News Column

Play Review: RRT's 'Les Miserables'

November 1, 2013


Nov. 01--Sometimes a production succeeds not only in things going right, but when they go awry.

The final performance of Robidoux Resident Theatre production of "Les Miserables" Oct. 27 at the Missouri Theater was plagued with technical problems -- mics popping or not working, lights occasionally not hitting their spots and musical accompaniment cutting out halfway through a song.

Yet the cast powered through it all like champions, without losing a beat.

With the cast proving themselves more than capable of handling the now legendary music by Claude-Michel Sch nberg, the question remained -- was the St. Joseph regional theatre as a whole big enough to tackle such an enormous musical?

For the most part, yes.

To boot, the set, a run-down French environment from the mind of designer Frank Polleck, looked incredible.

Successfully capturing the poor towns of France, as well as the complex barricade for the musical's climactic series of events, Polleck and his crew created a set that would be impressive on almost any stage.

With the visual standard set, the cast did an impressive job filling the shoes of the iconic characters, like Chuck Hazelwood and Steve Snider's turns as enemies Jean Valjean and Javert, Morgan Breckenridge doing impressive work with the short time the star-crossed character Eponine is given and both Ashlyn Ford and Adrienne Collins giving great performances as young and older Cosette.

Almost stealing the show, Erik Burns-Sprung and Daisy Frisch were perfect as the only humorous characters in the show, Thenardier and Madame Thenardier. They were animated, but never mugged or upstaged any other performer. And despite being funny, the duo also made sure to highlight how despicable their characters were (outside of their final song, "Beggars at the Feast," where the audience began clapping along with them after they've extorted the protagonist, Marius, out of money.)

With each iconic song came an equally impressive vocal performance. Caleb Dahlgren nailed the forlorn "Empty Chairs and Empty Tables" with the right balance of vocal showmanship and emotion. Jenny Grechus was impressive singing the challenging "I Dreamed A Dream" and likewise was Breckenridge with the solo "On My Own."

Though there's too many names to list, there isn't enough praise to be given to the chorus, who not only kept the energy up and sounded incredible, but remained in-key and didn't skip a beat when the music accidentally dropped out of the show-stopping "At the End of the Day."

Outside of technical problems, the main missteps seemed to be with some odd blocking and directing decisions.

While some songs would allow the actors to be animated and emotional, like Javert's final song"Soliloquy," others seemed to restrain them too much, making the actors appear stiff and emotionless, when the lyrics suggest anything but that.

This caused a disconnect on a few songs between the audience and the actors that, while it sold the singers' talents, left some parts of the musical feeling cold.

While it marred parts of the musical, it wasn't a fatal blow by any means. When the musical finished, the cast got an immediate standing ovation and rightfully so.

They were faced with tackling one of the most beloved Broadway musicals and proved that a regional theatre was more than up to the task.

Andrew Gaug can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPGaug.


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