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Les Miserables (School Edition)
a Musical
CATEGORY : DRAMA MUSICAL
by Claude-Michel Schonberg (music), Alain Boubil and Jean-Marc Natel (lyrics), Based off of the novel by Victor Hugo

COMPANY : Cobb Children's Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Jennie T. Anderson Theatre-Cobb Civic Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 4103

SHOWING : August 19, 2011 - August 21, 2011

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

One of the longest running musicals in the world, Les Miserables (School Edition), comes to life at the Jennie T Anderson Theatre in the Cobb Civic Center Complex August 19-21 at 8pm each night. Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.cobbchildrenstheatre.org.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Ryan Karstensen
Music Director Jennifer Loudermilk
Choreographer Shannon Maiolo
Enjolras Claudio Pestana Aguiar
Cosette Samantha Blinn
Feiully/Bamatabois/Constable Anthony Brinkley
Foreman/Joly Dill Claxton
Gavroche Daniel Fobes
Combferre/Convict Connor Harrelson
Convict/Sailor/Graintaire Chandler Harrelson
Ensemble Alexis Mallis
Thenardier Ian Mallon
Ensemble/Swing Ashton McCranie
Fantine Ellen Mitchell
Eponine Mary Ellen Norwood
Ensemble Rachel Park
Convict/Student/Swing Zach Phelps
Ensemble Erica Pierno
Javert Marcus Rodriguez
Little Eponine/Ensemble Kelly Saltalamacchio
Marius Matthew Thornton
Madame Thenardier Stephanie N Ward
Ensemble Maggie Whitworth
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Do You Hear the Chorus Sing?
by Dedalus
Monday, September 26, 2011
4.0
“Les Misérables,” the 1980 Cameron Mackintosh / Boublil & Schönberg musical of the Victor Hugo classic has always been a particular favorite of mine. Although some of Hugo’s plot machinations have been whittled down to the point of clunkiness (the love triangle here appears especially contrived), these shortcomings have always been overwhelmed by the sheer emotional appeal of the music and singers. Throughout the eighties, I saw four productions, all following Mackintosh’s original grandiose staging, all pushing the emotional buttons that still get affected by just listening to the score. I even have three recordings – the Broadway Cast, the Symphonic “Complete Show,” and a hard-to-find tape of the original French production.

A little while back, a new touring company with a fresh interpretation marched through the Fox, and I wrote a giddy rave, extolling its fresh ideas and familiar plot and emotional arc. It was with equally giddy anticipation that I haled to the Cobb Civic Center’s Jennie T. Anderson Theatre for Cobb Children’s Theatre’s summer stock mounting of the school edition.

Now, I’m often skeptical of “Junior” versions of shows, even those adapted and supported by the show’s original creators. I find them condescending to young adults and overly distracting if you know the original well. I stand by that preconception here, even though the only “edit” I noticed (besides a few dozen internal tweaks) was the elimination of the “Castle on a Cloud” reprise, (only because that number, with its lovely counter-melody by Valjean, is one of my favorite musical moments of the original). That’s either a tribute to those who cut the show down, or to the young performers here, who bring a level of commitment and skill that would make a more traditional cast envious.

Before talking about this particular staging, let me recap the libretto and music for those whose memory may be as spotty as my own. The plot condenses Victor Hugo’s sprawling epic into a concise sung-through entertainment, sacrificing some plot credibility for an emotional through-line that carries us on a life-long journey with its hero, Jean Valjean. As a young man, Valjean stole a loaf of bread to feed his starving family, and, as a result, spent nineteen years as a slave in the French penal system. Upon parole, a small-town priest “buys his soul” with a few pieces of stolen silver. Valjean creates a new identity and eventually becomes mayor of a small town. Through a series of unfortunate incidents, his identity is revealed to Javert, an officer of the law who has made Valjean his personal obsession. Valjean escapes and raises an orphan girl, Cosette. Eventually, the years lead them to Paris where a sudden student uprising captures them all in a web of love and duty and honor. The epilog takes us through Cosette’s wedding and the peaceful end of Valjean’s long and painful journey.

For the purposes of this production, a few indulgences need to be asked of the audience. There were the usual shaky spotlights and shakier set pieces. And, because CCT summer stock shows are open only to middle school, high school, and college students, the really “young” roles (Young Cosette, Young Eponine, and Gavroche) are necessarily too old … well, too tall … to be fully convincing in the roles. In this case, however, they are played so well, that it’s a problem easily overlooked (except in “One Day More,” when the gangly Gavroche looks decidedly awkward perched on the shoulders of an older actor of similar height).

However, an indulgence more difficult to give, was the over-reliance on over-amplification. All the soloists were miked to the hilt, and the volume mix was so hot that everyone stayed in their “head voices.” The absence of energetic belts drained many of the numbers of their energy and power, despite the quality of the singing. This was especially true in “I Dreamed a Dream,” which maintained an “even’ intensity throughout, losing that final emotional belt that really sells the song.

Worse, the chorus was not miked, and they too often faded into the background. I was sitting in the first row, and I often had difficulty hearing them. I have no doubt that students of this caliber are fully capable of filling the Anderson auditorium with sound, and, why they didn’t here I can only ascribe to too much reliance on those crackly head mikes.

Another issue with this particular staging was that Director Ryan Karstensen apparently blocked only for the Center section. Sight lines from my vantage point in House Left were often restricted. For example, I seldom actually saw older Cosette’s face, and “A Little Fall of Rain” was completely obscured (this was my daughter’s first trip to “Les Miz” and she had no idea what had happened to Eponine).

On the other hand, I can’t praise the cast and Music Director Jennifer Loudermilk enough. This is a difficult score, and all the principles were up to the task. The sound from the chorus was full and rich (if too-often softer than expected). Special kudos to Ryan O’Leary’s Valjean, Marcus Rodriguez’ Javert, Samantha Blinn’s Cosette, Ellen Mitchell’s Fantine, Scout Powell’s Young Cosette, Mary Ellen Norwood’s Eponine, and the Thenardiers of Ian Mallon and Stephanie Ward. I truly expect to see all of them in future area musical endeavors.

So, to summarize, this didn’t feel like an exercise in “watching other people’s children” as can so often happen with student productions. It felt like a fully realized performance that told the story with all the emotional highs and lows intact. It was a wonderful introduction to the show for my daughter, and I truly believe the cast deserves all the praise and support that came from their families and friends. This “Les Misérables” was well worth a visit if you’re an old musical geek, if you’re a youngster yet to make your first acquaintance, or if you’re only interested in a beautifully wrought evening in the Theatre. Even with the technical quibbles I cited above, I was caught up in the sweep of the story, the beauty and theatricality of the presentation, and the raw emotional energy of the performances. I have heard this music literally hundreds of time, and, given productions of this quality, the joy of this show will never fade for me.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)


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