Friday, July 18, 2014

Les Miserables (a local color post)

As I mentioned in passing, recently, my oldest son has been a part of a local production of Les Miserables. He's actually getting paid for this gig, which is pretty cool, especially since he didn't even audition for the part. He was requested by the director (whom he worked with several years ago in a production of The Pirates of Penzance). Not that he had a big part in that he was one of the main characters or anything; he wasn't, but he did have several solo bits and was a named character, Combeferre, along with the ensemble stuff he did. Basically, he was on stage through the greater part of the performance. He's even the first one onto the stage, as he gets pushed out as part of the prisoner gang.

As you can guess, I'm going to say my son was great. And he was. But, look, it's chorus work, mostly, and the chorus folk did a fine job, on the whole (with the exception of one kid who didn't know what to do with himself when he wasn't actively doing anything). His singing was right on, so it's hard not to be great when you don't have so much room to screw up. Okay, look, if my kid has one issue, it's that he might smile too much, but that's also one of the things that makes him good. He's got charisma, and he draws eyes to him just by being on the stage. [Recently, he was in Pride & Prejudice in the role of Bingley, largely due to his ability to smile. Well, he got that role as opposed to some other role, because no one can smile the way he can.]

Overall, the production was quite well done, but there were a few issues. Primarily, it was difficult at times to hear the singing over the orchestra. Maybe, this was an issue for use because we were sitting right up front, just one row removed from said orchestra, so the music was right in our faces. Or, maybe, they just didn't have the sound system set up to overcome the orchestra; I don't know. What I do know is that I was glad, as I watched, that I have seen the movie, because there were a few places I wouldn't have know what was going on if I hadn't seen it, because I couldn't hear the vocals. The worst of that happened during the scene where Javert shows up with the revolutionaries, where I still had a moment of "huh? What's he doing there?" until I remembered what was going on.

Speaking of Javert, I'm still waiting to see a version of Les Mis where I think the Javert performance is worthwhile. If the other performances in the recent movie adaptation hadn't been so strong, Russel Crowe could have ruined it, because he was pretty horrible. The guy in this production was better but only just. Mostly, he just stood in place on stage and sang, which is where he did a better job than Crowe, because he did have a good voice and sang the numbers well, but he just stood there and sang for most of them. Unemotionally. In fact, just about his only acting was to tilt his head back and look down his nose at Jean Valjean. My wife says that Javert is the kind of role where you can get away with playing it with a stick up your butt, because Javert has a stick up his butt, and I agree, but I am still dissatisfied.

The actor playing Jean Valjean, Pedro Rodelas, had a very Hugh Jackman look to him and played the role with the same kind of heart, which made him hard not to like, even if some of the music stretched his vocal range beyond his ability. I think the same can be said of Jackman, though (actually, I think I did say that somewhere after I saw the movie), but the emotion both actors poured into the role made up for any gaps in their singing ability.

The most difficult part of this production was the actor they chose to play Marius, David Strock. The man can sing, but he was just too old for the part, and I couldn't buy into him as the student revolutionary standing next to the young woman playing Cosette. He just looked out of place, which made it difficult to buy into that whole young love-at-first-sight thing that's supposed to be going on.

However, the kid they had playing Gavroche, Ari Vozaitis, was amazing and could have completely stolen the show if he'd more "screen" time. I'm guessing he's not older than 12.

The only other issue is a practical one: The show is quite pricey. But I suppose that's the price you pay ["Claim the pun!" as Briane Pagel would say.] for local theater. Still, $30 is a lot to pay for a ticket but, if you can afford it, I would strongly recommend the show. I'll put it like this: It's long. Three hours long. But I didn't once have that feeling of wondering how much longer it was, and that's saying a lot. Also, my wife cried and, as previously stated, if my wife cries, you know it's good.


  1. I saw the the play in London years ago with the original production cast. I've not seen the movie or any other version of it since that time, as all else would pale in comparison.
    And the orchestra should never be louder than the singers.
    Cool your son had a part in the play.

  2. You're a proper proud father who loves his children well. It's great that he got asked to be in the play and didn't have to audition. Wishing him the best success in future plays.

  3. That's great news about your son! But where are the pics? I want pics of that awesome smile!

  4. Yeah, where ARE the pics?

    Good for your son. And we can add 'theater critic' to your ever-growing list of skills.

    I read "Les Miserables" back in 1994 when I was in Morocco. I don't remember very much about it, other than that I was not very crazy about the book and wouldn't have read it if I'd had any other English-language books available.

  5. I've seen the movie, but not a live performance. I'm not overly fond of musicals, although I'm more into them in a theatrical performance, but I'd still see it if such a thing were available.

    Congrats to your kid.

  6. Alex: It's made me wonder if that has been an issue through the whole run or if it was just something with the sound the night we saw it.

    Anne: We'll see what happens. I think he's kind of in denial about how much he likes acting.

    Lexa: Ah, well, see, they have this no photography thing, so there are no pics.

    Briane: Did you get that Briane?

    I actually want to read the book, but I don't know if it's something I will ever do.

    Rusty: This is not actually a musical; it's an opera. The whole thing is in song, which is a different thing for me and something I like better than the idea of a "musical."

  7. Well I want pictures and you posted none so I am disappoint.

  8. Your parental pride is definitely shining through :)

    I think musicals even more than plays can be hit or miss because you can't just act, you have to sing and act. If this one happened to be close to hit than miss, it's probably worth the 30 dollars.

  9. Michael: I was disappointed that they wouldn't let me take any.

    Jeanne: It's hard to say, really. I mean, $120 is an awful lot for a family night.

  10. Yeah I have to say that I've never really seen a musical version of Les Mis where Javert was played well. I think he must be incredibly difficult to play.

    My favorite version of Javert is actually a non-musical mini-series. It starred Gerard Depardieu as Jean Valjean and John Malkovich as Javert. And Malkovich was just freaking brilliant.

    He played Javert as this unbending, but quietly spoken badass. Much unlike the glaring and growling versions we usually see. And even now, when I read Les Mis, I can't help imagining Malkovich in the role.

  11. I have seen the show on stage and it was pretty good. However, I have a DVD of the concert which was made to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the show. The guy who sings Javert, a black man, is fabulous. I googled, his name was Norm Lewis. Jean ValJean was sung by Alfie Boe who was the best I have ever seen. I liked the Eponine in this production too as were the Thenardiers although the best Master of the House I ever saw was Alun Armstrong

  12. Just saw you said you wanted to read the book. I did and was terribly disappointed.

  13. Misha: I have that mini-series on my list to check out.

    Jo: That's cool. And I'll check the clip.

    I do want to read it, but I'm not sure I ever will.

  14. Sounds like it was a blast. A round of applause for your son in particular... and $30 isn't bad. That's only $10/hour of a live stage play. Pretty nice!

  15. Alex H: In comparison to other types of entertainment, it's very expensive.