Flint, MI
Totally stunning Les Miz' loaded with talent, pathos
Flint, Michigan
Wednesday, October 15, 2003
By Kathleen Kirby
Contributing Writer
Broadway's loss is Flint's gain this week as Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg's phenomenal operatic version of Victor Hugo's novel of oppression and determination, "Les Miserables," settled in Tuesday for a six-day, eight performance run at Whiting Auditorium. It is a totally stunning production.
Set in the underworld of 19th century France, the story simmers with injustice, righteous anger, greed, crass indifference, love, loyalty and sacrifice.
It concerns Jean Valjean, a convict released from 19 years of hard labor who escapes his enforced public parole to become a successful factory owner and mayor of his town.
Only when he mercifully helps a dying young woman does he expose his identity.
Randal Keith is incredible in this role. His vocal range is breathtaking and is enhanced further by his superb portrayal of this complex character.
Valjean's nemesis is his pursuer, Inspector Javert, played by James Clow.
Also a complicated character, Clow brings strength and regal bearing along with enormous vocal power to this righteously arrogant role.
Beyond these two, this is a show with many stars. There are no weak links, but there were some truly shining moments.
Homeless and destitute, Fantine's "I Dreamed a Dream" was plaintive and poignant as sung by Tonya Dixon, while Michael Kostroff and Cindy Benson as the Thenardiers were a hit with the rousing and bawdy "Master of the House."
However, Keith's "Bring Him Home," Valjean's second act prayer to save Marius from harm in the coming battle, nearly stopped the show Tuesday.
Technically, this production is far grander than anything we've seen here to date. It travels with an enormous revolving stage, 17 orchestra members, at least a truckload of costumes and wigs, five fog machines, hundreds of special lighting effect lamps, two behemoth barricades and 36 cast members.
Special effects abound and are abetted by the constantly moving stage, but the really intriguing one involves Javert's suicidal leap from a high bridge.
Of course, the battle on the barricade is amazing with its view of both sides and even can be alarming.
Musically, one of the most inspiring moments in theater is always the students here urging themselves toward revolution with "Do You Hear the People Sing?," and it was again a brash and stirring experience.
Perhaps the singularity different thing about "Les Miz" is that it breaks all the stereotypes surrounding musical theater.  It is sung, never spoken, yet it is richly pure theater. The theme is serious, often distressing, and even the comic relief is dark. Still, it strikes a chord deep inside to which audiences everywhere seem to respond.
Tuesday's near-capacity house didn't just stand to applaud at the finale; they erupted to their feet.
If you plan to attend only one theatrical event this year, let it be this one. Everything else pales a bit in comparison.

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