Monday, September 23, 2013

Les Miserables

Who could ever imagine an opera written from a book about a short conflict in France in 1832 would beome one of the most successful musicals ever? To understand this phenomenon, go to The Omaha Playhouse and watch Les Miserables.
This is one of those truly legendary shows that people will be talking about for years. If you only choose one show to see this year, see this! Yes, this is the same story as last year's film. However on stage, the story takes on a different feeling that is almost magical. The Omaha Playhouse took on a monumental task of performing this wonderful production.To adequately perform these interlocking melodies by Claude-Michel Schonberg, there need to be phenomenal singers who can act. Yes, this is an opera but you really don't notice that all the dialogue is sung because it seems so natural to the characters.
As Jean Valjean, the Broadway actor, Timothy Shew became the former convicted criminal who has turned his life around. His beautiful falsetto voice commands the stage and he passes the test of singing "The Prayer.” This song requires a tenor who can sing in the falsetto range confidently, but also quietly. The final note needs to literally float and Timothy Shew sang this masterfully and lovingly, an unusual combination.
Council Bluffs' resident, Joseph Dignoti, perfected the role as the rigid, judgmental policeman, Javert, who truly believed he was doing the right thing. When showed humanity, Dignoti demonstrated Javert's confusion with the actions of others.
As the young lover Marius, Joseph T. O'Connor II excelled as a handsome, romantic hero that can sing. His suave debonair mannerisms charmed the audience as he sang of his love of Cosette and of his grief of his fallen comrades.
The women's roles of Fantine, Cosette, and Eponine were all phenomenal with Julie Crowell, Jennifer Tritz, and Abigael Stewart all wonderfully exhibiting tremendous ranges with their voices and lending their own strong vocal gifts. The little Cosette, Grace Titus, excelled in her role and actually is the best that I have ever seen in this role. Her clarity and diction proved that although young, she is an experienced actress.
Then, there are the innkeepers, Thenardier and his wife. These two are greedy, selfish, conniving, and absolutely wonderful in this role. They were laughable while committing a variety of crimes, but you could not help but love the immense talents of both Cork Ramer and Megan McGuire with their creations as these two unusual characters.
As Gavroche, Noah Jeffrey unquestionably is outstanding with his youthfulness and wonderful voice. The men, whether Mark Thornburg as the Bishop, or Tyler Buglewicz as Enjolras, were all phenomenal singers who all could sing the lead part in any musical.
Both the women's and men's ensembles sang and danced beautifully in making this play a memorable story.
Les Miserables is an adult show that lasts three hours including an intermission.  
Even on a stage the size of Omaha Community Playhouse, this version of the story perfectly matches the theater.   Realize that each time you see a performance, this is an interpretation of a story.  Personally, I felt that this particular rendition closely matches the original novel except for Valjean's exceptional strength while in prison was not really noticed.
All the supporting crew and staff perfectly blend into making this an outstanding production.   From the hair, wigs, costumes, make-up, the aging of Valjean and Javert, choreography, sound, lighting, orchestrations, props, sets, limited space for an orchestra to the box office, marketing, and even the ushers, this is one show that you don't want to miss.  It is outstanding.  There is not one weak performer or performance.
"Les Miserables" will continue until October 27th with shows at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays.  For tickets, contact the box office at the theater at 6915 Cass in Omaha by calling (402) 553-0800 or online at or   Ticket prices are $ 40 for adults and $ 24 for students.
From the show itself, "Won't you join in our crusade?  Who will be strong and stand with me" , or "I Dreamed a Dream", go see Les Miserables. 



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