Review of Les Misérables

Saturday, July 23, 2005 at 8:00pm
Curran Theatre
San Francisco, CA

Upon hearing that Charles (Charlie) Hagerty was going to go on as Marius (Adam Jacobs had scheduled vacation days that happened to fall this weekend), I had to go!

Tonight's cast:

Jean Valjean Randal Keith Mme. Thénardier Jennifer Butt
Javert Robert Hunt Gavroche Noah E. Galvin
Fantine Joan Almedilla Eponine Melissa Lyons
Young Cosette Meg Guzulescu Enjolras Michael Halling
Young Eponine Rachel Schier Marius Charles Hagerty *
M. Thénardier Norman Large Cosette Leslie Henstock

Rest of cast in order of appearance:

Farmer Roger Seyer Montparnasse Kip Driver
The Bishop of Digne Michael St. John Babet Kevin David Thomas
Constables James Chip Leonard, Kevin David Thomas Brujon David Michael Felty
Foreman Pierce Peter Brandt Claquesous James Chip Leonard
Factory Girl Kelly McCormick Combeferre Pierce Peter Brandt
Old Woman (locket) Karen Elliot Feuilly Randy Glass ***
Crone (hair) Nina Negri Courfeyrac Roger Seyer
Pimp James Chip Leonard Joly Don Brewer **
Bamatabois Trent Blanton Grantaire Trent Blanton
Fauchelevant James Chip Leonard Lesgles Michael St. John
Old Beggar Woman ("Look Down")   Marnie Nicolella   Jean Prouvaire   Ryan Williams
Young Prostitute Carrie A. Johnson Major Domo Don Brewer **

* Charles Hagerty understudied for the role of Marius
** Don Brewer replaces roles usually played by Charles Hagerty
*** Randy Glass replaces roles usually played by Eric Briarley

Randal Keith:

Wow. Wow. Wow. "Bring Him Home" was a show-stopper as usual. But even the "Epilogue" was so well done (mainly him, but also him playing off of Leslie) that I was close to tears (and it's been years since that's happened). Randal took a lot more time in between beats (scene beats, not musical beats) and allowed for emotional resonance. Example: right after "Yes, Cosette, forbid me now to die ... I'll obey, I will try", there was a huge long pause before he reached to pull out the letter for Cosette. It was perfect.

Robert Hunt:

Incredibly intense, like always.

Joan Almedilla:

I'm sorry to say this performance of hers just did not do anything for me. Flat, emotionless (especially in "I Dreamed a Dream"), and her "Come to Me" and death were disappointingly subpar. She must have been having an off-day.

Meg Guzulescu:

I had a better view of Meg this time, sitting on the left side of the theatre -- and she did indeed have a rather blank look on her face while Madame Thénardier was babying Young Eponine, not looking particularly frightened or upset like Rachel does. But to her credit, she sings beautifully.

Rachel Schier:

Usually I don't comment about Young Eponine because you really don't see anything except for the back of her head and her general movements. But I felt a need to comment on Rachel's Young Eponine because I was very clearly able to see her face from where I was sitting. But she is absolutely wonderful at it. She doesn't have any lines to sing, but man, in just those 30 seconds or so when she's sneering and making faces at Young Cosette, she was awesome. Bratty, spoiled, mean.

Norman Large:

Absolutely hilarious today. In "Master of the House", when he sings "three percent for sleeping with the window shut", he held up two fingers very clearly. It definitely adds to the effect of Thénardier not having a full set of brains. Then before "Beggars at the Feast", when he drops the platter, he immediately grabbed the stick the Major Domo (was that Don Brewer?) was holding and pounded it a couple times, but then he grabbed Don's hand and made him motion for the orchestra to start up again. The conductor also contributed to this scene as well -- at least, I don't think I noticed this before -- because just before that, he ducked down and pretended to come to attention when the stick was pounded. And like last time, he spit in Meg's (Young Cosette) face to wipe her clean and actually had Meg hanging upside down on his arm this time. I literally was crying with laughter.

Norman also startled me quite well during "Dog Eats Dog" when he sings "And God in His heaven, he don't interfere" in a rather low hushed voice, and all of a sudden shouted "'cause he's dead! as the stiffs at my feet ..."

