Monday, March 16, 2015

Broadway by the Bay Celebrates its 50th with LES MISERABLES

Jean Valjean and Cosette
Its Grande - Impressive 
and not to be missed

The weekend of March 15th marked the 5th time in the past six months that I have had the pleasure to see a Bay Area Production of “Les Miserables”. All of them have been well produced and featured some of the SF Bay’s best talent.
Broadway by the Bay’s current production of “Les Miserables”  is the best version I have seen since seeing the national tour over 20 years ago. BBB celebrating its 50th year brings Victor Hugo’s epic tale to its Fox Theatre Venue in Redwood City. It is a superior space to present this musical and director Jasen Jeffrey brings some subtle class to this iconic story that you don’t see in other productions.
The cast is excellent. Adam S. Campbell as Jean Valjean has perfect tenor tones that bring tears to your eyes even before the first act ends. His nemesis Javert played by the powerful Anthony Bernal sets the tone from his first appearance that makes this 40 year chase breath-taken.
Jeffrey’s direction captures moments of this musical I have never noticed in the past. He also brings many new visual subtext to the story including using this three story set to bring many characters into view that the original staging did not feature. Watching the young Cosette, Allayna Slate, see her mothers death was very powerful. The other young actors in the show are well placed and its enjoyable to watch a crew of street kids follow Gavroche from scene to scene played so well by William Lipton.
Set designer, Kelly James Tigne, created a three story maze of texture for the 35 member cast to work within. - Paris of 1832 is highlighted with Erik Scanlons projections. The costumes are full of character an age by Kate Schroeder. The roaming moody lighting deep and is spot on by Michael Ramsaur. Sean Kana's musical direction and a keen orchestra recreates Claude-Michel Schonberg's score that never out stages the actors. Devon Larussa did the choreography, there is not much dancing in this musical, but the Innkeeper scene is very busy, and the iconic march in “One Day More” will make any LeMiz fan stand and cheer.
Since I have reviewed this musical a few times I don’t think I need to recap this classic tale.  I do want to single out many outstanding performances from this cast. Eponine, played by Erin Ashe, creates amazing passion in this role. Jason Rehklau as Marius makes a perfect lover for Cosette, played by Samantha Rose Cardenas. The young revolutionaries played by Matthew Thomas Provencal, Nate Rothrock, Dan Pias, Efrian Ibarra, Jesse Cortez, Dan Rubio and Lewis Rawlinson are all well cast and powerful singers. “The People’s Song” was a highlight.
All the classic banner songs were done very well, memorable are “On My Own”, “Who Am I” and the show stopping “One Day More”. Thenardier the innkeeper played by Joseph Hudelson and his wife played by Melissa Reinertson are excellent in “Master of the House”.  Jasen keeps this number busy with so much happening it is hard to focus on the number, but this part of the show is the first time the audience gets to laugh during the almost three hours of hard core pain and sorrow.
The barricades of the second act and the fight for freedom that is created by the death of so many, is very powerful and as the show ends its an overwhelming pleasure to see this cast all on stage for the close. The instant standing ovation I am sure is a standard for the BBB performances.
Since this was a first time for me at this venue, I want to recommend  Redwood City downtown is a perfect spot for dinner and a musical. Plenty of parking, Caltrain is a block away and the diners and restaurants are abundant and all look tasty.
The late posting of this review only gives the hearty Valjean fans one more weekend to see this event. Some tickets remain for the final performances. The show relocates to their Monterey Ca location on March 28th. Congrats to the entire production team and cast. Your nightly standing O’s are well deserved.
"Les Miserables" 
Fox Theatre, 2215 Broadway, Redwood City
8 p.m. Fridays and Saturday,
2 p.m. Sunday, 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday March 21
Through: March 22.
Also: March 28-April 5 at the Golden State Theatre, Monterey
Tickets: $47-$69; 650579-5565 or 

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