BWW Reviews: Look Up For LES MISERABLES
The Fireside's production of Les Miserables is a dream of which I've always dreamed.
Smack dab in the middle of cow country lives a theatre company that has been sending audiences away in awe and wonder for 36 years. The Fireside of Fort Atkinson Wisconsin is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary (of the restaurant, the theatre came later on) with an astounding production of a show they have never before taken on. On the 18th, I had the privilege to attend the show following a delectable five course meal. To begin the night off right, audiences are escorted into a retro lounge and served cuisine sensibly paired with the show they are about to witness. After feasting, somewhat ironic for the themes of Les Miserables, we were ushered into a quaint in-the-round theatre.
The iconic tale of Jean Valjean, a paroled convict, trying to make peace with his past while on the run by a corrupt officer by the name of Javert is one that has captured the hearts of many theatre goers since its premiere in London in 1985. Many plots lay at the center of Les Mis though they all have one thing in common, revolution. Characters who are not members of the French police force or military are portrayed as challenging the Bourgeoisie in order to gain back control of the country's wealth for the majority. This storyline provides actors a great deal of power, which makes the show difficult to perform well, because they must do justice to the history of which they speak.
Never before have I been so moved by a group of performers.
Without any room to hide even a moment of connection from their audience, the actors in the company had to be on task for the nearly three hour performance. Viewers were so close that sweat and wig caps were visible, but those minute details weren't what anyone was focusing on. The sheer horror seen on the face of Ryan Cupello (who played Marius), looks of contempt shot from the eyes of Jon Reinhold (Javert) and certainly the spunky portrayal of Gavroche (KyLee Hennes) are what made the show truly spectacular.
Andrew Foote should be a household name. His honest depiction of Jean Valjean has set the bar for any other actor to dare to attempt. Though I have never personally seen the original Broadway production, Foote's enchanting vocal abilities far surpass his predecessor.
Ed Flesch, who has been the director since the opening of the theatre, has taken a show that has been arguably overdone and given it new life. Les Mis, a show that can be ruined by poor direction, is safe in the capable hands of Flesch. He has certainly given one critic a new point of view on a show that had yet to astonish.
Flesch's direction, however, could only go so far without a small army of incredible performers. There was not a
face on that stage, or on the rising turntable, that did not captivate.
Reinhold's performance gave audiences the chance to see the multifaceted man that Javert is meant to be instead of demonizing him as is often the case. Though certainly some audience members held the motion picture's concept of Russell Crowe in their minds for the role, Crowe couldn't hold a candle to Reinhold's execution of the part.
For those who have never ventured out to The Fireside, I implore that you do so. The entire evening, from dinner to the show, will enchant even the stodgiest theatregoer. But don't let the beignets fool you; this show is full of light, heartbreak, love, romance, and war.
Suffice it to say, any brave souls who may want to spend a night with the revolutionaries: you have, upon the publishing of this review, six days more.