BWW Reviews: Houston Family Arts Center's Production of LES MISERABLES is an Absolute Masterpiece
Houston Family Arts Center's production of LES MISERABLES is a riveting masterpiece! It evokes the spirit and themes of compassion, revenge and above all human transformation transformation.
LES MISERABLES (a musical by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, with lyrics also by Jean-Marc Natel and Herbert Kretzmer) is based on Victor Hugo's famous novel which was published in 1862. Due to its popularity many are familiar with the story of Jean Valjean, the French peasant who was unfairly punished and imprisoned for 19 years all for stealing a loaf of bread. Valjean receives his parole and after receiving an act of compassion, he breaks it in the realization that he needs to transform his life and start anew. During his path of righteousness he is tracked down by the unrelenting police inspector Javert. Along the way, Valjean and others are swept into a revolutionary period in France, where a group of young students decide to stand their ground against society's social injustices.
Eric Domuret stands center of LES MISERABLES as the convict Jean Valjean. It seems to be a role in which he handles with ease. He completely nails the transformation of Jean Valjean from a criminal filled with loathing and corrupt to a loving and compassionate man.
Opposite Domuret, Taylor Fisher cuts a striking figure as the incorruptible police inspector Javert. Playing the role with an intense force, Fisher's very first presence on stage commands that he is total and complete authority. Throughout the musical we see him struggle with a transformation of his own.
Seeing Domuret and Fisher onstage together is entirely fascinating. They drag you back and forth through a battle of contesting wills and make you feel for each of them. Domuret's character transformation makes the audience root for him. Meanwhile Fisher's transformation of Javert makes the audience sympathize with him and his struggle of chossing between what he believes is right and what may be actually right. Every scene between Fisher and Domuret is so intense and electrified that I delighted in seeing them onstage together even though, I knew that them being together was really just bad news for Jean Valjean.
Jennifer Stewart plays the unfortunate Fantine who has not been dealt such a good hand in life. Through unfortunate events, Stewart maintains an angelic quality about her. She sings with such grace and poise. Her rendition of the iconic I Dreamed a Dream is absolutely breathtaking and heartfelt. In keeping with Stewart's angelicness, Hannah Kipp is simply heavenly both in voice and acting when later portraying her daughter Cosette.
Nicole Palmer is absolutely stunning as Eponine. Her vocal talent is full of strength and she exudes a raw grittiness to her role. That grittiness falls away and whenever she is around the charming Marius whom she is absolutely in love with. Although he only sees her in an amiable fashion, her persona softens and makes her even more likeable.
Jared Barnes gives an enthusiastic performance as Marius the law student and revolutionary that falls in love with the ever charming Cosette . His moments with her are tender and loving.
While there are many sad and morose moments, LES MISERABLES does have a splash of comedic moments every now and then. Those moments are brought to life by the boisterous swindlers the Thenardiers. Thenardier by play Harry Robert Perrin along with Madame Thenardier played by Lisa Borik give comedic presentations full of wit and mirth. Their characters are hard to love because of their ruthless do anything for survival nature, but Perrin and Borik's performances are anything but hateful.
Under the direction of Adam W. Delka, this production captured all the essence of a world of where freedoms are not always prevalent and revolt is ever nearing. With powerhouse voices, and masterful performances from the entire ensemble, it captures the transformation of the individual as well as society as a whole.
The design team also did a wonderful job in keeping with the look and feel of 19th century France. I felt the intensity of that perilous time in France.
HFAC's production of LES MISERABLES is filled with many fine moments revolving between intense, gritty, and most of all sad. It's not a show filled with sunshine and rainbows, but it is a show filled with sublime talent. I would definitely suggest go watching this show because even with all the heartache and misery going on, I had a fantastic time.
Photo credit: Emily Talbott. Courtesy of HFAC