lead actors are well matched. Greg Stone presents Jean Valjean as less brawny and more spiritual than many other actors, specifically in his ethereal rendition of "Bring Him Home," and Tom Zemon is a youthful Javert, sleek and manipulative.

Signature Theatre
Les Misérables
December 2nd, 2008 – January 25th, 2009
By Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg
Based on the novel by Victor Hugo
Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg
Lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer
Jean Valjean: Greg Stone
Javert: Tom Zemon
Farmer: Thomas Hunter Hedgpeth
Laborer: Matt Conner
Innkeeper: Russell Sunday
Innkeeper's Wife: Eleasha Gamble
Bishop of Digne: Aaron Reeder
Constables: James Gardiner, Adam Ethan Grabau
Factory Foreman: Thomas Adrian Simpson
Fantine: Tracy Lynn Olivera
Factory Girl: Weslie Woodley
Factory Workers: Felicia Curry, Sherri L. Edelen, Stephanie Waters, Eleasha Gamble, Channez McQuay, Amy McWilliams, Hannah Willman, Weslie Woodley
Sailors: Thomas Hunter Hedgpeth, Sam Ludwig, Stephen Gregory Smith
Pimp: Matt Conner
Madame: Amy McWilliams
Whores: Felicia Curry, Stephanie Waters, Hannah Willman, Weslie Woodley
Old Woman: Eleasha Gamble
Crone: Channez McQuay
Bamatabois: Adam Ethan Grabau
Fauchelevant: Kurt Boehm
Young Cosette: Rachel Boyd or Anna Nowalk
Monsieur Thénardier: Christopher Bloch
Madame Thénardier: Sherri L. Edelen
Young Eponine: Elizabeth Rader or Avery Watkins
Old Beggar Woman: Eleasha Gamble
Madeleine: Weslie Woodley
Gavroche: AJ Breivik or Jordi Parry
Eponine: Felicia Curry
Cosette: Stephanie Waters
Majordomo: Russell Sunday
Thénardier's Gang:
Montparnasse: Matt Conner
Babet: James Gardiner
Brujon: Russell Sunday
Claquesous: Kurt Boehm
Students:
Enjolras: Chris Sizemore
Marius: Andrew Call
Combeferre: Thomas Adrian Simpson
Feuilly: Sam Ludwig
Courfeyrac: Michael Grew
Joly: Stephen Gregory Smith
Grantaire: Adam Ethan Grabau
Lesgles: Aaron Reeder
Jean Prouvaire: Thomas Hunter Hedgpeth
Directed by Eric Schaeffer
Musical staging by Karma Camp
Music direction by Jon Kalbfleisch
MAX Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave.
Arlington, VA 22206
Ticket Information: 703-820-9771 or 1-800-955-5566 or www.signature-theatre.org


Photo: Scott Suchman


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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