Jennifer Butt:

Great chemistry with Norman Large.

Noah E. Galvin:

So much more spunk than last week. I wonder if he'd gotten sick last week (because I know that Sean Gilbert went on instead of him last Friday evening) and possibly wasn't quite feeling 100% the next day. But today, he was amazing. I'd almost forgotten how good of an actor he is for just being 8 years old. There was one line where it sounded like he tripped over his words, but it was fairly subtle. I can't remember where it was ...

Melissa Lyons:

I wonder if Melissa was coming down with something or if she was getting over something because her voice was ever-so-slightly rough around the edges. There were quite a few places where transitions weren't as smooth as she usually makes them.

Charles Hagerty:

So good. Very different from Adam Jacobs, particularly in the sense that Charlie actually changes the dynamic of his voice. He uses soft tones as well as strong ones, and it gives Marius a lot more depth. And he sings so well, too. The very instant he started singing during "The Robbery", my heart leapt with joy. He makes a handsome Marius and has a perfect voice that fits this role. I'll bet most of the audience wouldn't have known he was an understudy if they didn't have the little understudy slips. The only place where Adam is stronger is "Empty Chair at Empty Tables" -- Charlie was somewhat flat during this scene, though I guess it could be seen as sorrowful rather than grieving and angry as Adam does it, but I just wasn't quite as moved as I have been in the past. (It almost seemed like he was focusing too much on the melodic aspect of the song, and not paying enough attention to the deep emotions written in the lyrics.) But everywhere else ... wow. I really enjoyed his approach to being love struck during "Red and Black", and he almost seemed to be floating with giddiness, which carried over nicely to "In My Life" and "A Heart Full of Love". He played off of Leslie very well, and the two of them had a great chemistry together.

A few years ago, I think it was Scott Hunt I saw as Marius (I'll need to check my reviews), and I loved the way he touched Eponine's shoulder as they both sang, "In my life, there is someone who touches my life" -- and Charlie did that! It's such a nice (albeit, sad for Eponine) moment. Speaking of Eponine, he had a great dynamic with Melissa Lyons that suggests that they both had been friends for quite some time, but that it was completely platonic for him and couldn't (or wouldn't) see that Eponine was in love with him. "A Little Fall of Rain" was quite moving, and Charlie topped it off with a long, sorrowful kiss on Eponine's forehead after she died. Also, at the very beginning of "One Day More", when Marius goes to kneel at the front of the stage and in distraught that Cosette is going to be moving away, there was something about the way Charlie did it that made that moment so much more realistic. He didn't look at Melissa at all during that time and didn't acknowledge her presence, but they way he did it -- the expression of devastation and helplessness on his face, it fit perfectly well that way.

However, I must note the height difference between Charlie and Michael Halling is quite amusing. I think Charlie is the shortest cast member and I know Michael is the tallest. This is amusing in itself in their regular roles during "The Wedding Chorale" and "Beggars at the Feast", but seeing their Marius/Enjolras dynamic in this way (when it's not supposed to be funny) was a little odd.

Leslie Henstock:

Part of this, I know, was because we were sitting house left, which is only my second time sitting on that side, but I think also having seen Ashley Fox Linton and Nina Negri the previous two times, but I noticed how much more depth Leslie Henstock gives Cosette's character. (And yay! She was feeling better enough to go on!) Youthful and bubbly as I've mentioned before, but also so determined that she almost comes across as demanding when she wants Valjean to tell her about her (and his) past, a sense of "Oh god, what have I done?" when Valjean decides that they are going to move away, and an angry child-giving-a-parent-the-silent-treatment during "One Day More" -- she really seemed upset at Valjean for what he was doing. Love it.

Michael Halling:

Michael Halling really does get better and better every show. I really enjoy his singing now, and it's such a stark contrast to the first show I saw him in. The dynamic between him and Grantaire was slightly different again in "Drink with Me". This time, after he and Trent's Grantaire exchanged a few words, Michael stood up and gestured as if to say, "I don't want to her another word!

Miscellaneous notes (most have been forgotten by now, sadly):

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