There was never a doubt, when Proctors announced a run of “Les Misérables” this season, that it would be playing to a sellout crowd. The usual patrons would be there, of course — the ones who never miss a musical at Proctors. But with the movie having just come out, there would be a whole new group of fans — people who had never seen it on stage and wanted to experience it for the first time as it was originally intended.
They will not be disappointed by this production.
This “Les Misérables” — the 25th anniversary production — is creative, beautifully staged, and brilliantly acted and sung. The sets are the perfect mix of grunge and utility, and the backdrop — a neat bit of work involving projection that makes the stage look immensely deep — is breathtaking.
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: Through Sunday
HOW MUCH: $90-$20
MORE INFO: 346-6204, www.proctors.org
The lighting is picture-perfect; even the shadows on the walls, ceiling, and floor of the house, whether planned or not, are stunning. Proctors’ sound, which has been hit or miss for the last few productions I’ve seen, was crisp and perfect; we didn’t miss a note and were completely able to understand every lyric, which is important in such a complicated musical.
Peter Lockyer’s Jean Valjean had the dignity and aplomb necessary for the role, and the emotional depth needed to project his character’s growth. His voice filled the house, not a small feat considering the size of the venue. Andrew Varela’s Javert was a little less successful; although a strong actor (who did especially well in his scenes opposite Lockyer) his voice was not always as pitch-perfect as it could have been.
As the dastardly Thénardiers, Shawna M. Hamic and Timothy Gulan hammed it up just enough, but not too much. It’s easy to overplay such over-the-top characters, but they had just enough restraint to make them comic but not farcical.
The staging for “Master of the House” in Act 1 was a triumph; the entire stage was filled with carousing visitors to the Thénardiers’ inn, and everyone was completely in sync. You barely knew where to look in fear you’d miss something wonderful happening on the other side of the stage, yet it never seemed too busy.
Briana Carlson-Goodman’s Éponine was appropriately hard as nails and heartachingly broken in her love for Marius. Her “On My Own” and “A Little Fall of Rain” were two of the high points of the evening.
Devin Ilaw’s performance as Marius was strangely weak for most of the production, but he delivered a strong, very angry performance for “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” that showed the evolution of his character (and made me wish I’d seen more of that backbone for the rest of the show, as it would explain why all these beautiful young women kept falling in love with him.)
I’ve seen a number of productions of “Les Misérables” over the years, and this one by far exceeds them all. Sometimes people are afraid to take a risk with one of the sacred cows of musical theater, and this production proves that looking at it with a new eye and taking it to new places, as long as it’s done well, is a way to keep it fresh and alive, even 25 years after it premiered.