changes; quality stays
Miserables’ blessed with wonderful solos
- Having seen Les Miserables at
old Memorial Hall during its first three visits to Dayton, I was eager to see how much
difference seeing it at the Schuster Performing Arts Center would make.
- Not much, it turns out. Les Miz is what it is and has
always been: a great, corny, contrived, satisfying and inspiring
musical. Seeing it in a glossy and comfortable new hall
actually works against it, to a certain extent.
- It’s more difficult to suspend
disbelief and allow those projected titles to hurtle
us back in time and station to the
lowly environs of Digne, where we encounter hero Jean Valjean toiling on a prison
gang during the prologue, or Montfermeil, where bruised, tattered and underfed
Cosette is dispatched by the heartless Thenardiers to fetch water with a bucket heavier
than she is.
- The mechanized scenic barricades that ramp out from the wings
like the extendable jaws of the space monsters in the Aliern films
might be extensions fo the Schuster Center's deployable acoustical
systems instead of what they were in the mid-1980s -- the very
latest in showbiz technology.
- Why not light up the fiber-optic
twinklers in the Schuster Center dome when Inspector Javert delivers the final
phrase in his Act 1 showstopper Stars? They remained dark when performer
Clow sang his heart out on
opening night Tuesday.
- What this Les Miz would have in a
church basement, a park or Memorial Hall, is dynamic performances, singers and
songs that seize the story and carry it, and an overall larger-than-life experience.
- Randal Keith, who projected his
distinguished baritone to less-forgiving rafters in a 1995 Dayton Philharmonic pops
concert at the Dayton Convention Center, is the prototypical wide-bodied Valjean,
capable of booming resonance in low notes and a delicate near-falsetto. He put both
to use in Act 2’s Bring Him Home, the single most excellent solo on a night
blessed with them.
- Keith is a marvelous and experienced
Valjean who anchors this production, but also sets a high standard. Ma-Anne
Dionisio was up to it as Eponine, whose On My Own was sad, beautiful and wonderful.
- Tonya Dixon seemed at first too
large a presence as the “little,” besieged Fantine,
but all doubts disappeared when she
delivered her character’s heartfelt and expressive
story, I Dreamed a Dream.
- Josh Young also required some warming up to as Marius. But
Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, his Act 2 solo with the
ghosts of his fallen comrades behind him, was as honest as it
- Amanda Huddleston as the adult
Cosette, child performers Branden Steinagle as Gavroche and Nadine Jacobson as tiny
Cosette, John-Andrew Clark as Enjolras, with Cindy Benson and Michael Kostroff as
the Thenardiers, also lived up to their featured roles.
- Lyrics that were muddied by Memorial
Hall’s voids and pillars were generally much clearer, although distinguishing one
voice from another wasn’t easy toward the front of the auditorium during songs with
layers that eventually merge in harmony.
- No matter. Move this show back to
First Street or keep it right here. It’s worth
- Contact Terry Morris at
225-2377 or tmorris@DaytonDailyNews.com.