REV: Les Miserables
Review (via Letter to the Editor, Kerrville Daily Times)
Les Miserables, Directed by Roy Burney & Marie Cearley, Produced by Holly Riedel
Performed by the Theatre Department of Ingram Tom Moore High School
Smith-Ritch Point Theatre, Ingram, Texas, 30 September - 10 October 2004
What, exactly you missed . . .
Before I rant, I need to provide a disclaimer. I have played some small part in the events I am about to discuss. I don't believe that lessens what I am about to say.
This late summer-early fall has seen what I believe to be the best three-show combination (hopefully about to become four in a row) to have graced The Point Theatre stage in quite some time. And yet, there has been little fanfare about these works. That is in part because of a supposed Daily Times stricture about reviewing student work, and two of these pieces have been of that level (so to speak). That level as would pertain to the ages of some principals, but not that level in terms of mastery. And it is a shame that more print was not devoted to the efforts of some truly worthy kids.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf was simply a masterpiece, and yet it was directed by a student - Jeff Scott of Texas Tech -- as a graduate project. Then Taylor Danielson was the middle-school-aged lead of The Diviners and provided a stage presence not seen among youngsters here since perhaps Graham Douglass (himself about to rise to a whole other level in Cabaret).
And now, there is the Ingram Tom Moore High School production of Les Miserables, the musical version of Victor Hugo's sweeping novel. If Woolf is one of the most difficult dramatic pieces of the American stage, then Les Miz is the most difficult of musicals. Director Roy Burney is right on the money in describing it as virtually an opera.
Burney, along with assistant director Marie Cearley and producer Holly Riedel, have accomplished something I dare say no other Hill Country company could do - they rounded up 40 willing bodies and in a month and a half produced a chorus of astounding power and emotion, and willed them into not only singing a difficult libretto but made them storytellers of the type that can keep any audience spellbound for over two and a half hours.
It is an artifact of what they have achieved that in all the performances thus far, the audience has risen, en masse, to its feet long before the final song is over.
It is, quite simply, a wonder to see 40-plus high school-aged kids perform at such a level, and enjoy themselves so fully in the moment. They will leave Tom Moore with a memory few other students will manage, whether it be through sports, through band, or through class. One of the things folks will see in abundance at one of their performances is the bond these kids have made in coming together to produce a wonderful product. They seem very much in love with each other, with themselves and with life; and have every right to be proud of what they have created.
It's been mentioned, but it needs to be trumpeted - the school district has no choir program. So, in addition to blocking and directing the play, the directors had to teach the kids to use their voices in service of the story.
The leads are just stunning: Jonah Priour as Jean Valjean, Gary Givens as Inspector Javert, Aaron Hutto and Whitney Wilson as Monsieur and Madame Thenardier, Lillian Beaudoin as Cosette, Cadi Hawkins as Eponine, Ryan King as Marius, Meggie Nidever as Fantine, Taylor Danielson as Gavroche, and John Ferguson as Enjolras, have moments ranging from great power to hysterically funny to deeply tender.
Take special note of the garden scenes at the Valjean house, the rousing party at the Inn at Montfermeil, the night scene at the barricades, the wedding party, and the final scene from Valjean's impending death to the rousing ending chorus. If you're not cheering, laughing and crying then you wouldn't have been one to read this letter about kids performing at their very best.
Perhaps the most credit needs to be given the players who don't get the spotlight so often. Some of them, 20 strong, played seven or eight different parts in order to fill out the huge cast list. The crew, led by Kevin Chipman has made the scenes seamless. And the lighting and sound, professionally handled by Gary Priour and Tony Young both enhance the entire production without intruding upon it - I can think of no higher praise for their work.
Finally Carol Priour's six month adventure in creating the 200 costumes worn by the actors has paid off handsomely - and beautifully. Seeing her creations may be worth the price of a ticket alone.
Congratulations to all. Make a point to take in this show. It'll make you a regular patron of Tom Moore works.
You have three days left to see what inspired kids can create. Shows are at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.