The house was packed for the premiere of the College Light Opera Company’s production of “Les Misérables” and the crowd was not disappointed. From the dramatic tattered, bleu, blanc et rouge curtain stretched across the stage that greeted the audience to the last rousing scene, the show has an energy, a momentum that is sustained to the last. CLOC is at Highfield Theatre in Falmouth.
Based on the classic French novel by Victor Hugo, “Les Misérables” tells the story of Jean Valjean, who is sent to prison for stealing a loaf of bread, and then released after 19 years in prison. When he is free at last, he makes decisions that will shape his life: in addition to breaking his parole, he decides not to let the bitterness of prison rule his life and promises to raise and protect Cosette, the daughter of Fantine, a single mother who is driven to become a prostitute and whom he meets during his newly regained freedom.
Jean Valjean is ably portrayed by Bruce Barger, whose strong tenor and acting skills bring Jean to life. The adult Cosette is portrayed by Becca Jackson, whose gentile manner conveys the loveliness of the life that Jean, as the only father she knew, surrounds her with.
But redemption is not easy for Jean Valjean. He is pursued throughout the play by Javert, a martinet of an inspector played skillfully by Adam Wells. Part of the dramatic tension in the play is wondering if he will escape the unforgiving arms of the law that Javert represents.
Joined with this story is that of Marius, a young student and revolutionary who takes part in the uprisings of 1832 in the streets of Paris and whose path crosses that of Cosette. They fall in love and the plot thickens. Billy Hicks sings the role of Marius and his voice shines in several of the duets. Entwined in this subplot is Eponine, played by Rebecca Brudner. Cosette, as a young child, was looked after by Eponine’s parents, Monsieur and Madame Thenardier. Cosette’s life with them was that of a slave and Jean Valjean rescues her from this life. The Thenardiers’ connection to her and to her fate and that of Jean Valjean is woven throughout the play. The Thenardiers are played by Gunnar Manchester and Lindsay Cabaniss; their musical and comic skills add a lot to the show. Their villainy is in counterpoint to the unrelenting seriousness of Javert’s “moral” justice.
The singing and acting of all of the cast were fine, from the operatic tones of Cosette to the more contemporary presentation of Enjolras (Nick Martiniano). The ensemble pieces were rousing all the way through. I especially loved the “Master of the House,” I Dreamed A Dream,” “Do You Hear the People Sing?” and “Bring Him Home.”
There are two local children playing the roles of the young Cosette, Eponine, and the young Gavroche. Molly Baptiste of Bourne plays the young Eponine and Gavroche and Makena Jarvis of Pocasset is the young Cosette. Their singing was pitch perfect and they held their own on stage.
The harmonies of the duets, trios and quartets were wonderful, conveying both the mood of the scene and their emotions.
Stage management by Mark A. Pearson was smooth and the orchestra, under the direction of Beth Burrier, was spot on. I enjoyed the fight scene at the barricades, the interplay of the gunshots with the music. The costumes and makeup were well done and the set, though minimal, was cleverly managed, with a placard on the wall denoting the time and place.
This is a production not to be missed. It was well done and the two and a half hours went quickly, without a lag. It was “magnifique.”
“Les Misérables” will end on Saturday, August 2. There is a matinee on Thursday, July 31 at 2 PM. Tickets may be obtained at the Highfield box office or by calling 508-548-0668.