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October 1, 2013 > Theatre Review: Stage 1 impresses with ÔLes MiserablesÕ

Theatre Review: Stage 1 impresses with ÔLes MiserablesÕ

By Julie Grabowski

ÒWill the future ever arrive?... Should we continue to look upwards? Is the light we can see in the sky one of those which will presently be extinguished? The ideal is terrifying to behold, lost as it is in the depths, small, isolated, a pin-point, brilliant but threatened on all sides by the dark forces that surround it; nevertheless, no more in danger than a star in the jaws of the cloud.Ó Victor Hugo


Beloved the world over through book, stage, and screen, ÒLes MiserablesÓ is a powerful story of redemption, love, friendship, forgiveness, and the struggle to make a better life. Based on Victor HugoÕs 1862 novel, the musical debuted on Broadway in 1987 and has become the longest-running musical in the world. A movie version was released in 2012, garnering multiple Academy Award nominations and reaching a wider audience, launching a new generation of fans.

Jean Valjean is a French peasant who is convicted for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sisterÕs son. After 19 years on a chain gang he is paroled but must live his life branded as a convict, doomed as an outcast for the remainder of his days. When he is befriended by a kind bishop, Valjean responds by stealing his silver, but is shocked when the man gives him the candlesticks he had left behind and absolves him of his crime. In the light of this mercy and forgiveness, Valjean decides to live as a new man. He breaks his parole, changes his name, and becomes a respected and wealthy factory owner and mayor. But he lives in fear of being discovered by the relentless Inspector Javert who believes that no man ever changes and deserves to be marked forever by his crimes. Set against the backdrop of a nation gripped by political unrest and impending revolution, ÒLes MiserablesÓ is a tremendously moving and emotionally charged experience that one will not forget.

A large undertaking for a small theatre company, Stage 1 Theatre presented the classic musical to a full house on opening night and had the audience on their feet. An impressively solid and able production, the show was carried by a cast of incredible voices that rose to the challenge. Robert Lopez (Marius) and Brian Palac (Enjolras) gave the finest performances of the evening, combining their top-notch voices with a true passion and embodiment of their characters. LopezÕs Marius is powerful and touching, completely on point from top to bottom, beginning to end. The passion and vibrancy of Palac is chill inducing; he can lead whatever army he chooses.

Russell Crowe could have picked up some tips from Jess MartinezÕs Javert; Martinez maintains the immovability of the Inspector while allowing the emotion of his hunt and moral struggle to break through. He carries himself very well in both act and song, and is moving in the number ÒStars.Ó Dean Christman is a great Jean Valjean vocally but the character seems to get away from him at times; there is a lack of physical involvement and emotion necessary to make a truly compelling and heart-wrenching Valjean. Angela Busgano is the small girl with a big voice as the love-lorn Eponine and is an impressive delight with every note. Piper Sperske is a precious Little Cosette and does a wonderful job in ÒCastle on a Cloud.Ó With such a heavy story, a little comedic refreshment is always good and Belinda Maloney brings laughs as Madame Thenardier, complimented by Elmer Strasser as the master of the house.

Standouts from the fantastic score include ÒAt the End of the Day,Ó ÒWho Am I?Ó ÒRed and Black,Ó ÒDo You Hear the People Sing?Ó ÒA Heart Full of LoveÓ with impressive range from Cara Wodka as Cosette, ÒOne Day More,Ó ÒOn My Own,Ó and ÒEmpty Chairs at Empty Tables.Ó

Stage 1 has conquered the heavy task they set for themselves and succeed in delivering a rousing and impressive ÒLes MiserablesÓ that is sure to have people talking, and singing.

Tickets are $24 for adults, $22 for seniors 62 and up and college students with ID, and $12 for students 17 and under. Groups of 10 or more are $20 per person for the same performance. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.stage1theatre.org.

Les Miserables
Saturday, Sept 28 - Sunday, Oct 13
8 p.m., Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.
Newark Memorial High School Theatre
39375 Cedar Blvd., Newark
(510) 791-0287
www.stage1theatre.org
Tickets: $12 - $24








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