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Les Misérables

Thursday, January 5, 2005 at 8:00pm
National Theatre
Washington, D.C.

Compared to Tuesday's standing-room-only experience, I felt like I was in the lap of luxury sitting in the ninth row of orchestra left. I didn't have to strain my eyes at all, and the only thing I could complain about was not being to take in as much of what was going on at once because I was so close.

The cast:

Jean Valjean   Randal Keith Javert   Robert Hunt
Fantine   Joan Almedilla Young Cosette   Rachel Schier
Madame Thénardier   Jennifer Butt Thénardier   David McDonald
Gavroche   Austyn Myers Eponine   Melissa Lyons
Enjolras   Victor Wallace Marius   Adam Jacobs
Cosette   Sierra Boggess * The Bishop of Digne   Gabriel Kalomas
Foreman   Pierce Peter Brandt Factory Girl   Candice Nicole
Old Woman (locket)   Karen Elliot Crone (hair)   Lisa Morris **
Old Beggar Woman ("Look Down")   Marnie Nicolella Montparnasse   Kip Driver
Babet   Kevin David Thomas Brujon   David Michael Felty
Claquesous   James Chip Leonard Combeferre   Pierce Peter Brandt
Feuilly   Eric Briarley Courfeyrac   Matt Clemens ***
Joly   Charles Hagerty Grantaire   Trent Blanton
Lesgles   Gabriel Kalomas Jean Prouvaire   Ryan Williams

* Sierra Boggess substituted for Leslie Henstock
** Lisa Morris substituted for Sierra Boggess
*** Matt Clemens substituted for Jason Kraack

Overall, it was again a very dynamic and heartfelt ensemble performance. With this cast, someone would have to be having a really off day for the ensemble to not work, but that hasn't been the case for a long time. And even though I was sitting much closer to the orchestra this time, I still felt they are a little underpowered and it seems a lot of that has to do with the ability of the orchestra players themselves. Sometimes it just felt like they aren't as well-tuned than the SF orchestra (and I mean "tuned" in the sense of working together as a unit as opposed to "tune" as in pitch). The strings weren't as sharp as they could have been, the horns were a bit erratic at times, and percussion just didn't have that "oomph" that they need. It still works -- it's just not as clean as it could be.

Randal Keith

With less orchestra sound to drown out his singing, and being able to see his facial expressions much more closely (and not from the side like in SF), I was able to appreciate the little nuances that may or may not have been there in SF (I guess I'll never know for sure). I don't remember noticing this in SF, but I really liked the way he reacted to the students pounding the butts of their guns and their hands on the barricade in salute to the way Valjean "disposed" of Javert. Randal slowly walked back to the table, and upon hearing their salute, he just about stopped and had a rather pained look on his face while he still had his back to them, as if he hated having to deceive them this way, and then turned to give them some acknowledgement.

Robert Hunt

Much of the same goes for Robert, whose aggressive style of acting really comes through with less orchestra to drown out the little details. He reminds me a lot of a tiger or some other large predatory cat, who stalks his prey relentlessly. This was especially true of "The Confrontation" where he actually does glide back and forth like a cat does on the hunt. Watching him in "Stars", too, was amazing because his voice sounded like he actually had power over the stars, that he was ordering them to carry out their duty or else fall from heaven, "in flame". Again, he was definitely very enraged in "Javert's Suicide" all the way until he realized he couldn't go on with his life. Wow.

Joan Almedilla

I think this was definitely the best I have ever seen Joan as Fantine. There's still that small issue with the way she just stands there motionless at the beginning of "I Dreamed a Dream" and with her pseudo-belting, but everything else I really, really liked. She has a really strong fighting spirit in "At the End of the Day" and wasn't going to let one jealous little brat ruin things for her. Of course, the Factory Girl does end up doing so, and Joan was able to portray the emotions of being beaten down by the circumstances of life, her desperation to do anything and everything necessary to save Cosette, including giving up her own life. In her death scene, it seemed as if she couldn't stay in her bed even if you tied her there, because she just kept wanting to reach out to her hallucination of Cosette. And then she was clutching at Randal's hands so tightly, desperate and incredibly grateful that she could give Cosette to Valjean's care.

Rachel Schier

Again, very cute and so very sweet. Especially in the last verse of "Castle on a Cloud" where she looked as if she could see this imaginary place in her mind's eye, and that she wanted nothing more than to be there. I love the way she and Randal interact during "Waltz of Treachery", where they are looking into each other's eyes and are completely oblivious to the Thénardiers and everything else in the world. And after they leave the Thénardiers' inn, and Randal gives her the doll, you can really hear Rachel laughing with such pure joy and contentment. It is such a touching moment.

Jennifer Butt

That mole on her face. From up close ... eek. But she is so energetic and wicked and funny. She is so funny when she gives David McDonald this huge slap after they dive for the money Valjean leaves. It's loud, even for my being so close.

David McDonald

His strong point is definitely his voice, which I found absolutely flawless, and within his limits, a very good actor. He interjects a little bit of "oomph" into his singing as well, which gives his acting a little bit of dynamic and I was able pick up on this attitude of disgust that he had for just about everyone else in the world. I just wish he was a little more funny, because, really, the Thénardiers are there to provide some comic relief and contrast in a show that would otherwise be entirely sad and depressing. Jennifer does what she can, but I wish David did more. However, what he did do was good, executed very naturally. The inflection in his voice when he sings, "In the absence of a victim, Dear Inspector, may I ... go?" is perfect, because when he says "go" his voice goes up an octave.

