BWW Reviews: Otterbein's Massive Undertaking of LES MISERABLES Pays Off
Fans of the show LES MISERABLES have had a smorgasbord of productions to choose from in central Ohio this year. After Cameron Mackintosh LTD released the rights to the musical to coincide with the release of the movie, several high schools and community theaters have taken on the massive task of presenting the musical.
Fans might be a little overwhelmed at the prospect of seeing the three-hour musical again, but they should not miss Otterbein University's production. The show opened on Oct. 3-Oct. 6 to large, receptive audiences at the Fritsche Theatre.
Most of the musical adaption of the Victor Hugo novel centers on Jean Valjean (played by Jordan Donica). After being imprisoned for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread, he tries to make a fresh start after his release. Hampering his path is Inspector Javert (Hayden Clifton) who hunts down Valjean for 17 years after the inmate violated his parole.
Donica, who played the spunky J.P. Finch in Otterbein's HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING last spring, is virtually unrecognizable as a bushy haired, bearded inmate at the show's beginning. Not only does Donica's appearance change as Valjean ages, but his character's outlook on life transforms as his faith deepens.
Clifton also does an amazing job of showing how Javert ages physically during the show's 17-year span. However, Clifton shows how Javert's determination to uphold the law proves to be his undoing.
History is rarely the story of just two people. Director Dennis Romer and Musical Director Lori Kay Harvey do a magnificent job in helping the cast weave together the many varied storylines of LES MISERABLES. Marina Pires adds a beautiful voice to Fantine in "I Dreamed A Dream." Lizzie Wild conveys Eponine's longing for Marius (James Sanders) in "On My Own" as she helps him track down the love of his life Cosette (Heather Dell). Alex Huffman and Corinne Munsch provide some much needed laughs as the slimy innkeeper Thenardier and his wife in such numbers as "Master Of The House" and "Beggars At The Feast."
Also sharing the spotlight are John Henry Carter (The Bishop of Digne), Jared Howelton (Enjolras), and Kellan Behrens (Gavroche), a 7-year-old making his stage debut.
LES MISERABLES is the perfect undertaking for Otterbein because it passes the spotlight around among many performers instead of just focusing on one or two actors. The production is the strongest is when it blends together so many great voices with a 16-piece orchestra in songs like "Red and Black," "Do You Hear the People Sing?" and "One More Day.
When it is done correctly, LES MISERABLES can be a powerful, moving musical that doesn't seem three hours long. If it is done poorly, LES MISERABLES just lives up to its name. Fortunately, the Otterbein production is the former and not the latter.
The final four performances of LES MISERABLES are Oct. 9-12 at Fritsche Theatre at Cowan Hall (30 S. Grove Street in Westerville). Performance times are 8 p.m. Call (614) 823-1109 or visit the Art Scene page at www.otterbein.edu/drama for more information about the Otterbein University Theatre season.