Review by Harrison Held
Savannah Crafton, George Almond. Photo credit: Garth Pillsbury
It was a pleasure to attend opening night of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables adapted for the stage by Jonathan Holloway and directed by Jed Alexander. This intense ambitious production is produced by Planta Genista Productions and features a wonderful talented cast many playing multiple roles with great skill.
Sophia Lilinoe Cesario (l.), Lonni Silverman, Angel Castellanos, Eric Geller, Ian Hyde, Ellyn Stern, George Almond. Photo credit: Garth Pillsbury
This version is not a musical and has been adapted from the classic French novel set in the early 19th century to Paris in 1936. Set in this era Benny Goodman's Sing Sing Sing topped the international charts as Paris, along with the rest of the world was recovering from economic collapse and France was on the verge of the Vichy regime and German occupation, fascism and war.
Angel Castellanos (l.), George Almond. Photo credit: Garth Pillsbury
Opening night pre-show included wonderful violinist Hilletje Moller Bashew and a glamorous sexy female duo dancing in the cabaret-like setting prior to the actual show which was a great touch. There was lots of audience interaction as cast members made their first energetic appearances. The charming duo of Savannah Crafton as Fantine and child actress Sophia Lilinoe Cesario (Below Right) as Little Cosette were especially captivating as the famous mother and daughter pleading for help. I gave a little change to "Little Cosette" and was rewarded by her beautiful singing which was very touching.
Savannah Crafton (left) continued to show her talent and versatility as the show progressed in her very demanding lead roles as Fantine and later as the adult Cosette and also a stormtrooper... she is a very charismatic and talented actress. In this reimagined version former thief-turned-entrepreneur Pere Madeleine (aka Jean Valjean) is a nightclub owner rather than a captain of industry. George Almond is terrific in this role. Holloway has given his endorsement to the changes that Planta Genista has made to his adaptation. Inspector Javert is obsessed like no other with the capture of Valjean for his youthful infractions and is well played by Joe Hulser. Super talented intense and high energy Eric Myles Geller plays M. Thenardier/Quink/Gribier/Enjolras and Baron Thenard.
Ellyn Stern Epcar (Right) is great as MMe. Thenardier/Abbess/Charwoman and Partisan - she is very effective as little Cosette's mean spirited French guardian. Talented Lonni Silverman portrays Eponine/Sister Simplice and Partisan (her scenes attempting to woo the uninterested Marius were very touching) and her transition onstage from Sister Simplice to Eponine was great. Angel Castellanos plays the noble Marius and edgy Paul very effectively - Marius is the rich French man that adult Cosette falls in love with much to the disdain of her "father" Monsieur Valjean. Rounding out the terrific cast is talented Donald Wayne as M. Fauchelevent/Barber/Beggar and a very scary Nazi Commander. Also, assistant stage Manager Ian Hyde does double duty appearing on stage with the main players and is very good.
Fans of the book, the Broadway play and the movie will enjoy this complex compelling 2 act production. Although it does run a bit long - they cover a lot of ground! For more information visit www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1654460 - Enjoy! Through July 26, 2015, at Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Avenue.
Sophia Lilinoe Cesario
George Almond (l.), Joe Hulser, Savannah Crafton. Photo credit: Garth Pillsbury