LES MISERABLES
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Walnut Street's Les Miserables …SWEET!

The Walnut Street Theatre ends this chapter of its successful 199th season with a landmark new production of Les Misérables.  A new scenic design, re-imagined technical movements and a stellar cast make this one production Philadelphia can be proud of.

Based on Victor Hugo's classic novel, Les Misérables is an epic saga that sweeps through three turbulent decades of 19th century French history. The show is also the story of one man, the fugitive Jean Valjean, who is pitted against the tenacious Inspector Javert , in a lifelong struggle to evade capture. What follows is a deeply personal tale set against a historical backdrop of an unparalleled scale. It has been performed in over 26 countries in 14 different languages, capturing more than 50 international theatre awards, including two Grammy Awards and eight Tony Awards, including the 1987 Tony Award for Best Musical. It is the longest running musical in West End history. The Walnut Street Theatre was one of the first self-producing theatres chosen by Mackintosh to create a new concept for the show.

Broadway veteran Hugh Panaro has the responsibility of retelling the tale as Walnut's Valjean.  Having played the role of Marius, the young soldier who is deeply in love with hero Jean Valjean's daughter, he shared the stage with the Broadway actors who played Valjean and undoubtedly absorbed much about the title role.

Interview with Hugh Panaro: broadwayworld.com/admin/editcol333.cfm?id=29037

  "I'm thrilled, I'm awed, and I'm also determined to play Valjean in my own way, as a more complex character and not just as a saint, the way he's often portrayed," says Panaro. No stranger to Philly, Panaro graduated as a voice major from Temple University in 1985 and played his first professional role at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia in "A Little Night Music."

Panaro delivers a heartfelt portrayal of Valjean that reveals layers of emotions while he leaves the audience breathless with his rich voice. His rendition of "Bring Him Home" rivals the best.

Paul Schoeffler, has recently been busy with his Walnut Street Theater career this year playing such roles as Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha and Captain Hook in Peter Pan. He now tackles the role of Inspector Javert chief adversary of Jean Valjean. Schoeffler becomes increasingly more commanding in the second act. He offers a show stopping version of "Stars" and Javert's "Soliloquy" is vocally and creatively well done.

Leading the ladies are Jessica Bogart as Fantine, Christine DeCicco as Eponine and Julie Craig as Cosette with Dawn Spence as Mdme. Thenardier.  Bogart portrays the meek Fantine a bit too weakly while DeCicco, Craig and Spence are simply charming and capture the essence of their respective characters extremely well. DeCicco is convincingly spunky and adorable as Eponine and Craig's Cosette is sweetly sung and acted.

Disappointingly Scott Greer's Thenardier is far too winning and whimsical to find the gritty side of his character and is overshadowed by Spence's delightfully crude, comedic talent for her role.  Philly favorite Jeffrey Coon, always in fine shape vocally, lacks the youthful take on the role of Enjolras the "young" student leader of the revolution.  One of the Walnut's best casting choice besides Panaro's Valjean, is young Broadway veteran actor Josh Young as Marius. Young, a Philly area native plays Marius with compelling emotion and a soaring voice. His "Empty Chairs and Empty Tables" is heartbreakingly effective.

 "I am extremely thrilled about presenting a new look for Les Misérables. Seeing the original cast of Le Miz in London 22 years ago was a key reason for me wanting to become a theatre director. In the right hands, the material can be devastatingly beautiful. I have surrounded myself with the best talent I can muster, and hopefully the results will speak for themselves. I've never directed Les Miz before, but I knew from the start that this would be an emotional experience for all of us. We're doing a new take on the whole production, liberating the show in a sense from earlier incarnations, and freshening it up. For starters we're doing away with the turntable that's always been a part of the set, and rethinking some of the characterizations." ~ Mark Clements, Director.

Clements drives this piece seamlessly throughout the production.  The hallmark turntable is truly not missed as each actor and set piece keeps each scene flowing with ease and consistency.  Set designer, Todd Edward Ivins rises to the occasion with clever use of ragged buildings, small street settings and a barricade impressive enough to warrant a rousing round of applause all on its own.

