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Les Misérables

Sunday, June 11, 2006 at 6:30pm
Pantages Theatre
Los Angeles, CA

Thank God, no annoying people behind me this time. Although, the couple behind me did talk occasionally (again, not whisper), but it was sporadic.

The cast:

Jean Valjean   Jason Kraack * Javert   Robert Hunt
Fantine   Joan Almedilla Young Cosette   Rachel Schier
Madame Thénardier   Jennifer Butt Thénardier   Norman Large
Gavroche   Anthony Skillman Eponine   Melissa Lyons
Enjolras   Victor Wallace Marius   Daniel Bogart
Cosette   Suzanna Neeley Bridges *** The Bishop of Digne   Gabriel Kalomas
Foreman   Pierce Peter Brandt Factory Girl   Candice Nicole
Old Woman (locket)   Dawn Younker ****** Crone (hair)   Michelle Mallardi ****
Old Beggar Woman ("Look Down")   Marnie Nicolella Montparnasse   Kip Driver
Babet   Kevin David Thomas Brujon   Don Brewer *******
Claquesous   James Chip Leonard Combeferre   Pierce Peter Brandt
Feuilly   Eric Briarley Courfeyrac   Matt Clemens **
Joly   Charles Hagerty Grantaire   Dave Hugo
Lesgles   Gabriel Kalomas Jean Prouvaire   Ryan Williams

* Jason Kraack on for Randal Keith
** Matt Clemens on for Jason Kraack
*** Suzanna Neeley Bridges on for Leslie Henstock
**** Michelle Mallardi on for Suzanna Neeley Bridges
***** Dawn Younker on for Marissa McGowan
****** Dawn Younker on for Karen Elliot
******* Don Brewer on for Roger Seyer

That's a whole lotta subs, so I hope I got them all right. And, yes, since Dawn was doing double-duty, the cast was short one woman.

Robert Hunt was back! And I got my first look at Jason Kraack and Suzanna Neeley Bridges. I also got to see Dawn Younker for the first time since she was Eponine way back in 1996, but it was kind of hard to tell which ensemble woman she was from where I was sitting (first row of right mezzanine).

Center mezzanine, even way the heck in the back, was a world better in terms of acoustics than where I was sitting. I was in right mezzanine for Cats, and had the worst time making out words -- and I figured out why: there's a significant echo (or at least delay from the speakers on the left side of the theatre). It was far from ideal, but I managed.

Despite the acoustics problem, seeing Jason and Suzanna for the first time made it seem like I was seeing the entire show again for the first time.

Jason Kraack

Not a bad Valjean -- for the most, part he sings quite well and has a great presence on stage. He just doesn't have as much emotional depth that I'd like to see reflected in his face, voice, or movements around the stage at some times. For example, he was quite angry at being cast out without the ability to work, but leading up to that, he didn't really seem like there was as much hatred in the world as the words he was singing would suggest. I also thought it was a little strange that while he was packing up the silver to steal, he didn't do so with much haste -- which maybe could work at some level, but if I were stealing something and making a break for it, I wouldn't be taking my time doing it. His soliloquy had a couple inspired moments, but not altogether that moving. There were some moments, too, when it was hard to see that he had a connection with the other actors on stage, and when he was singing about being hosted by the Bishop, it sounded a little robotic. But he did interact well with Robert Hunt, and I loved his defiance against Javert belittling his existence to a mere number and exclaimed, "MY NAME ... is Jean Valjean", and "The Confrontation" was very well executed between them both. (I did notice, though, that during the sewers scene, he didn't really change the position in which he was dragging Marius. Could he not carry him?)

Robert Hunt

Spitting daggers. That's the only way I can describe Robert in "Javert's Suicide". Oddly, more or less the rest of the show, he'd slightly toned down the intensity of his acting compared to when I last saw him in D.C. But then it was like he'd diverted all that intensity into "Javert's Suicide" where he really seemed to be spitting daggers. (It's almost as if he makes it more and more intense every new city they go to. Look out, St. Louis!)

But poor guy -- Robert managed to fall off the barricade when he first climbs down to search for Valjean, and he landed pretty hard on the floor below. (I asked him about it a couple days later, and he said that he was navigating around bodies and his foot got caught. He twisted it bad enough that it was swollen for a few days. Ouch.)

