Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Do you hear the people sing? Then you're probably at South Lakes High School's production of Les Misérables!
Based on the 1862 Victor Hugo book of the same name, Les Misérables chronicles the 1832 June Rebellion in France. Originally written in French, the musical was translated to English and went on to win eight Tony awards, including Best Musical in 1987. South Lakes had big boots to fill, and they very much managed.
The story follows the redemption arc of Jean Valjean, a convict who breaks his parole but turns his life around for good. South Lakes made an interesting casting choice in Dominique Kalunga, a woman in a typically male role; however, as the show progressed Kalunga proved herself more than capable of filling the role.
As Valjean lives his new life, he finds himself still to be hunted by Javert, his parole officer determined to bring him in. Javert was played by Sam Barbaro, who really stood out in his solo, "Stars." He kept a stern disposition throughout the show, convincing the audience of his obsession with catching Valjean.
As Valjean tries to lead an honest life, he inadvertently causes a woman named Fantine to lose her life. Fantine is played by Ryleigh Line, who brought real emotion to the role. In her dying words, she asks Valjean to take care of her daughter Cosette, giving his life purpose.
Cosette, played by Mikayla Kirr, is living with the Thenardiers. Thenardier and his wife, played by Eamon Raferty-Sweeney and Meredith Kilmartin respectively, were hilarious and always a delight to see on stage. They were greasy thieves, pickpocketing anyone they could get close to, and their wisecracks provided much needed comedic relief to an otherwise dreary show. They were, however, not the best parent figures, and Cosette was better for getting away from them.
Unfortunately, the same couldn't be said about their real daughter, Eponine, played by Margarita Gamarnik. She becomes a girl of the streets, hanging around with beggars and revolutionary boys of the June Rebellion. Gamarnik did a great job garnering sympathy for her character, and she brought tears to the eyes of the audience in her song "A Little Fall of Rain."
One stand-out performer was Andrew Serrano-Bremer as Gavroche. In the show, Gavroche is only a kid, and Serrano-Bremer is only in fourth grade. He always caught the audience's attention with his bold presence and earned applause every time he was on stage. He has a bright acting future in front of him.
Les Miserables takes place over a stretch of years and locales, which is why set design is important. Led by Burke Dizon, Elizabeth Beausoleil, Emily Rooksby, and Aaron Hutchens, the stage used a large painted backdrop of a French street, giving depth to some scenes. In another scene, a railing descended from the ceiling, meeting a staircase. This gave the illusion of a second floor without having to waste time bringing on a giant set piece.
Clocking in at a little over three hours, Les Misérables may be a little much for young children, but South Lakes High School's production is sure to entertain teens and adults alike with its classic music and deep story.
Falls Church High School
If you had the chance to save your sister's child by risking your freedom for a loaf of bread, would you do it? If you had nowhere to go and nothing to eat would you stand with the strong at arms and fight for your fellow men or cower with the weak in the shadows? Would you take it upon yourself to become the caretaker of a young girl whose mother is about to die but whom you've known for a mere few days? For one man by the name of Jean Valjean during a time of extreme poverty, famine, and injustice, the moral choice was always the right one.
South Lakes High School's production of Les Misérables directed by Maria L. Harris follows the tale of this righteous man and those with whom his life intertwines. Though this story follows Jean Valjean for several years, a good part of it takes place in 1832 in France just after a time known as the July Revolution. The poor and downtrodden are poorer than ever and have had enough with injustice, starvation, and famine. And so, the stage is set, the curtains are drawn, and we begin our descent into the story of Les Misérables.
The cast and crew together made the show delightful and enthralling to watch. Especially noteworthy was Dominique Kalunga who played the part of Jean Valjean. With a voice that carried across the room and a presence that demanded your attention, Kalunga took a particularly diametric and heartfelt role and made Jean Valjean into the just, caring, and virtuous man he was meant to be. Another stellar performance was that of Sam Barbaro playing Javert. With much fervor and commitment, Barbaro played an intense character with conflicting morals in an admirable way.
A story is not a story without its supporting characters. Margarita Gamarnik cast as Eponine showed her talent through both her voice and acting in numbers such as "A Heart Full of Love" where she sang with the emotion and fervor of someone with true longing. The comedic relief provided by Eamon Raferty-Sweeney and Meredith Kilmartin playing Thenardier and Madame Thenardier respectively was much needed and very enjoyed by the audience.
Then there was the tech. The set was beautiful in every way. The backdrop of the town was bright with blues and yellows and had a wistful sort of hopefulness to it which was a marvelous contrast to the vengeful red and desolate black of the revolution. Though the lighting at times was slightly distracting, it never had the audience questioning who it was we were supposed to be watching.
In the end, Jean Valjean dies an honorable and noble man. Though many of us would not have acted as Jean Valjean did, there are those few who would, and it is in those people that we find the light in humanity.