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Madam Thenardier (Theresa Cunningham) and Thenardier (David James) with the ensemble of ‘Les Misèrables.’ Photo by Kirstine Christiansen.
An epic story such as this requires love to keep the balance between war and tragedy. And the three-way love triangle falls to the talents of Cosette (Katie Heidbreder), Eponine (MaryKate Brouillet), and Marius (Jeffrey Shankle.) These three talented youthful performers make enticing harmonies during “A Heart Full of Love.” Heidbreder brings a sweet disposition and innocent naiveté to the role of Cosette. Her song “In My Life” reconciles her lovestruck heart with her lonely life and it is a truly beautiful moment. Brouillet exposes bittersweet nerves in her character during “On My Own,” an honest account of dreams mingled with sorrow in what is perhaps the most striking female solo of the show. The pure love that exudes from her heart, however unrequited, tugs so firmly at your heartstrings you cannot help but cry. Both Brouillet and Heidbreder have exceptional voices and are glowing in these roles.
Shankle, giving the best performance of his career, delivers Marius with such finely honed emotions and a vibrant grounded presence that it’s beyond stunning. Struck with love and balancing that against his personal conflictions toward the revolution, Shankle’s voice delivers radiance throughout the performance but especially during his moments singing back and forth with Eponine. A hauntingly heartbreaking rendition of “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” allows Shankle to exude a focused intensity straight from his core blending the mournful guilt of surviving with the brutal angst of his unrestrained frustrations. A mesmerizing performance; truly inspiring.
The show’s leading men are nothing short of phenomenal. There are not enough words to truly describe the absolutely marvelous work of Javert (Lawrence B. Munsey) and Jean Valjean (Daniel Felton.) The pair are vocal rivals; filled to the brim with raw and honest emotions that create a truer story the likes of which has never been seen. Constantly creating a palpable tension throughout the chase of the show, both Munsey and Felton deliver breathtaking duets that bring them both to the brink of destruction. Facing off from the first ferocious moment of “Prologue: On Parole,” crossing paths again and again; the vocal and emotional intensity that the pair share is unbelievable. Sparks of passionate fury rail between them and every time they circle one another, particularly during “The Confrontation” your heart leaps into your throat.
From the moment Munsey ascends the stairs of the work ship he cuts an imposing figure that strikes fear into your heart. Mastering the role of this unflappable man of the law, Munsey truly delivers the most amazingly sensational performance of his career. Grounded so deeply in the black and white reality of this character there is never a moment of doubt; from his rigid posture to the surly looks upon his face; he is the epitome of perfection in this role. The utter passion that blazes through his voice for “Stars” will make you tremble in fear and god-honest respect for the talent he exudes in this number. The ending belt alone is worthy of a standing ovation. The sheer force of his unbending will is honed so sharply you could cut the very flesh of the man he pursues on it. Munsey’s ability to finally crumble under the strains of confliction, revealing that his heart of stone in fact has a raw humanity deep inside, has rendered me speechless. His number late in Act II “Soliloquy” is the most hauntingly beautiful number in the production; a tumultuous outpouring of heart-stirring emotions that results in thunderous applause.
Taking the audience through every step of his journey is the incomparable Daniel Felton as Jean Valjean. Felton’s ability to not only experience the plethora of emotions in this character but express them in such a way that the audience feels them tenfold is nothing short of a miracle. To have such a grounded reality and be so physically, mentally, emotionally, and vocally present in this role of roles is truly a phenomenal sensation. His voice is stunning perfection, and the layers of emotion that build into that sound shake the audience to the core. Every transformation is brought to our eyes and ears with an authenticity that does the character the greatest justice of all. “Who Am I?” is such a moving number with such a powerful sound behind it that you erupt with applause for this talented man. Felton’s compassion and soul is poured into every number, especially “Come To Me,” “One Day More” and “Bring Him Home,” the latter of which being such a profound performance that nary a dry eye was found in the audience. A master of the stage with a voice from god in heaven up above, Daniel Felton is perfection as Jean Valjean.
Enjolras (Ben Lurye) and The Students of the Revolution at the Barricade. Photo by Kirstine Christiansen.
And so, my friends, you see it’s true, this show is desperately calling to you. To hear the people sing, to see them struggle, to feel their pains, to know their lives; all of that wrapped up in the highest quality of professionalism that musical theatre in this region has to offer: Les Misèrables at Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Columbia will be here one day more, and you may never see another production of this epic show that is quite so perfect. Do not miss this production!
Running Time: Approximately three hours, with one intermission.
Les Misèrablesplays through November 10, 2013 at Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Columbia— 5900 Symphony Woods Road, in Columbia, MD. For tickets, please call (301) 596-6161, or purchase themonline.
Les Misèrablesplays through November 10, 2013 at Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Columbia – 5900 Symphony Woods Road, in Columbia, MD. For reservations, call the box office (301) 596-6161, or purchase reservations online.