Riverside High School
With the passion of a revolutionary, the finesse of a career crook, and the fervor of a man redeemed, the timeless piece "Les Miserables" sprang to life on stage at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.
The musical is based on the novel of the same name written by French poet and novelist Victor Hugo. It has become one of the most prolific and revered works of its age, setting records as the longest running musical on the West End and the second longest running musical in the world. Set against the backdrop of 19th century France, it follows a man named Jean Valjean, imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family and branded forever as prisoner 24601. Following his release, he sets out in search of some form of redemption and finds it in the form of a child named Cosette, whom he takes in as his own after making a deathbed promise to her ailing mother. He and Cosette find themselves entangled with the young revolutionaries of France, idealistic students who are willing to fight and die for their cause. With its overarching themes of love, compassion, and rebellion against social injustice, it is no wonder Les Miserables resonates with so many.
As a whole, the cast was successful in capturing the essence of the complex characters and thematic content. Matthew Heninger shone as Jean Valjean, balancing the many-faceted character and challenging vocals with apparent ease. He portrayed all aspects of Valjean with a frank authenticity, as the hardened criminal, as the loving father, as the weary man on the run. The ingénue Cosette was another standout, played with aplomb by Olympia Hatzilambrou, whose soaring soprano voice managed to carry the show where it could have just as easily fallen flat. Her relationship with Marius (Timmy Chan) was an object of commendation, as they managed to make a love affair which took place over the course of a single day feel genuine and electric. Chan's vocals were equally captivating, most notably as he pulled off a flawless delivery of the vocally intense and emotionally charged "Empty Chairs and Empty Tables."
Juliana Gruver and Joshua Mutterperl lent some much needed comic relief to an otherwise somber show as the scheming Thenardiers. They kept the audience in stitches with their overblown gestures, particularly in "Master of the House," supported by the spirited ensemble. At times, in fact, the ensemble stole the show completely, displaying remarkable zeal and individual character choices which made them a force to be reckoned with, making company songs such as "At the End of the Day," "The People's Song," and "One Day More" some of the highlights of the show.
The technical elements served to add another dimension to the production. The set was elaborate and eye-catching, particularly in the barricade scene, with furniture stacked haphazardly to the ceiling making for an appropriate backdrop as the revolutionaries made their final stand. The student orchestra displayed a professionalism not often seen in high school productions, pulling off the irrefutably demanding, intricate score with hardly a hitch.
Despite the maturity of the content and the vocally and instrumentally taxing music, the cast and crew were, for the most part, successful in their delivery. From the moment the curtain swung open to the final hopeful, resounding notes of the Epilogue, Thomas Jefferson High School took to the challenge of Les Miserables with sincere and enthusiastic conviction.
Kelly De Angioletti
Tuscarora High School
Paths cross, fates intertwine, and the spark of rebellion ignites as powerful vocals sweep you to the streets of 19th-century-Paris in Thomas Jefferson High School's Les Misérables, which will empower you to stand up and scream "Vive la France!"
Originally based on the novel "Les Misérables" by Victor Hugo, the musical (written by Alan Boublil and Claude Michael Schönberg) captures the journey of a convict, Jean Valjean, as he breaks parole to start a new life while being hunted down by the officer, Javert. Throughout his journey, Valjean transforms into a man who has compassion through interactions with God and various characters of France. With an impressive score by Claude Michael Schönberg and lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer, Les Mis is the second-longest running musical in the world.
No easy task, Jean Valjean (Matthew Heninger), encompassed the strife of a man besieged by metaphorical chains binding him. Throughout the show, the internal struggle of Valjean was apparent as Heninger exhibited truth in his emotional reactions. Despite at times being the sole figure onstage, he drew in the audience with pained facial expressions and lyrics sung with power and purpose. From deep unwavering tones to beautiful falsetto, the complexity of Valjean's vocal range was handled with ease.
The hopeless romantic, Marius (Timmy Chan), enchanted the audience with his velvety vocals and love-struck demeanor. Throughout various encounters in the show, Marius's charm and gentle nature made hearts swoon, as well as established honest relationships with other characters. The playful, back-and-forth banter between Éponine (Kristen Myers) and Marius was brimming with chemistry, but with a dash of unrequited love made hearts ache. However, the romance blossoming between Marius and Cosette (Olympia Hatzilambrou) was one of infatuation and the sweetness of young love. With a lilting, operatic, soprano, Cosette impressively conquered each note with delicacy and grace perfectly suitable for each scene.
Javert (Jeb Berger) commanded the stage with a rigid posture and stoic air. Though Javert is a typically unlikeable character, Berger embraced the role's vulnerability and in the second act, beautifully encompassed the transformation of the steadfast character. Contrary to Javert, the Thénardiers acted as a crass comic relief, enhancing the overall show with a touch of humor. Madam Thénardier (Juliana Gruver) and Thénardier (Joshua Mutterperl) were a terrific comedic duo, building off one another's energy and outlandishness.
The cast tackled a challenging score with finesse, displaying dazzling vocals among all members of the cast, including the Bishop of Digne (Evan Strong) and little Cosette (Valeria Nayak), who had clear voices with beautiful tone. The ensemble was a powerful unit with strong vocals and tight harmonies, embodying the various characters among the streets of Paris. Each ensemble enhanced the show, particularly the students who displayed an empowering sense of camaraderie.
Sound quality for the show was spectacular. There was no synthetic quality to the mic, and the balance between the actors and the orchestra was perfect; with each group highlighting the other. The orchestra was magnificent, playing complex pieces with ease while enhancing the musical by setting the tone for many numbers.
Historical research was done for this show, which was apparent in the various tech categories. Costumes were largely period with beautiful pieces such as Cosette's dresses, and significant thought put into each character's wardrobe. The set displayed a variety of locations with a few key pieces and allowed actors to climb on them, which was a particularly interesting element.
As the timeless themes of Les Mis unfurl on Thomas Jefferson's stage, join the revolution…"Vive la France!"