A Musical by Alain Boublil
& Claude-Michel Schonberg
Based on the Victor Hugo novel
Music by Claude-Michel Schonberg
Lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer
Directed and Musical Staging by Rachel Rockwell
Musical Direction by Roberta Duchak
At Drury Lane Theatre, Oakbrook
“To love another person is to see the face of God.”
–Victor Hugo from Les Miserables
The 30th Anniversary celebration at Drury Lane Theatre is marked by a master piece production of Les Miserables!
With a refreshing set design by Scott Davis with evocative video backdrops by Sage Marie Carter with impressive lighting by Greg Hofman, Director Rachel Rockwell has mounted a masterpiece with her flawless production of Les Miserables.! This may be the finest production ever at Drury Lane Oakbrook!
The orchestra used all the original orchestrations with a full pit under the crafty musical direction from Roberta Duchak. The powerful music with its full range of familiar sounds quickly engaged us into Victor Hugo’s sprawling sage.
Les Miserables is closer to an opera than a traditional musical as it contains a great score, wonderful songs and an uplifting story of the power of the human spirit and unconditional love. Full of romance, passion, suspense and humanity, it is the story of one man, the fugitive Jean Valjean (Ivan Ruthford) who is pitted against the self-righteous police office, Javert (powerfully sung by Quentin Earl Darrington) in a lifelong struggle to avoid capture. Les Miz is the story of the oppressed poor in 1815-1830’s France. Victor Hugo was a reform minded socialist bent on dramatizing the plight of the oppressed.
The sweeping tale covering three decades in France begins with a haunting Prologue that sets the dark tone. We hear Ivan Rutherford as Valjean in his Soliloquay. We quickly empathize with Valjean. The plight of the poor in vividly depicted in “Factory Workers” where we meet Fontine (Jennie Sophia) who sells her hair and body to sustain her child Cosette (Sage Harper). Fontine becomes ill and Valjean, now the mayor and prosperous factory owner promises Fontine that he’ll raise Cosette as his own. We hear two fabulous songs in this section: “I Dreamed a Dream” (sung nicely by Sophia ) and “Who Am I?” Valjean’s conscious speaking to himself. He is deciding what kind of man he is going to be. The hauntingly beautiful “Come To Me” duet has Fontine and Valjean singing to her death.
Young Cosette sings her dream in “Castle On A Cloud” and her guardians, the thieving Thenardiers sing their innkeeper practices in the rousing comic “Master of the House.” Mark David Kaplan, as Thenardier, and Sharon Sachs, a Madame Thenardier were wonderfully comic as the gross thieving innkeeper/thieves. They were the best ‘Thenardiers’ I’ve seen yet!
Its now 1832 and the students see the deprivation of the poor in Paris as the beggars and young Gavroche (the feisty Matthew Uzarraga ) lament in “Look Down.” Javert sings his ode to his commitment to righteousness in the terrific anthem “Stars” sung in a movingly heart wrenching yet powerful turn by Quentin Earl Darrington. The students are moved to action with the anthems “Red and Black” and “Do You Hear The People Sing?” Travis Taylor, as Enjolras, leads the students with his presence and rich baritone. Theses calls to action are thrilling moments. Marius (nicely sung by Skyler Adams), Cosette (Emily Rohm) and the beggar girl Eponine (the emotional Christina Nieves) sing “In My Life” as they search for love that explodes into “A Heart Full of Love” as Eponine sings to Marius who sings to Cosette. Act one ends with the ode to life in “One Day More” – a powerful march.
Act two finds Eponine singing to her loneliness in “On My Own,” a stirring love song. Eponine gets shot entering the barricade the student erect to fight the French Army. “A Little Fall of Rain” is Eponine’s dying song to Marius who is moved by her love and loyalty. “Drink With Me to Days Gone By” has Feuilly ( George Keating) and Grantaire (David Sajewich) saying good-by to his fellow students who may all die in the coming battle. Valjean joins the student fighters and sings the shows best song in the beautifully sad “Bring Him Home.” Ivan Rutherford reaches the falsetto notes easily as he delivers the pray for Marius to live.. The battle erupts and Valjean saves the wounded Marius. Javert meets Valjean as he takes Marius to the hospital. Javert pays his debt to Valjean for his life and then realizes that Valjean is, indeed, a righteous man, not himself. Darrington delivers his “Soliloquy” with a strong vocal that finishes with a breathtaking visual finish. The women and Marius sing a sad song to their fallen comrades in “Empty Chairs At Empty Tables.”
Les Miserables is an epic story of oppression that finds one good man, one zealot and a group of idealistic students each trying to make a difference in a harsh and cruel world. We see how eventually, goodness and humanity contained in resilient folks wins for a bright future. This is a richly emotional show filled with big anthems, rousing marches and tender love songs and sad laments that will leave you in tears. The power of the live stage and haunting music rings so true. See Les Miserables once again and rekindle your spirits. This beautiful show is artful that teens will enjoy. It is one of my all-time favorite shows and the Drury Lane production works so well on its smaller stage that brings forth the richness of the material. I was able to hear and understand every lyric due to the fine enunciation and articulation of the cast. You’d be hard pressed to hear a stronger cast of singer/actors than this cast that Rachel Rockwell has assembled. Kudos to Executive Producer Kyle Desantis for sparing no expense to produce a world class production of one of the greatest musicals (operas) of all-time. Don’t miss this stunning masterpiece!
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: April 8, 2014
For more info checkout the Les Miserables page at theatreinchicago.com
At Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, IL, call 630-530-0111, www.drurylane.com, tickets $45 – $55 – $60, Wednesdays at 1:30 pm, Thursdays at 1:30 pm & 8 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 5 & 8:45 pm, Sundays at 2 & 6 pm, running time is 2 hours, 50 minutes with intermission. through June 8, 2014