"Les Misérables speaks to the heart of its audience in a way that very few shows have in the history of musical theatre. At its core, it is a tale that reinforces the fact that even though we may have our many differences, it is our longing for freedom that makes us part of both a global community and a truly human family. I am extremely excited to present this wonderful story in a new way that will be a unique experience for Philadelphia theatregoers." ~ Bernard Havard, WST Producing Artistic Director.

Walnut Street will likely break another record for attendance this summer with this worthy production.

 

Photo Credits: Brett Thomas

Photo 1 : Christina DeCicco & Josh Young ( Eponine & Marius)

 Photo 2: Julie Craig & Hugh Panaro (Cosette & Valjean)

Photo 3: Paul Schoeffler (Javert)

Les Miserables plays at the Walnut Street Theater, Philadelphia PA through August 3, 2008. For tickets and information:  call 215.574.3550 or visit www.walnutstreettheatre.org

PRODUCTION AND DESIGN STAFF
Director: MARK CLEMENTS
Assistant Director: MEGAN NICOLE O'BRIEN
Assistant Director: STEVE PACEK*
Music and Vocal Director: DOUGLASS G. LUTZ
Set Design: TODD EDWARD IVINS
Lighting Design: JEFF NELLIS
Costume Design: COLLEEN GRADY
Sound Design: RYK LEWIS
Rehearsal Pianist: ERIC EBBENGA
Fight Director: DARREN MICHAEL HENGST*
Stage Managers: LORI AGHAZARIAN*, DEBI MARCUCCI*

THE CAST

Jean Valjean…………………….……................................…Hugh Panaro*
Javert…………………...................................Paul Schoeffler*
The Bishop of Digne....…….…….................…….PETER SCHMITZ*
Fantine…………………............................….....Jessica Bogart*
Young Cosette……….GIANNA BRUZZESE†, LAUREL GWYNNE YAROS‡
Madame Thenardier……............................….…DAWN SPENCE*
Thenardier….…...…….…...........................……….SCOTT GREER*
Young Eponine……….DANIELLE ROSENTHAL†, MAGGIE FITZGERALD‡
Gavroche..............................BRANDON O'ROURKE†, DANTE MIGNUCCI‡
Eponine……………..……..............................Christina DeCicco*
Enjolras………......................................JEFFREY COON*
Marius………………...............................……………….….Josh Young*
Cosette………………..…………..…...........................…..Julie Craig*

ENSEMBLE

Jessica Bogart*, GIANNA BRUZZESE†, JEFFREY COON*, Julie Craig*, Christina DeCicco*, Ben Dibble*, KELLEY FAULKNER*,
MAGGIE FITZGERALD‡, CONSTANTINE GERMANACOS*, SCOTT GREER*,
DARREN MICHAEL HENGST*, DANIELLE HERBERT*, JOE JACKSON*,
Mary Martello*, DANTE MIGNUCCI‡, MICHAEL PHILIP O'BRIEN*,
BRANDON O'ROURKE†, KATIE O'SHAUGHNESSEY*, STEVE PACEK*,
JENNIFER PAGE, FRAN PRISCO*, DANIELLE ROSENTHAL†,
ILONA RUBENSTEIN, NICHOLAS F. SAVERINE*, PETER SCHMITZ*,
ABIGAIL SPARROW, DAWN SPENCE*, DENISE WHELAN*,
LAUREL GWYNNE YAROS‡, Josh Young*

EXTRAS
JOHN GREENBAUM, MARK MURPHY, JOE O'BRIEN, CJ SIKORSKI
UNDERSTUDIES (partial list)
JEFFREY COON* (Jean Valjean: 2nd Cover thru 7/20, 1st cover after 7/20)
Ben Dibble* (Enjolras), CONSTANTINE GERMANACOS* (Marius),
JOHN GREENBAUM, MARK MURPHY, JOE O'BRIEN, STEVE POLLACK,
NICHOLAS F. SAVERINE *(Jean Valjean: 1st cover thru 7/20), CJ SIKORSKI

† Performs Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings and Thursday matinees.
‡ Performs Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, Saturday and Sunday matinees.


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