When I saw the original Broadway productions of “Cats,” “Les Miserables” and “The Phantom of the Opera” back in the 1980s, I remember trying to envision how regional theaters would ever be able to mount convincing productions of these mega-musicals.
Well, that day has arrived. Lyric Theatre is the first Oklahoma company to produce “Les Miserables,” a monumental undertaking that has much to recommend it. On the debit side of the ledger, however, are aspects that still need attention.
With a cast of 109 actors and singers, “Les Miserables” ranks among the largest productions ever mounted on the Lyric stage. And when those voices unite to convey Claude-Michel Schonberg’s music, the effects are quite thrilling.
“Les Mis” is vocally dense, so it’s imperative that audience members understand what’s being sung in order to grasp the intricacies of the plot. But all too often, the cast’s efforts are undermined by Andrew Bryan’s too powerful orchestral forces.
Michael Baron’s staging of this story about love and redemption is well-paced but doesn’t always manage to circumvent the narrative’s occasional moments of stasis. More than a few scenes had a studied look about them, but I’d like to think that was due to opening-night jitters.
Hallie Hunt, as young Cosette, offered a touching version of “Castle on a Cloud,” while Michael James’ Gavroche delivered a comically precocious rendition of “Little People” that earned him a well-deserved ovation.
As Eponine, Adrienne Tang was vocally adept, but her movements often looked too contemporary. Sarah Quinn’s earnest Cosette, in contrast, would have benefited from a more relaxed approach. Victoria Huston-Elem offered a heartfelt portrayal as Fantine, her lovely voice yielding ample emotional variety in “I Dreamed a Dream.”
Natural comedians Tommy Cunningham and Julie Johnson uncovered much of the humor in their roles as the Thendardiers, but many of the rapid-fire lyrics in “Master of the House” and “Beggars at the Feast” were simply unintelligible.
Dallas Lish was a dynamic Enjolras, the leader of the young revolutionaries. His compelling voice set a fine tone for the memorable “Do You Hear the People Sing?” Russell McCook captured the ardor and longing of young love in his role as Marius.
Danny Rothman brought ample weight and well-focused energy to his role as the incorruptible Inspector Javert. His exchanges with Jean Valjean were particularly impressive, as was his fine rendition of “Stars.”
Chuck Wagner, who played Javert on Broadway, offered a richly nuanced portrayal as Valjean, his ringing baritone imposing in “Who Am I?” But, as is often the case in the beautiful but rangy “Bring Him Home,” Wagner was solid in his chest voice but struggled with pitch whenever he ventured into falsetto.
If Lyric’s “Les Miserables” doesn’t quite measure up to its earlier success with “Ragtime,” Baron and his cast deserve kudos for taking on such a daunting task. Michael Raiford’s multilevel set contributes spectacularly to this sweeping tableau, while the company’s fine reprise of “Do You Hear the People Sing?” jolts the audience to its feet.
— Rick Rogers, for The Oklahoman
Lyric Theatre’s ‘Les Miserables’