Les Miserables: revived at National Theatre

Dec. 28, 2002, midnight | By Robin Hernandez | 19 years, 5 months ago

The National Theatre brilliantly dramatized Les Miserables, creating a flawless performance. The National Theatre brought a rejuvenated energy to the story of Les Miserables, which has been on Broadway for seventeen years. The lighting and singing of the National Theatre created a revived love for the play.

The role of Jean Valjean, the triumphant hero of the play, was played by David Michael Felty. Valjean first appears as a ragged chain-gang member, with a face that bears the sweat and agony of nineteen years of hard-labor. However, Valjean manages to climb his way to the elite class after being released from prison on parole. Felty captures the essence of a high-society influential man that never rids himself of his true identity: a lowly thief.

A pit orchestra accompanied every song and dance in the musical, adding to the spirit of the show. The actors never allowed the songs to stray from their celebrated fame; each song was as powerful as the next.

Even the youngest of the performers maintained a lively spirit in his singing; Gavroche, played by Justen Steinagle surprised the audience with his powerful voice, making it hard to believe he was only eleven. Steinagle sings like a true professional and strides across the stage with complete confidence.

The stage of the National Theatre was transformed into a Paris town during the French Revolution, a time of desperate new beginnings by the common man. An extraordinary three-story building housed plans of revolutions and sheltered beggars who fell on hard times. The same building was used to protect the rebels against the artillery of the military during the battle scene. As guns thundered through the theatre, men hid behind the heavy walls of the building, looking for holes in the metal to take aim against the enemy.

The multiple sets were simple, but served the actors' needs well. Most of the scenes had few props, allowing the audience to focus on the talent of the actors. The revolving platform was a key element in the success of the set. The platform had actors walking in circles and new sets coming on and off the stage in seconds.

The general grave attitude of the play is reinforced by dark lighting. At times, only candles or street lights are used to guide the actors, however the landlord and his wife, played by Michael Hayward-Jones and Jodi Capeless, respectively, manage to add a burst of color and comic relief to the somber tone of the play. At the wedding, the couple appears clad in a yellow and purple clown costume and live up to their appearances as fools. Hayward-Jones and Capeless seem prepared to go to all means to get a laugh.

The entire cast and crew of Les Miserables are equipped to make the musical an enjoyable experience. The current cast of the National Theatre brings a revived love for this timeless masterpiece.

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