Theater & Dance
Review
"Les Misérables"

By: Alain Boubil and Claude-Michel Schõnberg, based on a novel by Victor Hugo. Lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer, original French text by Alain Boubil and Jean-Marc Natel, Additional material by James Fentron.
Produced by: Broadway By The Bay
Featuring: Adam S. Campbell, Anthony Bernal, Connor Smith, Efrain Lezcano-Ibarra, Britton Reeder, Nathaniel Rothrock, Samantha Pistoresi, Mark Wiesner, Dominic Michael Lewis, Doy Charnsupharindr, Mia Fryvecind Giminez, Camille Edralin, Daniel Lloyd Pias, Lewis Rawlinson, Jesse Cortez, Melinda Meeng, Lizzie Moss, Kristina Hudelson, Lauren Herman, Gabrielle Traub, Allayna Slate, Eva Colliou, Melissa Reinertson, Joseph Hudelson, Gabby Wylie-Chaney, Reed Wylie-Chaney, Britton Reeder, Lily Jeffrey, William Upton, Lauren Herman, Wiliiam Lipton, Erin Ashe, Samantha Cardenas, Daniel Rubio, Matthew Thomas Provencal, Jason Rehkla, Robert Sholty
Directed by: Jasen Jeffrey
Running time: 170 minutes, one intermission
When: March 6-22, 2015
Where: Fox Theatre, 2215 Broadway, Redwood City, California
Tickets: $47-$69; call 650-579-5565 or visit www.broadwaybythebay.org
When: March 28-April 5, 2015
Where: Golden State Theatre, 417 Alvarado Street, Monterey, California
Tickets: $39-$59; call 831-649-1070 or visit www.goldenstatetheatre.com

fantine's death
Mark and Tracy Photography / Broadway By The Bay
Mia Fryvecind Gimenez as Fantine, left, and Adam S. Campbell as Valjean in "Les Misérables" at Broadway By The Bay. Both are excellent singers. The show runs through March 22, 2015, in Redwood City, then moves to Monterey, March 28-April 5, 2015, at the Golden State Theatre.
Great cast, production
wasted on horrid show
If you like 'Les Misérables,' chances are you'll love
this Broadway By The Bay production
March 15, 2015

I had never seen "Les Misérables," because from what clips I had seen and heard over the years, I didn't think I'd like it.

But, I have a lot of admiration these days for Broadway By The Bay, which has been putting fabulous productions on stage — seriously excellent work, such as the unforgettable "Cabaret" in 2013.

And, Joanne Engelhardt, whose judgment I respect, saw this production of "Les Misérables" and raved about how great it was.

So I went, and found out I was wrong: I didn't just not like it. I hated it.

I got as far as when Fantine is in the hospital, and Valjean is promising to take care of Cosette, before I realized that I could not be in the same room with this overwrought, endless deluge of pathos and music I didn't like, and left.

I'd heard and enthusiastically applauded fabulous singing by Adam S. Campbell as Valjean and Mia Fryvecind Gimenez as Fantine, and liked Anthony Bernal's performance as Javert. In fact, the cast, direction, design, orchestra were all great. I didn't last long enough to see Jason Rehklau or much of Melissa Reinertson, whom I'd been looking forward to seeing, because I have seen them before and liked them.

(I was seated too far back to really see them anyway; my bad, because of my late request for tickets.)

— Advertising —

But I had to go. Sorry. I suggest you read Ms. Engelhardt's review in The Daily News.

I've been thinking about why I dislike this show so much. At first I thought it might be because it is a sung-through musical with too many grim songs. "I Dreamed a Dream" was pretty great, but mostly it is grim song leading to grim song leading to another grim song. Some amazing vocals, sure, but grim following grim.

But I don't think that's it. There are plenty of shows that are grim as hell and still absolutely worth watching. I don't mind sung-through at all, and even admire it. I suspect that, more to the point, it reminds me too much of the work of Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice. It is, clearly, superior to "Cats" and "Evita," but I still didn't like it.

And I have to say, lots of people love this show — it's had huge success in London, New York and in road shows, and on Saturday night, the beautiful old Fox Theatre in Redwood City was packed with an audience that seemed to love every bit of it. Everybody but me, that is, and a little boy sitting in front of me who was obviously bored out of his mind, but under the thumbs of two women I guessed were his mother and her sister.

