Live Theater Review: Les Miserables
This Saturday, I took my girlfriend to go see Les Miserables at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. It’s a small community theater, but I love the story of Les Miserables and I got a good deal on the tickets so I figured I had to jump on them. Maile had never seen the play (or the movie) and went in without any preconceived notions. I’m a bit jealous of her in that regard, because I had seen the play before. I’m very spoiled; I got to see Les Mis in New York years ago. It was (hands down) the best Broadway show I had ever seen. The music and performances were incredible, and the sets and special effects really transported you to revolutionary France.
In this review, I’ll try not to compare this show to the one on Broadway. That would be extremely unfair as they had a fraction of the budget. I’ll try my best to review it based on its own merits (which are many) and its own failures (there are a few).
- The story. Les Miserables is a fantastic story of revolution, law, love, revenge, poverty, forgiveness, and much more. It handles all of these issues quite well without ever being preachy or too bleak. If you’ve never seen it, get to a theater as soon as you can. As I can attest, even a small community theater can do a good job with the material.
- The acting. The Encore theater troupe did a fine job, and there wasn’t really a weak link. The Thénardiers (“Master of the house”…) were a bit campy for my taste, but they were supposed to be the comic relief so it worked, and they were very funny.
- The music/singing. Les Mis has very memorable/catchy songs, so the only way to mess it up would be to hire actors who could not sing. I’m happy to report that the entire cast did a fantastic job with the material. I feel obliged to give a special mention to the actors who played Valjean, Javert, and Éponine. All three gave me chills at different points of the play, and all three rightly deserved the most praise/applause.
- The costumes. Both rich characters and poor were clothed appropriately for the period. A good costume is part of a good character, and the costume department deserves their own round of applause.
- The sound quality was a bit choppy. There were a few moments during the play where the music cut out and a few moments where the singing was piercingly loud for a split second. The sound issues were (thankfully) fixed very quickly every time, but it was noticeable and took the audience out of the world for a second.
- The sets were pretty sparse. I’m aware that it’s a local theater and they have a much smaller budget than Broadway. However, most of the time, the background was just a blue or red screen. Towards the end of Act I, they projected an image of Jean Valjean’s house as a background, which was great. I wondered why they just didn’t use projected imagery for the whole play.
- This con is not the fault of the cast, but the audience. The little boy that played the street urchin Gavroche got a wild applause after every line he delivered. He was good, but was he THAT good? I think it was probably his family in the audience. Not a big deal, but it was a bit distracting.
Les Miserables is a play that it would be very hard to screw up since the story and music are so strong. The Encore theater troupe did a fine job and I enjoyed the evening immensely despite my (minor) criticisms. I’d be happy to visit the theater again soon.
Story: ★★★★★ of 5
Acting: ★★★½ of 5
Music: ★★★½ of 5
Visuals: ★★½ of 5
Overall: ★★★½ of 5
Live Theater Reviews
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