BWW Reviews: LES MIS Wows at Stagecrafters

Near our house on the Italian Riviera is the quaint Digne-les-Bains, a small town in Provence. This is where the tale from Victor Hugo's book LES MISERABLES opens in October 1815. The main character Jean Valjean is loosely based on the life of Eugène François Vidocq, an ex-convict who became a successful businessman widely noted for his social engagement and philanthropy. Valjean spends 19 winters in prison for stealing a loaf of bread, but the saintly Bishop Charles-François-Bienvenu Myriel converts him into an honest man. The actual Bishop of Digne during the time period in which Myriel's appearance in the novel is set was Bienvenu de Miollis. He served as Hugo's model for Myriel. The principal events of LES MISERABLES take place in Paris in 1832, during an uprising known as the June Rebellion; it has nothing to do with The French Revolution, which occurred in the previous century, with the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789.

The book is a classic, and the musical, adapted from the book, is an introduction to history for folks who mistakenly believe they hate history. A great performance of LES MISERABLES is worth years of high school history lessons. And a great opportunity to see this show is right at your fingertips.

Now on stage at the beautiful and noble Baldwin Theatre in Royal Oak is the Stagecrafters' production of LES MISERABLES. In a word, the show is flawless. With a cast of professional-quality actors and singers, this musical drama will wow you from the very beginning.

Josh Allor plays Jean Valjean, a physically demanding role that also requires a perfect voice to carry the show. In addition to lifting heavy things (like human bodies) Allor has constantly be on the move about the stage. "I am battered and bruised. My knees hurt, my back hurts, and I have more bruises than when I played football. Who would've thought musical theater would be so violent. Love every minute of it! Great show, great crew, amazing cast!" said Allor. In no uncertain terms, this role is tough and requires nothing less than a star to pull it off, which Allor does magnificently.

After the entire world was mesmerized by Susan Boyle's triumph on Britain's Got Talent, she set the bar formidably high for "I Dreamed a Dream." Randi Hamilton (Fantine) hits the mark and achieves indubitable glory as she performs this signature song. It brought the audience to tears.

Kryssy Becker (Éponine Thénardier) breaks the hearts of many in her desperate and moving solo "On My Own," when she reveals the world is full of happiness that she has never known. Her tale of unrequited love is absolutely devastating. Once the pampered and protected little girl living with her innkeeper parents in Montfermeil, France, she was never prepared for such an abject destiny. Her wails are heartrending, and Becker delivers the lamentations with mastership.

Police inspector Javert (Jamie Richards) is an enigma. For some reason, he just can't get over Valjean's peccadillo of pinching "le pain". Has he never read about Robin Hood and his band of merry men? Stealing food does not deserve 19 winters' hard labor. Don't we read in Matthew 21:1-9, Jesus sent his merry men out of Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, to steal a she-donkey and her colt? That seems like a more serious misdeed than stealing bread, because donkeys were the equivalent of cars back then. If Jesus can ride a hot ass into town on Palm Sunday, I don't know why Valjean can't take some bread for his starving family. Jamie Richards does a phenomenal Javert, far better than Russell Crowe even dreamed; he also has great intestinal fortitude despite black death inconvenience: "Its official...I have the Les Miserables plague! I feel like merde!! Fingers crossed I can exorcise it by Thursday!" he said on social media.

John Szczotka gives a command performance as Gavroche Thénardier, the street urchin who risks his life by squeezing through the barricade to rip off ammunition cartridges from the dead bodies of the National Guardsmen. He's an adorable little pilferer - they should send him out into the audience to beg for donations. I bet he'd collect a mint!

Enjolras (played heroically by Nick Yocum) is the leader of the students who built a barricade outside a wine shop in the Rue de la Chanverrerie. If you have to form a barricade, at least do it in a fun place! Unfortunately, the handsome lad is shot while waving the republicans' giant red flag; apparently Enjolras didn't believe in being discreet.

Tony Battle is great in everything he does, and that includes a beautiful performance as Bishop Charles-François-Bienvenu Myriel. He has a rich, Michael Bublé sort of voice and poise that gives dignity and class to the role.

Bradley Ellison performs the role of studmuffin Marius Pontmercy with great aplomb. Part eye candy and part ear candy, Ellison was absolutely stellar. His signature "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" was a Tour-de-force, a triumph for this superb show. Great talent is found in the entire cast, making this production a snap for genius Randall Wrisinger (Music Director) and sage of the stage Rodel Salazar (Director).

Seats are almost impossible to find. Even when Stagecrafters adds extra performances, all inventory gets sold out instantly. Your best bet is to call the theatre to inquire about unexpected ticket returns. Box Office: 248.541.6430.

For further information about this show and the exciting forthcoming season, kindly visit www.stagecrafters.org.

Public Service Announcement:

Visit France and raise funds for a worthy cause. Featuring Paris, the Loire Valley, Burgundy, Provence & the French Riviera. The travel agency owner will donate 50% of agency profit from this tour directly to Stagecrafters. Kindly visit http://tourfrance.weebly.com for details.

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Les Miserables at Stagecrafters in Royal Oak


Les Miserables at Stagecrafters in Royal Oak


Les Miserables at Stagecrafters in Royal Oak


Les Miserables at Stagecrafters in Royal Oak


Les Miserables at Stagecrafters in Royal Oak


Les Miserables at Stagecrafters in Royal Oak


Nick Yocum

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