Jan 31, 2014 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
Few musicals engage the mind and excite the senses as does “Les Misérables.”
Even more rarely does a community theater group expertly blend the epic story, the grand spectacle and the soaring music to deliver a seamless and sensational show. Director Korrie Taylor, music director Abel Searor and producers Mark and Sandy Baker, however, have done just that with the current Baldwinsville Theatre Guild production of “Les Mis,” running through Feb. 8.
This “Les Mis” is truly luminescent.
The bright lights begin with Henry Wilson as Jean Valjean, the unjustly imprisoned French peasant who, after earning his release from prison after 19 grueling years, rises to a position of power and influence in 1830 Paris. A gifted vocalist who shifts effortlessly from a full-bodied baritone to an ascending falsetto, Wilson does much of the show’s heavy-lifting, both literally and figuratively. The entire cast of 36 performers, however, remain in harmony throughout the two-act, three-hour performance of the operetta based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel.
The harmonious flow of this challenging all-sung script is a testament to Korrie Taylor’s talent for casting, pacing and blocking. There is nary a misstep anywhere in this “Les Mis.”
But Taylor had help, notably from her husband, BTG veteran Josh Taylor. He plays the thieving Thenardier and it’s a perfect role for him as his character snarls sarcastically while snatching wallets and watches.
The director’s husband did her an even greater favor, however, by designing a simple, compact set that still managed to convey the breadth of the story and the zeitgeist of the period. He did it with a rear-projection screen placed at centerstage amid a patchwork of dusty old shutters and wood and rope and railings!
The screen programmed by Jason Maurer sets scenes, informs about the passage of time, and – best yet – projects images that change to fit the specific setting be it a factory, a brothel or the cobbled streets of Paris.
The costuming, hair and prop people also outdid themselves. The cast is decked out in vests and bustiers, colorful cravats and gorgeous gowns, top hats and frock coats. Props such as silver tankards at the students’ tavern, muskets at the barricade and wine bottles galore all add to the 19th century ambiance.
While many of the performers wore wigs, others – such as the hirsute Wilson – simply had their own hair touched up. Valjean’s coif grows noticeably greyer as Act 2 progresses. Josh Taylor’s spiky red hair and mutton chops give Thenardier a distinctly devilish demeanor.
Several singers rose to this occasion. Eastman School of Music alumna Danan Tsan impressed as the ill-fated Fantine. While Tsan’s soaring voice is her strength, she can act too: her consumptive cough was quite convincing. As Inspector Javert, Jason Bean mixed vocal passion and potency to suggest authoritarian strength. Similarly, Liam Fitzpatrick sang a strong Marius as he vacillated between two love interests.
Michaela Oney made her presence felt as Thenardier’s brassy wife, fifth-grader Julianna Bellso portrayed a charming Little Cosette, the sure-voiced soprano Jennifer Pearson rocked the house as Cosette and, as the love-struck Eponine, Ceara Windhausen sang up a storm before turning in a heart-wrenching death scene.
Eleven-year-old Sera Bullis nearly stole the show as Gavroche, the top-hatted street urchin who exhorts the students to rebel.
And Abel Searor’s 12-piece pit band complemented the singers throughout, careful to keep the vocals way out front.
A show this spectacular rarely plays in the suburbs! Baldwinsville will long remember this “Les Mis.”
“Les Misérables,” directed by Korrie Taylor, continues at the First Presbyterian Education Center, 64 Oswego St., at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31 and Saturday, Feb. 1 and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 2; 7:30 P.M. Feb. 6, 7 and 8. Tickets cost $25, $20 for students, and $20 for seniors at the Feb. 2 matinee only; 877-8465; baldwinsvilletheatreguild.org.