Joan Almedilla

Joan's Fantine seemed much better than Thursday, at least in terms of her voice. "I Dreamed a Dream" was a little easier to listen to (or maybe it was just the acoustics?).

Rachel Schier

Having seen Meg the other day, I was eager to see Rachel go on as Young Cosette because I remembered from S.F. and D.C. that her acting is very strong for someone her age. And she didn't disappoint. The only thing is that it seems that her singing is even softer than in D.C. and the effort to take the chairs down from the table came through in her voice. In fact, she had to slow down the pace of taking the chairs down so much that she didn't get to kneel at the front of the stage until midway through the bridge (usually, she's able to kneel down at the start of the bridge).

Jennifer Butt

Jennifer toned down her viciousness from Thursday, and was back to her usual nasty Mme. Thénardier that was more or less constant in S.F. and D.C., but perhaps her movements were a bit more spastic (as if out exasperation).

Norman Large

The timing for the silverware and silver platter drop was much better in this show than on Thursday, and therefore so much funnier. In fact, I don't think I've cracked up that hard at that scene in a while. It wasn't anything new, but just the timing was perfect. Actually, the only new thing (at least to me) was Ryan Williams' reaction to Norman's hip-pumping thing (I have no idea what to call it) -- he fainted, falling into his dancing partner's arms (it's supposed to be Ali Ewoldt based on later shows, but for some reason I don't think it was her).

Anthony Skillman

This was my first time seeing him since having seen him once before in D.C. I was quite impressed with his singing ability and how much of his attitude comes through in his voice, and that is still the case. However, I did notice that he isn't as relaxed on stage as Austyn Myers, and his acting a little compromised by how stiff he looks. Nonetheless, he is able to act through his voice, he sings VERY well, and he is absolutely adorable climbing up and down the barricade.

Melissa Lyons

Amazing vocally as always. And perhaps it was just the fact that I was seeing two understudies, which changes the entire dynamic of the show for me, that it seemed like I was seeing the show again for the first time, but I was so much more moved by "A Little Fall of Rain" than I had been in a really long time (way before S.F. last year). Melissa played off Dan quite well and she gave Eponine a sense of regret while still trying to be brave.

Victor Wallace

I absolutely love how much passion Victor is able to convey in his singing, and he was just as good as, if not better than, on Thursday. It's hard to take your eyes off him when he's singing or acting.

Daniel Bogart

After my second time seeing Dan as Marius, I have to say that there were times I didn't really like his voice. Perhaps the loss of pitch due to so much vibrato was amplified by the damn echo where I was sitting, but it made some of his scenes a little difficult to listen to. But it's mainly just when he's trying to sing loud, because it just sounds like he's trying too hard and his voice ends up resonating in the wrong place. And then when he tries to sing some of the higher notes, he loses volume and on a few occasions when he's singing in duet, he gets drowned out.

But he is quite funny when he almost changes his mind during "A Heart Full of Love" and starts to climb back up the fence -- that got a good laugh from the audience. He's rather cute in the fact that he seems to act like a teenager when it comes to Cosette. He's also very protective of Eponine, not just in wanting to keep her away from the barricade, but in trying to keep her from being discovered by the rest of the students. Hushed

Suzanna Neeley Bridges

I know I seem to say that I like all of the Cosette understudies I've seen in the past year since San Francisco (Nina, Ashley, Ali, and Sierra) -- because they are all good -- but I honestly have to say that Suzanna tops them all (and even Leslie) in terms of vocal quality. She isn't at all operatic and has a terrific control in all ranges of her voice. It even sounds effortless in the upper part of her range, and she had no problem hitting and staying on the top notes of "A Heart Full of Love" and "Every Day" (both of which were absolutely beautiful in combination with Melissa and Jason, respectively). The only thing missing from her performance is a little more depth and emotional dynamic, especially in "In My Life", which made it a little difficult to get a grasp on her character. It wasn't until the "Epilogue", when pleading for Valjean not to die, that there was sufficient emotion in her voice. But that aside, what a beautiful performance.