Nov 16 – LES MISERABLES at Concordia College in Moorhead

 

The show has been around for a good while now, appearing on stages of many theatres around the world, and also as a fine film.  We know all the big songs that punctuate the play – “On My Own”, “Bring Him Home”, “Castles in the Cloud” and a good handful more that we latch onto the second we hear them.  This musical based on the novel by Victor Hugo was written by Alain Boublil and Michel Schonberg.

 

Wilma and I heard these glorious songs   – and more – this Sunday afternoon at Concordia College as produced by the theatre department there.  A hearty group of Concordia faculty and staff, headed up by director Sally Storm, prepared a show with a strong student cast in a sincerely good performance.

 

(P.S.  I do admit to some paternal pride   – our son Steven Johnson is the technical director there – his work on the set by Christian Boy was a sight to behold – so very strong, so very visual.  Enough of the personal ad.)

 

THE MAJOR CAST

Jean Valjean …. Brandon Hurley

Javert … Riley Peterson

Fantine …. Anna Larranaga

Eponine … Devan Luth

Marius … .Justin Odney

Cosette … Megan Hovinen

Thenardier … Thomas Hacker

Madame Thenardier … Jenna Collins

Enjolras … Grant Strom

 

And a large cast of a good bunch of Concordia students who brought their musical skills with them….

 

Like I’ve already said, the best was the music.  Those songs – especially the solos, ring their way through this show with so much emotion and quality vocal work.  Bravo to all the solos – I do have to single out Megan Hovinen for her wonderful soprano as the adult Cosette – so light and airy, so appropriate.  And I also have to mention Brandon Hurley’s heartfelt and clear version of “Bring Him Home”.

 

The chorus pieces surely employed the voices of a strong cast. “Masters of the House” is as raucous drinking song as you find in musicals like this.  “Do You Hear the People Sing” surely qualifies as a showstopper as any.

 

The orchestra, led by Jeff Meyer, got no breaks at all.  The entire show was sung, first line to last, recitatives, solos and choral pieces alike.  This requires iron stamina from the unit, and though at times there may have been some misplays, the orchestra did a fine job.

 

Technically, so much went well – the sound is not easy to do when so many actors are miked, but it worked – right down to the echo effect used at the end when Fantine reappears as a ghost.  The lighting was effective – at times a bit dark, but part of this may have been the actors missing their marks.  The set, like I already said, was a strong visual image for the audience to enjoy.  The costumes would have been a challenge to any costume department, but they were all so appropriate for the show.  The acting seemed to take a second place behind the music – and to be honest, maybe that’s as it should be.  Could it have been done as a concert piece?  Yes, but it was fully staged and blocked – stilted at times, but like I said, the music is the star, not the acting.

 

My own opinion – the show itself isn’t as good a property to become a musical as other works.  This plot contained a love triangle, a manhunt, a revolution – any of  which could be used for a musical in themselves… and because there is so much going on, it seemed to me that there were jumps in the story that weren’t all that clear – and that’s a script that exists in a disjointed state to some degree.  The Threnadier couple was the comic relief of the show – I would have liked to see more of this as well.

 

All in all, kudos to the Concordia for executing a good production of a difficult show!

 

 

 

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