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Les Misérables

a Musical
CATEGORY : MUSICAL
by Boublil and Schoenberg

COMPANY : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 4484

SHOWING : July 25, 2013 - September 08, 2013

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Hunted relentlessly by police inspector Javert for breaking parole, Jean Valjean must leave his past behind and keep his vow to raise the young, orphaned Cosette. But with revolution in the air, Valjean has no choice but to sacrifice everything to protect those he loves. Experience this epic musical like never before, in the intimacy of the Aurora where audiences will feel like part of the revolution. Featuring Suzi Award Winners Bryant Smith and Natasha Drena.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Justin Anderson
Music Director Ann-Carol Pence
Éponine Leslie Bellair
Enjolras Lowrey Brown
Bishop of Digne Shane Desmond
Fantine Natasha Drena
Javert Kevin Harry
Madame Thénardier Marcie Millard
Monsieur Thénardier Anthony Rodriguez
Cosette Kelly Schmidt
Jean Valjean Bryant Smith
Marius Pontmercy Michael Stiggers
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REVIEWS

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Detritus
by playgoer
Sunday, August 18, 2013
4.0
"Les Misérables" is an immensely popular musical that Aurora Theatre has rightly triumphed as a local professional premiere in metro Atlanta. That doesn’t disguise the fact that the show is an exercise in incompetent story-telling. The central character of Jean Valjean is seen performing criminal acts repeatedly, interspersed with occasional selfless acts. The character makes no sense on stage (although it does in Victor Hugo’s novel), but at least the Aurora Theatre is small enough that the actor playing Jean Valjean (Bryant Smith) can be recognized among the throng of characters that populate the stage as he goes through his life’s journey.

Aurora Theatre has assembled a cast of principals that are equal to the vocal and acting demands of their roles, but does not highlight them all to their best advantage. The ensemble is filled with members of the Apprentice Company whose individual voices sometimes seem thin, but the massed choral singing is always excellent. Music director Ann-Carol Pence has done her usual sterling job.

Phil Male’s set design takes over some of the side walls of the auditorium, covering them with detritus and platforms that look extremely rickety, but seem quite sturdy when in use. It’s a squalid set with several hinged pieces that allow a wan facsimile of the original Broadway turntable effect of the students’ barricade in the revolt of 1832. Projected titles are used at a couple of points, but the detritus on the walls makes them difficult to read. The fact that the acute accent is missing from "Les Misérables" in one projection suggests the somewhat sloppy light design by Mike Post, which has lots of high-tech effects, but often fails to help focus attention on the person singing onstage. For a while, I thought that Kelly Chapin Schmidt (adult Cosette) was doomed to perform her entire role in partial illumination. There was also one obvious follow spot error in the performance I saw (although I don’t know if the operator who dropped it was Molly Huntington or Sergio Rubio).

Costumes by Alan Yeong are generally quite good, although the raggedy qualities of some seem obviously created by scissors and artificial grime rather than actual use. Choreography by Sarah Turner Sechelski seems to be minimal and at times laughable. Foot actions predominate (rising on the balls of the feet; foot stomps; marching). Director Justin Anderson doesn’t seem to have been fully successful in coordinating all the disparate elements of the production. I was particularly disturbed how some of the solos seemed to break the fourth wall and have characters communicate directly to the audience as an audience. I found this particularly jarring in Natasha Drena’s "I Dreamed a Dream" as Fantine.

Humor is minimized in this production. The Thénardiers (Anthony Rodriguez and Marcie Millard) are crude more than comical. Daniel Forbes Jr. as Gavroche successfully injected a tiny bit of humor, but that was about the only point of endearment in this production. Overall, it’s dour and grim.

The most successful performances, I thought, were of Leslie Bellair as a tomboyish and beautifully voiced/acted Éponine; Lowrey Brown as a charismatic and thrillingly voiced Enjolras; and Shane Desmond-Williams as the Bishop of Digne, who makes a well-chosen reappearance at the end of the show. Kevin Harry has a terrific voice as Javert, but seems a bit subdued in performance. Michael Stiggers is a bit bland as Marius. The others all do well, with Bryant Smith giving as fine a performance as I have ever seen him give.

I don’t much care for the overly long "Les Misérables" or its unrelievedly unmelodic score. For better or worse, Aurora Theatre has chosen to present the show with grit and grime and sincerity. Audiences seem to love it.
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