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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 15 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 46
Les Miz done right - For longtime fans and first-timers alike, Village's version is a must
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Les Miz done right - For longtime fans and first-timers alike, Village's version is a must

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

LES MISÉRABLES
VILLAGE THEATRE
Through January 5 (Issaquah)
January 10 - February 2 (Everett)


This production is Village Theatre at its best. Les Misérables feels like it has a giant engine under it, starting with the feeling of a large, powerful orchestra (led by fearless leader R.J. Tancioco), and two talented and powerful men: Greg Stone and Eric Polani Jensen, as Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert, respectively. Combine that with a set that seems massive (by genius Scott Fyfe) and you have the makings of a serious 'event' here.

Director Steve Tomkins has the terrific talent in the cast take their time as they feel the emotions they are singing about, adding just a few minutes to a long musical but giving the audience the clarity they need to understand the complicated actions, particularly in the first few minutes. If you have never seen Les Misérables on stage, this would be an excellent version to choose.

When Stone and Jensen sing together, their voices join in glorious harmony. Together with expectedly solid performances from Nick DeSantis and Kate Jaegar in the usual scene-stealing roles of the Thenardiers, along with well-played lovers Marius and Cosette (Matthew Kacergis and Alexandra Zorn), a plucky Eponine (Kirsten deLohr Helland), a tortured Fantine (Beth DeVries), and a powerful rebel leader (Steve Czarnecki), the ensemble delivers a robust performance.

A CLASSIC TALE
For those who are new to the famous Victor Hugo novel and the musical it spawned, Jean Valjean steals some bread and ends up a French prisoner for 19 years. Upon his release, he is dogged almost maliciously by Inspector Javert. After stealing some silver from a bishop but gaining reprieve to become a better man, time jumps forward as Valjean becomes mayor and a prosperous businessman.

A factory girl, Fantine, is thrown out of his factory due to jealousy. When Valjean finds her sick and dying and realizes his part in her downfall, he pledges to take in her daughter, Cosette, from the horrid couple, the Thenardiers, she is boarded with. Time jumps again to a mini-Parisian revolution in 1832. Cosette meets young Marius, a student involved in the uprising, and Valjean endeavors to save him so they can be together. As Valjean comes to the end of his days, the musical promises that Cosette and Marius will have a happy life together.

The technical support on this show is top-notch, from the beautiful costumes by Cynthia Savage (including the horrendous, outrageous, wonderful costumes on the Thenardiers at the end), to the complex lighting of Tom Sturge and sound engineering from Brent Warwick. Kudos, also, to Douglas Decker, for some great wigs. But the set is another character in the play, as it morphs again and again, using the (enviable) turntable to great effect, and it takes split-second stage management to make it all work. Kathryn Van Meter is listed as assistant director, but she also clearly supported movement as the many actors mimed and circulated on the stage.

Are there a few moments that don't work quite so terrifically? Well, sure, Javert's death is not necessarily pulled off so well, and Eponine's death scene is a little too energetic. But who cares? It ends up being the scope and energy of the production that pulls everything along into sublime territory. Get off your duff, drive out to Issaquah or Everett, and see this thing! For more information, go to www.villagetheatre.org or call (425) 392-2202.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com or go to www.facebook.com/SeattleTheaterWriters.

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