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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Les Miserables Returns to
San Francisco for a Fourth Time


Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg's Les Miserables have returned to the Curran Theatre for a limited five week engagement before the company takes it overseas to Shanghai, China and Seoul, Korea. This production will have the distinction of being the first Broadway musical to play in China. The musical has been seen by over one million people in the Bay Area since its first appearance in October 1989 when it played the Curran for over a year with nightly sold out performances. The musical returned in October 1992, and again in June 2000.

This is my sixth viewing of the classic musical, starting with the original production at the Barbican Theatre in London on October 16, 1985, then again the following year when it moved to the Palace Theater in the West End. Further productions in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco were seen over the next few years. This touring company is not the typical "bus and truck" show. It is a full scale production and Mr. Mackintosh has not scrimped on the cast or the spectacular sets. I found the opening night presentation on Thursday as good as any previous company. It is still fresh and exciting. The ensemble cast is incredible. The choral work is superb. There are so many splendid performances that it is difficult to recognize all of their contributions.

Randal Keith has an amazing voice as the burley Jean Valjean. His crystal clear tenor voice breaks with passion when he sings "Bring Him Home." Javert, played by Joseph Maholwald, is a wonderful adversary for Valjean, with a grand voice to match. He commands attention every time he is on stage. Stephen Brian Patterson and Stephanie Waters as the young lovers, Cosette and Marius, are effective. However, the chemistry between them is not as warm as one could wish. The duet proclaiming their love, "A Heart Full of Love," is beautifully sung, but Ms. Waters' abilities are a little stiff. The tragically lovesick Eponine is played by Ma-Anna Dionisoio. Her signature song "On My Own" is highly passionate. Christopher Mark Peterson as Enjolras has a clear and truthful command of his character. His rendition of "Do You Hear the People Sing?" is very rousing.

J.P. Dougherty as Thenardier and his comic wife, played by Anne Bueltemann, are hilarious in the upbeat and vigorous "Master of the House." They are also amusing in the number "Beggers at the Feast" in the second act. They seem a little over the top in the comedy department, but their performance is enjoyable.

Conductor Larry Pressgrove deftly handles the fiendishly tricky score with a great orchestra. The lighting is beautifully dramatic and everything works like clockwork. This musical is perfect for the Curran Theatre the size of the house matches the size of the show. Les Miserables plays through June 14, at the Curran Theater. Tickets can be obtained at the Curran box office at 445 Geary Ave., the Orpheum Theatre box office at 1192 Market Street, at ticketmaster ticket centers or ticketmaster.com. Call Ticketmaster at (415)512-7770 For more information see www.bestofbroadway-sf.com.

Coming next to the Curran is the 20th Anniversary production of Greater Tuna on July 23. Also opening on that date is South Pacific with Robert Goulet, at the Golden Gate Theatre.


Cheers - and be sure to check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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