Sunday, May 28, 2006

Les Miserables - 5th Avenue Musical Theater Company

Possibly the epitome of musical theater of our time, Les Miserables is the tragic and beautiful telling of a war-torn love story to a degree not reached by any other medium. It has been produced in countless forms and productions and locations. This production being one of them, and quite a powerful rendition, indeed.

Jean Valjean's escape from parole in nineteenth century France and care for the poor Cosette are all acts of repentance for his seemingly-minor crime of years ago. He is hunted through the years by Javert, the God-fearing, law-upholding officer. All the paths intersect in the French Revolution with the school-boy rebellion and tragic love story of Cosette and Merius.

This production requires an incredible amount of skill and work to complete in a manner as amazing as the 5th Avenue's production turned out. Had not the performers been as powerful and impressive as they are, they could easily have been upstaged by the lighting and stage design. David Hersey's lighting design is an amazingly impressive masterpiece. With his skill combined with John Napier's production design, the transitions are seamless and invisible. Sets change and disappear faster than anyone can notice that the stage has turned to hide the shift in the perfectly placed shadows. The use of darkness and skrims in this production make invisibility and true stage magic completely possible. The lighting and incredible mechanics of the set augment the show to a completely unbelievable level of excellence.

There is not one performer who can be singled out above another. There is also not a weak link in the cast. Randal Keith (Jean Valjean) has power and presence to be envied by any performer. His stage presence is immediately noticeable, even from the back of the balcony. His power is matched by Robert Hunt (Javert) which makes for a frightening and intimidating spectacle when the two forces clash together. Melissa Lyons' (Eponine) sweet and lovely vocal talent could sooth the most ferocious heart to a lovable cloud. Her presence is also absolutely undeniable. Anthony Skillman's (Gavroche) eight-year-old power is amazing. His power and talent will be seen for years to come on the professional stages of the world. Rachel Schier (young Cosette) will also be seen for years to come. At nine years old, she is already a force to be reckoned with.

This production is a must-see. The show's staying power will keep it around for years and years, but this cast will soon dissolve. Catch it while you can.

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