Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Uncommon Theatre’s spring musical is “Les Miserables”, the 8-time Tony Award winning musical. This musical version was composed in 1980 by French composer Claude Michel Schonberg with a libretto by Alain Boublil. Through-sung, it is probably the most famous of all French musicals and is one of the most performed musicals around. Set against the backdrop of 19th Century France, “Les Miserables” tells an enthralling epic story of broken dreams, unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption. The world’s most popular musical examines the metamorphosis of ex-prisoner Jean Valjean who agrees to care for a dying factory worker’s young daughter, all the while being hunted for decades for stealing a loaf of bread, by the ruthless policeman, Javert. Director Maggie Dowd and musical director Danielle Clougher lead their talented cast with fantastic voices in this thoroughly enjoyable epic adventure of hope and redemption in the face of despair which leads you to laughter and tears in all the right places. A thunderous and spontaneous standing ovation is their well earned and deserved reward. Bravo!
Maggie blocks this enormous show excellently especially impressive is the last death scene of Valjean and the end of Act 1 blocking for “One More Day.” Many tears are shed at this splendid and heart rending presentation. I have been reviewing Maggie in shows since she was a little girl and now she is a fifth grade teacher in Westwood. Danielle conducts a ten piece orchestra and they enhance the harmonic balance of the voices in the solos, duets, trios and quartets and group numbers of this show. The diction is topnotch as is the strong vocals. High school junior Ben Reingold leads the cast as Jean Valjean. He is fabulous in this role. Ben brings great depth to this multidimensional character with a checkered past who finds redemption by living a life of virtue. Ben’s strong tenor voice soars off the charts especially in “Bring Him Home” when he prays over Marius at the siege at the barricade and in “Who Am I?” when he confesses who he really is to save another man’s life. His falsetto is magnificent. Another one of Ben’s terrific songs is his final solo when he asks God to bring him home during “To love another person is to see the face of God” which ensures there isn’t a dry eye in the house. I last reviewed Ben in the title role of “Shrek” for Uncommon Theatre in December of 2015. He has a splendid future in show business ahead of him.
Valjean’s nemesis, Javert is well played by Nate April. He has a strong singing voice in which he is able to sing bass notes and then high baritone notes later on in the song. Nate’s two solos are “Stars” where he compares his hunt of the convict to discovering the order of the stars in the constellation and in “Javert’s Suicide” where he kills himself after discovering that Valjean wasn’t pure evil like he thought he was all these years. This realization shatters his lifelong view of the world. The confrontations between Nate and Ben are splendid to behold in this topnotch version of the show. Lorie Simonian is marvelous as the sympathetic Fantine. She wins the hearts of the audience with her acting and singing prowess in “I Dreamed a Dream” where she describes her troubled past and in “Come to Me” when she begs Valjean to care for her daughter, Cosette. This latter number is performed as she lay dying in a hospital bed and evokes many tears with her strong delivery. This melody is later used in “On My Own” in Act 2. Lorie’s gut wrenching version of “I Dreamed a Dream” also leaves you in tears. She is one of the best Fantine’s I have seen.Young Cosette is played by Stella Scire who sings “Castle on a Cloud”.
Marius is excellently played by Matt Neary. He has a strong tenor voice which he displays in his solo, “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”, a poignant ballad that he sings about his dead companions. It is also heard in the romantic love song with Cosette and Eponine, “A Heart Full of Love”, the quartet “In My Life” and in “A Little Fall of Rain” as Eponine dies in his arms. Another tear jerker number that is marvelous to behold. Matt also sings in the group numbers “Red and Black”, “Do You Hear the People Sing?” and “One Day More.” His acting in this role is spot on. I last reviewed him as Prince Eric in “Little Mermaid” last December.The pretty ingenue Cosette is excellently played by gorgeous brunette, Jade April who has a fabulous beautiful soprano voice that soars off the charts in her duets with Matt. The harmonic blend in the reprise of “A Heart Full of Love” with Ben and Matt is astounding. Her last scene with her dying father is also wonderfully portrayed.
The heroic Eponine is marvelously played by Maya Blodgett. Her fantastic voice is heard in “On My Own” where she decides to stand by Marius even though he is in love with Cosette and in “A Little Fall of Rain” after she is fatally shot. This latter song is gut wrenching and emotionally draining. Maya gives Eponine a backbone to stand up to her horrible and vile parents but an endearing quality which makes the audience root for her at the same time. Her comic but despicable parents, Monsieur and Madame Thenardier are well played by Zeke Solis and Sarah Seaberg. They both have strong singing voices and are hilarious as they swindle their customers out of the belongings in “Master of the House.” He becomes even more loathsome in “Dog Eat Dog” as he robs the dead bodies in the sewers after the siege at the barricade. They once again become comic when they try to swindle Marius at his wedding in “Beggars at the Feast” where they are dressed up to the nines. Sarah is hilarious in her verse of “Master of the House” describing her husband’s small love making prowess and is an absolute shrew as she mistreats Young Cosette in Act 1.
Another dynamic presence is Nick Levine as Enjolras who has a powerful tenor voice as he sells his many anthems with Marius and his fellow students including “Red and Black”, “Do You Hear the People Sing?”, “One Day More” and “Drink to Me of Days Gone By.” This last song is done before the students are killed at the barricade and it moves you to tears at its tender and poignant rendition. One of the biggest scene stealers is Gabriel Corey as Gavorche. He displays his strong voice in “ABC Cafe” with the street people and in his solo “Little People” where he exposes Javert as a spy and again when he is shot by a sniper while gathering ammunition. Gabriel tugs at your heartstrings in this role. I last reviewed him as Scuttle in “Little Mermaid.” Kudos to the entire chorus in all their numbers, too. So for a powerful presentation of this well known musical, be sure to catch “Les Miserables” by Uncommon Theatre. Tell them Tony sent you. Make sure you bring a lot of Kleenex with you.
LES MISERABLES (7 – 9 April)
Uncommon Theatre, Orpheum Theatre, 1 School St., Foxboro, MA
1(508)698-3098 or www.uncommontheatre.org