The set, by Kelly James Tighe, is very impressive, stretched way high to the flys. Lots of fine work with curtains, which is not to be underappreciated. Sound was good. Costumes for the gigantic and excellent cast were quite good.

There were times that the lighting bothered me. Sure, it's supposed to be dark and dank in 1800s France, but let us see the chorus, please.

But, obviously, you get to ignore everything I say, because I didn't stay for the entire show. Go read Ms. Engelhardt's review. She stayed, and she liked it.

Update: An actor I like and respect posted something on Facebook to engender a conversation about this review, for which I anonymously thank him, because I am thrilled to see people discussing what I do. He apparently blocked it from my view, but luckily for me, he is not the only actor of my acquaintance on this particular planet, and someone else copied the responses and sent them to me.

I was nailed by some people for calling "Les Miz" a "spoken-through" musical, when in fact it is a "sung-through" musical. Call it a typo, call it a brain fart, either way, it was a mistake, and I am always glad to have my mistakes corrected.

And some people were highly critical of me because I didn't stay for the entire show, but posted a review about it anyway. One person said, "I don't care for the show's music to be truthful. However a critic has a responsibility to stay to evaluate the full production itself. Or STFU." (STFU means Shut The Fuck Up," I reckon.)

And I can tell you, there have been times I have not posted articles because I disliked some element of it so very much. For instance, I once interviewed a certainly extremely well-respected and honored actor, who was doing a show for an extremely well-respected and honored theater company, but I disliked him so much when we talked that I did not post a story about him.

There is so much that can be written about in the theater world that I don't feel a strong need to give public attention to someone I don't feel good about.

So why did I review this show, even though I disliked it so much that I couldn't bear to sit through it?

Because the production itself was excellent, and the performers were brilliant.

The people who put this production together deserve some attention for doing such a great job, even if I don't happen to like the show. And, partly thanks to that blocked-from-my-view post in Facebook, some people now know that I think Adam S. Campbell, Mia Fryvecind Gimenez and Anthony Bernal were all excellent.

And, I'd like to point out, do you know of another reviewer who went to the trouble to get the names of every single person in that full cast photo, and post them with the photo? That took a lot of work, and the help of at least two people involved in the production, who I will thank anonymously, so they are not tainted by my acquaintance.

I may not like the show, but I like the performers.

Email John Orr at johnorr@regardingarts.com

lovely ladies
Mark and Tracy Photography / Broadway By The Bay
The Female Ensemble as "Lovely Ladies" in "Les Misérables" at Broadway By The Bay. From left are Samantha Pistoresi, Samantha Cardenas, Melissa Reinertson, Erin Ashe, Lauren Herman, Camille Edralin, Gabrielle Traub and Lizzie Moss.
Little Cosette
Mark and Tracy Photography / Broadway By The Bay
Eva Colliou as Little Cosette, one of two young actors who play the role in "Les Misérables" at Broadway By The Bay. The other, not seen here, is Allayna Slate.
full cast
Mark and Tracy Photography / Broadway By The Bay
The cast of "Les Miserables" at Broadway By The Bay. From left on stage are Dan Rubio, Efrain Lezcano-Ibarra, Joseph Hudelson, Lily Jeffrey (in front), Melissa Reinertson, Lewis Rawlinson, Britton Reeder (in front), William Lipton (in front), Connor Smith, Nathaniel Rothrock, Erin Ashe, Jason Rehklau (in front), Adam S. Campbell, Samantha Rose Cardenas (in front), Mia Fryvecind Gimenez, Matthew Thomas Provencal, Anthony Bernal, Robert Sholty, Jesse Cortez, Doy Charnsupharindr, Dominic Michael Lewis and Daniel Lloyd Pias. On the platforms, from left, are Kristina Hudelson, Eva Colliou, Lauren Herman, Camille Edralin, Reed Wylie-Chaney, Lizzie Moss, Samantha Pistoresi, Gabrielle Traub, Gabby Wylie-Chaney, Allayna Slate and Melinda Meeng. The show runs through March 22, 2015, in Redwood City, then moves to Monterey, March 28-April 5, 2015, at the Golden State Theatre.


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