The Senior Company at Stage 74 put on an inspiring and heartwarming performance of the classic 1985 musical Les Misérables. The energy in the theatre was palpable from start to finish as the talented cast sang their way through opening night. The difficulty of this musical cannot be overstated, as it is a show that is completely sung through with little to no dialogue and a plot that includes a series of heavy topics, yet the cast was able to perform it seemingly with ease, confidence, and a level of professionalism that left the audience feeling completely engaged all throughout its almost two and a half hour runtime.
Les Mis tells the story of early 19th-century France through the lens of the lead character Jean Valjean, a man recently released from prison on parole after being imprisoned for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. After being inspired by a noble act of mercy, Valjean decides to break his parole to start a new, respectable life. The story’s main antagonist is Javert, a prison guard who has made it his life’s purpose to find Valjean in order to ensure justice is restored. Several time jumps occur throughout the show that takes the audience on a journey through France’s revolutionary period of history. The climax of the musical takes place at a street barricade in Paris as a group of characters in an act of protest attempt to overthrow the corrupt French government. The musical was adapted from the 1862 Victor Hugo novel and is considered a staple in the musical theatre community. It was adapted into a film in 2012 and infamously included live singing, which earned it mixed reviews while simultaneously managing to introduce the classic musical to a wider audience.
The ensemble is such an integral part of this musical and is such an asset for conveying to the audience the severity of this historical time period, and the ensemble in this production went above and beyond to hit this home. Every ensemble member and featured performer brought so much life into this performance and turned this stage musical into a fully immersive experience. Jake Van Eycken gave such a powerful, passionate performance as Valjean that left the audience hanging onto every note he sang. “Bring Him Home” was a standout moment in the show and Van Eycken mastered the song’s gradual emotional intensity. Javert was played by Nate Blatt who brought so much nuance and intensity to the role, which was put on full display during his rendition of “Stars” and “Javert’s Suicide”. Aidan Hessle as Marius, a student rebel conflicted between pursuing a romantic life or risking his life for his beliefs, gave a performance so full of love, hope, and charisma. Fan favorite character Eponine was exceptionally portrayed by Julia Levinson whose performance of “On My Own” enchanted the audience while hammering home the character’s feelings of longing and selflessness. Anna Dempsey as Cosette, a young girl who Valjean raises as his own, had such a beautiful delicacy running through her performance that acted as a burst of sunshine during the show’s dark story. Fantine is a character with very limited time on stage, yet Dara Gordon’s performance was so striking that it could be felt during the show’s entire runtime. Ari Spiegel gives a great performance dripping in integrity and honor, which was perfect for conveying the young leader of the rebels, Enjolras. The Thenardier’s serve as the comedic relief of the show, and Ray Zerner and Kat Conway deliver this campy, over-the-top performance with ease. “Innkeeper's Song” and the many running gags that they perform throughout the show managed to get the audience engaged and laughing every time. This production also featured three fantastic performers from the Junior Company: Braden Hughes as Gavroche, Elyana Randolf as Young Cosette, and Caroline Reid as Young Eponine.
Rochele Seskin as Managing Artistic Director was so full of pride when introducing the company. Tyler Patrick Matos directed this show in a way that catered to the talent of the cast and crew while remaining true to the original stage production. With so many characters, storylines, and time periods to keep track of during the show, the costume design, done by Julia Puttré, contributed so much to the overall storytelling and helped the audience to fully grasp who they were watching, when it was happening, and what was going on. Musical director Sid Cherry had the demanding job of leading the pit in a show that is almost entirely singing and did an incredible job. The musicians included Emily Dana, Ryan Beucke, Shane Helfner, and Logan Michaels who all did a great job setting the mood of the performance and perfectly merging with the vocalists. Although there was some audio trouble at times, the cast and musicians always managed to remain come and carry on in a way that displayed total professionalism. It is so admirable just how much time and effort went into this production by everybody involved and all of that hard work definitely shone through in the performance.
If you or your child is looking to perform at an excellent Long Island theatre that consistently puts on wonderful, professional-level shows, look no further than Stage 74 at SYJCC!
Blog by Ally Roberts