Austyn Myers

What a great Gavroche this kid is. There really isn't anything you could ask more of from Austyn because he's the complete package. A very good balance between singing and acting, and he has such a strong presence on the stage. He knows exactly what needs to be done and he does it. I really like the way he comes running in to deliver the news about Lamarque's death. He moves about with a sense of urgency, yelling, "Listen! Listen to me!" and then screams "Listen, EVERYBODY!" And even though he doesn't take a long pause like Sean Gilbert did to signify the gravity of the news he was about to deliver, the way he says, "General Lamarque is dead!" there really is no need for it. I also like the way he and David interacted at the end of "Look Down" (both this show and on Tuesday): when Austyn sings, "Once ran a hash-house down the way", he sings it with his hand on one side of his mouth like he's telling a secret. Then David reacts to him telling us that, and gives Austyn a rough shove on the shoulder, knocking him off balance. But Austyn recovers quickly and holds up his hands in fists like he's ready to bop David one if necessary. Cute.

Melissa Lyons

I am really loving Melissa's slightly different approach to Eponine now. She's able to add a little more complexity to her role: being tough and spunky with a slight -- but definitely noticeable -- hint of vulnerability. She puts her heart out there for Marius, and when he completely ignores it, he might as well go and step on it as well with the way he flaunts his love for Cosette. I think I was able to pick up a little bit of hurt amongst the anger in her voice before, but it's a lot more obvious now (compounded by the expression on her face), and it's quite painful to watch. But that's good. She's also not quite as scared as she was in SF when she went to deliver Marius' letter to Cosette. When Randal catches her sneaking in through the gate, rather than being a little scared, she is more defiant and assertive that the letter go to Cosette. I should also mention that Melissa somewhat childishly stuck her tongue out at Jennifer during "The Robbery" when Jennifer sang, "She never had scrap of brain!" I found it rather funny.

Victor Wallace

Wow, I really enjoyed his performance so much more this time around. (I'm sure a lot of it has to do with the fact that I was sitting closer this time, and was able to get a better read of his performance.) He is such a strong leader who knows exactly what he needs to do and say to rally the others behind him, and Victor's portrayal is very balanced. He's very dynamic and moves about the stage rather naturally. And as I said in my LJ post, he's passionate and driven without being seen as too impulsive, and he is measured without seeming at all reserved. He makes his Enjolras so fervent that it seems he never doubts for one moment what they are there to fight for and that giving up is not an option. Especially after Eponine and Gavroche die, he becomes so emotionally driven and maybe somewhat vengeful that even though he knows they don't stand a chance, there really is no choice but to fight back with all they have and become martyrs in the name of freedom if necessary.

Adam Jacobs

You know, it really is just a matter of where he's letting his voice resonate and I think it just has to do with the fact that he's trying to add so much vibrato. I think if he could just tone that down a little, he would sound just fine. But otherwise, he's still a good Marius with a very strong voice. I definitely am annoyed, though, by the Marius he portrays -- i.e. being a bit of an ass. It's kind of frustrating to watch him be so inattentive to Eponine's feelings, which she is certainly NOT subtle about, and then suddenly go head over heels for Cosette who he saw for all of like 15 seconds. Which made me kind of feel that should Eponine deserve better than him, then! (Not really, just a little.) Especially in "Eponine's Errand" when he gets all worried about her safety, and she takes his hand when she says, "That shows you like me quite a lot!" but he just shakes her hand away and goes on about using her to deliver his letter to Cosette.

Sierra Boggess

Despite it being her first time going on as Cosette, she gave a really beautiful performance. She has a very light (but not airy) soprano voice that sometimes seems to float in the air. When she sings loud in her uppermost range, her voice is powerful and strong, but when she decides to sing softly that high up, she loses some of the support in her voice and becomes somewhat weak (and I felt that it really didn't have to). There were a few places in "In My Life" where her voice was somewhat more shrill. But otherwise, she was really great to listen to. There were times in "A Heart Full of Love" that her voice was a little overpowered by Adam's, but somehow this wasn't at all the case in "Every Day" where their voices blended together perfectly (and it was even more lovely when Randal joined in). Like Ali on Tuesday, she had a little bit more of a serious take on Cosette (especially during "In My Life"). She was excited and happy about having met Marius, but when Randal returned home to find her there in the garden, rather than being startled and a little embarrassed by her feelings, she was startled and appeared a little scared, like she was afraid he would know her secret. But she did well in expressing how tired she was of this life her father has kind of trapped her in, and then finally standing up and demanding to know about the truth he seems to be hiding about their pasts. And Sierra had a great reaction when Randal angrily sings, "Truth is given by God to us all in our time ..." and I think he grabbed her shoulders, startling her and causing her to kind of gasp. She wasn't quite so angry with him during "One Day More" as Leslie and Ali were, and she came across as more hesitant than anything else. Overall, very well done for her first time, and I imagine she will be able to add more depth to Cosette's character as she does it more often.