LES MISERABLES: A Dever Players Review

Roy Zhu '21, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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Les Misérables, much like the 19th century Paris it depicts, is a little bit of everything- a bold, passionate, eruption of the human psyche in its many, many forms. It’s easy to see a theme in Les Misérables– like its musical composition, the play is a cacophony of counterpoints: love and loss, futility and progress, iconoclasm and idealism. Part of this is due to the efforts of the playwright/composer duo Schonberg and Boublil, who built the entirety of the play around the thematic characterizations of the cast. It’s why the martial, ominous drumbeat is Javert, the lilting violins Fantine, and the bold trombones Valjean- a symphony of qualities. Add social class divisions, unrest, and the cinders of revolutionary sentiment, simmer for 30 years, and you have yourselves one of the most universally relatable plays of all time.

But enough with the analysis and on with the entertainment. Les Misérables is always a favorite theatre piece, one that practically consumes the spotlight. As the culmination of this year’s Dever Players season, Les Mis exploded off the stage in all its epic brilliance. Adapting Hugo’s novel into a two-act play is a feat in itself, though, especially to fit inside the confines of an evening performance. This Student Edition of Les Mis does the original play incredible justice, keeping the essence and vibrancy of the original without cutting into the emotional breadth the play requires to sustain itself.

Part of Les Mis’ success can also be attributed to the diverse range of talented cast members in the production and its convenient spread of leading roles. This year, BC High reached out to schools around the state to fill the roles of Fantine, Cosette, Eponine, Mme. Thenardier, and other female characters in Les Mis, of whom Madison Carroll, Mikenzie Matheson, Alana McDermott, and Grace Varela (respectively) were exemplary. Fully capturing the emotional range of these characters through song was not easy, from the independent Fantine to the heartbroken Eponine, but these Dever Players did it by stunning the audience with voices fit for an opera house.

This particular production also showcased Les Mis’ ensemble actors; the unique setting dynamics of the Thenardier inn or the barricade gave ample opportunities for the whole cast to shine. In particular, the songs “One More Day” and “Master of the House” were brilliantly choreographed routines, organized in such a way that the lively bustle of an inn or barricade could be interwoven into an synchronized dance number. But in terms of sheer attention capturing wonder, “One Day More” and the Epilogue take it away with sheer magnitude of volume and inspiration. Taking advantage of the size of the cast, the play artfully filled the stage with people that made the setting come to life, from the overwhelming energy of a protest to a crowd of forlorn inmates.

But what made this play come together so perfectly was the completeness of its environment, and even small elements of the play cannot be overlooked as part of its success. It was obvious from the start that the everything from the stage to the lighting was meticulously put together, becoming the essential framework for the story to take place. On either side of the stage, large banners hang where notes on the place/time and lighting effects were projected, amplifying the stage and perspective of the audience. The lighting was contrasting, dramatic, and thematic, with crimson light drowning the set for much of the barricade and fighting scenes. Even the stage elements (a tiered platform for barricades and bridges) were designed symmetrically, where people could fill in center stage in human pyramid fashion, making ensemble songs all the more memorable. But most interestingly, Les Mis invited a full chamber orchestra to accompany the singing, with their own makeshift pit sitting below the stage. While the loud, symphonic music did at times drown out the vocals, they still made the play unique and powerfully invigorating, swelling with emotion and vibrancy.

Among Dever Player regulars, the character of Jean Valjean was played by James Pickart ‘20, a relatively new Dever Player but an experienced musical actor, who emphasized Valjean’s charismatic, determined, and larger-than-life persona. The unrelenting Javert was performed by regular Alec Carstoiu ‘19, who aced his ruthless and icy characterization, and Marius by Thomas Potts ‘20, with the roles of Enjolras and Mr. Thenardier filled by Sam DosSantos ‘21 and Connor Giese ‘20. In a play with so many clashing personas and themes, personifying characters well was one of the elements that made many of these actors shine. Despite having an experienced and professional-grade roster, Les Mis also showcased the talents of newer, upcoming Dever Players, as well as more minor characters, a testament to the success of BC High’s theatrical program as much as it is the play itself.

Perfection is a word critics seldom like to use, but this musical has been by far one of the closest.  It takes a unique cast to be able to deliver on Les Mis’s story and artistry so well. It’s a musical that was ambitious in volume and professional in grade. A musical like Les Mis can be a daunting challenge for a production, but this one was clean, masterful, and organized to such a degree that it seemed much less a musical and more of an experience to be had. An experience is perhaps the word more suited to describing this play, with its liveliness, its vigor, its sheer energy, its devotion to the emotional highs, lows, and every moment in between. Dynamic and interesting, this play is so much more than just a celebration of the human voice; it throws emotional punches and challenges society, raising questions about morality and self-conviction. It’s a story deserving of a rapt audience. And for this play in particular, it’s a memory that lasts.

 

For more on the Dever Players and BC High arts programs next year, visit The Eagle for future reviews, interviews, and photo galleries as we work on developing more content for you to enjoy.

 

 

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LES MISERABLES: A Dever Players Review