Company’s ‘Les Miz’ is a creditable production

 

Michael Warner as Jean Valjean sings "Bring Him Home" in the Company Theatre's "Les Miserables." Photo:  Zoe Bradford

Michael Warner as Jean Valjean sings “Bring Him Home” in the Company Theatre’s “Les Miserables.” Photo: Zoe Bradford

NORWELL — When the regional theater rights for the smash-hit musical “Les Miserables” were released, the Company Theatre was one of those bidding to put on the record-breaking show, based on the Victor Hugo novel.
Some might have wondered if the Norwell theater might have been biting off more than it could chew, with the show’s huge technical requirements, a 35-member cast, battle scenes, complicated production numbers, etc.
The good news is that this “Les Miz” is a very creditable and professional production of one of the most spectacular — and technically difficult to perform — musicals ever produced.

Brandon Paine as Marius and Erin McMillen as Cosette in "Les Miserables." Photo: Zoe Bradford.

Brandon Paine as Marius and Erin McMillen as Cosette in “Les Miserables.” Photo: Zoe Bradford.

The Company Theatre’s current run extends through Aug. 17, the third regional production in recent years, I believe, after those of the North Shore Music Theatre and the Reagle Music Theatre.
That’s not to say it’s perfect. Michael Warner — a veteran of many Company Theatre productions — as Jean Valjean is up to the vocal challenge, but physically is a bit slight to play a part that puts heavy physical demands on the character and requires a strong physical presence.
There’s the scene where he must single-handedly lift a cart off a person, and Javert (Andrew Giordano) remarks — not convincingly, in this case — he has seen only one other man with strength like his.
There are times when acting-wise, he just doesn’t have the gravitas to convince us he is Valjean.
Vocally, it’s a different story. His “Bring Him Home” — sung in an unwavering, faultless falsetto — is one of the vocal highlights of the evening, and he is equally at home on such numbers as “Who Am I.”
There are several others worthy of equal praise: Giordano as Javert with a rendition of “Stars” that will send chills down your spine, as will Jennifer Glick as Eponine with the showstoppers “On My Own” and “A Little Fall of Rain.”
Brandon Paine shines as Marius — his rendition of “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” is both well-performed and well-staged, while Erin McMillen is his equal as the older Cosette and James Fernandes as Enroljas is a standout in a number of pieces, including “Red and Black“ and “Do You Hear The People Sing.”
Acting-wise, Giordano leads the way as Javert, boasting a commanding stage presence, tempering Javert’s steely resolve with humanity.
If there is an area where a few modest changes would give the production more credibility, it’s in the area of make-up and costumes.
Christopher Hagberg and Maryann Zschau as the Thenardiers aren’t miscast — they can sing and act the parts — the problem is they just don’t look the part. The Thenardiers are the lowest of the low. They should be dirty, repulsive, ugly physically as well as morally.
On a recent night, they appeared clean-cut in spotless costumes and didn’t look the part, so it was hard for the actors to convince us they are the part.
And while we’re at it, I’d like to see Warner as Valjean more beat-up at the beginning of the production, looking as if he was really suffering from the ravages of 19 years in jail at hard labor.
There were also small technical issues such as the syncing of sound effects with the action in the battle of the barricades, and a couple of misplaced and mistimed projections.
But kudos to those involved in scene changes, which were done quickly and efficiently.
Directors Zoe Bradford and Jordie Saucerman, aided by choreographer Sally Ashton Forrest, skillfully manage and manipulate the large cast through the production numbers.
The orchestrations are full and lush, as they were promised in stories leading up to the production.. The score is well-played by the 15-piece orchestra led by Michael Joseph.
The good news is that the scattered shortcomings don’t detract from the overall effect, and given the price of a ticket — which is about a third of what a ticket to the national touring production would cost — the theater is giving excellent value to its patrons.
Congratulations to the Company Theatre on its 35th anniversary and its decision to climb a very high mountain in staging “Les Miserables.”
Its patrons should be pleased with both the effort and the result.
The Company Theatre production of “Les Miserables” through Aug. 17. Tickets are $36 to $39.  For a complete performance schedule, to order tickets, or for more information, call the box office at 781-871-2787, email boxoffice@companytheatre.com, or visitwww.companytheatre.com.

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