Presented by The Company Theatre Center for the Arts
based on the novel by Victor Hugo
Music by Claude-Michel Schonberg
Lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer
Original French text by Alain Boubil and Jean-Marc Natel
Additional material by James Fenton
Orchestrations by James Cameron
Directed by Zoe Bradford and Jordie Saucerman
Staging and choreography by Sally Ashton Forrest
Music direction by Michael V. Joseph
Review by Kitty Drexel
(Norwell, MA) Les Mis is an overwhelming show; its complications can make preparation for performance seem insurmountable. Yet, it is beloved to its devoted fans who care more that its being performed and less about the intricacies of the performance. Such people will highly enjoy the Company Theatre’s production running through August 17. Theatre geeks, such as me, may still enjoy themselves but will likely get hung up on artistic details.
The vocals of this production are worth the trip to Norwell. It is extremely well sung. Great credit goes to music director Michael V. Joseph who conducted the performance as if the orchestra was an extension his body. He was very attentive to the needs of the cast and as a result the vocals floated dreamily above the orchestrations. There were colors in the orchestrations that weren’t always heard in the vocal line. As a metaphor, Joseph and his pit represented France well.
The direction by Zoe Bradford and Jordie Saucerman lacked focus and by extension the acting lacked focus. The large group scenes had so much distracting ensemble character work happening in the background that the audience couldn’t follow the leads. Soloists (and leads) were lost in the shuffle.
The moments that worked the best were the simplest. Scenes that used only a few actors allowed the audience to zone in on the action on stage. We were able to connect with the cast and experience the story as it unfolded. The actors were left to the business of the craft and the audience was able to connect with them as they did it. For example, the finale includes a big group sing pointed directly at the audience. It was incredibly effective when other group numbers had not been. The cast communicated the text directly at us while executing basic choreography. It was beautiful.
A small note: the wigs were unfortunate.
This production of Les Miserables can be enjoyable with the correct mindset. Many of the audience members were very happy with the performance; patrons were pleased as they exited the building after curtain call. And then there were others who expect more from their theatre experience. Please temper your attendance accordingly.