Dayton, Ohio
Theater: Les Miserables
Dayton City Paper
October 02, 2003
Blissful melodrama
By Russell Florence, Jr.
What a difference a venue makes. After years of Les Misérables setting up shop at the tonally flawed Memorial Hall, the musical finally gets the acoustical treatment it deserves at the Benjamin & Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center. 
Of course, the journey Les Mis took from Memorial Hall to the Schuster didn’t happen overnight. It actually started over a decade ago at a time when this town was considered an “invisible market.” Reflecting on his early years at the Victoria Theatre, Mark Light, president of the Victoria Theatre Association, spoke about the idea of bringing the widely popular show to our backyard. “No big Broadway shows had ever really played Dayton before,” Light said. “People went to the Broadway series in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Indianapolis. They would have to drive by Dayton yet never saw this city as a viable market. But since the initial success of Les Mis in the fall of 1990, the Victoria Theatre has never looked back.” 
Light is eager for Dayton theatergoers to see Les Mis again. “Les Mis marks 13 lucky years since the Victoria first brought the show to Dayton,” he said. “Les Mis symbolically closes the loop. It will be an end and a beginning. Les Mis is a bookend on an era of transformation in our downtown community.”
Watching Les Mis toward the rear of the Schuster Center’s Mead Theatre, I noticed that every note seemed crisp and clear, which wasn’t always the caseat Memorial Hall. All songs in the melodic Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg score were gorgeously sung by the vocally strong cast. The trademark turntable, huge barricades, fog machines, impressive lighting, and a top-notch orchestra were all superbly featured as well. There wasn’t anything 
scaled down about this visually stunning production — the only production currently playing in the U.S.
The second longest running show in Broadway history and based on the novel by Victor Hugo, Les Mis is an epic saga that chronicles the turbulent decades of 19th century French history. It’s also the story of the fugitive Jean Valjean, who struggles to evade capture by the relentless Inspector Javert. Even though the gist of the musical deals primarily with theft, prostitution, and rebellion over a period of three lengthy but swift hours, it never ceases to pack an emotional punch.
Randal Keith (Jean Valjean) was chosen by legendary producer Cameron Mackintosh to be the final Valjean on Broadway when Les Mis ended its 16-year run in May 2003. If his performance in Dayton was any indication, Mackintosh certainly made the right call. Keith was fantastic in what many consider to be one of the most challenging roles in the musical theater canon for a male actor. Keith wonderfully held the entire show in his hands. He 
brought down the house in Act Two with “Bring Him Home.” As soon as he hit the infamous first three notes, the number became a signature moment filled with heartfelt pleading. 
James Clow (Javert) was a tall, stately and intimidating presence that benefited his characterization. His powerful and lyric-driven interpretation of “Stars” was a thrilling Act One showstopper.
Tonya Dixon (Fantine) sang “I Dreamed a Dream” with gusto, especially her crescendo into the final verse. Ma-Anne Dionisio (Eponine) sincerely rendered both “On My Own” and “A Little Fall of Rain.”
Josh Young (Marius) took some getting used to but he soared in Act Two with “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.” Amanda Huddleston (Cosette) sang “In My Life” beautifully but hers will always be a throwaway role. Young and Huddleston had fine chemistry throughout the show, especially when singing the beautiful yet underrated gem, “A Heart Full of Love.” 
John-Andrew Clark (Enjolras) defiantly led the energetic “Red and Black” and “Do You Hear the People Sing?” Child performers Nadine Jacobson (young Cosette) and Daniel Wright (Gavroche) were fine, particularly the crowd-pleasing Wright.
Cindy Benson (Madame Thenardier) and Michael Kostroff (Thenardier) were the weak links in the cast. They were a predictable and odd pair, relying more on the humorous essence of their characters without being very funny themselves. Lacking spunk, they gave performances that merely scratched the surface of comedy. Benson and Kostroff also didn’t add anything fresh to the rousing “Master of the House” number.
Following in the footsteps of Blast and The Phantom of the Opera, Les Mis proved that any musical theater production that graces the Schuster Centerstage will undoubtedly be acoustically sound. If you’ve already seen Les Mis or want to experience its uplifting melodrama all over again, now is definitely the time. Bring your tissues and enjoy.
Les Misérables plays through October 5 at the Benjamin & Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center, located at the corner of Main and Second Streets. Ticket prices range from $20.50 to $63. For more information, call (937) 228-3630 or visit

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