‘Les Misérables’ at The Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts by Nicole Cusick

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The Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts’ Les Misérables seems like a mammoth of a production for artists to tackle. However, this magnificent production – that they built in 14 weeks –  is one that these 40 some actors of all ages will look back on with pride.

Dan Fenton (Jean Valjeab' and Ian Coleman (Javert). Photo courtesy of Theatre Lab.
Dan Felton (Jean Valjean) and Ian Coleman (Javert). Photo courtesy of Theatre Lab.

The “Creating a Musical Role” class took this group of students and allowed them to create these incredibly complex roles from the initial table reads – all the way to the moment of the first performance tonight. There is no doubt that every minute of their hard work rings through the rafters, because those weeks of rehearsals paid off under the direction of Theatre Lab’s Deb Gottesman.

Local professional DC artist Dan Felton leads the cast as Jean Valjean. Valjean is a demanding role, even for a seasoned singer/actor. Felton played a very vulnerable Valjean and it was a joy watching him share in the experience with his younger cast members. He is a very talented and generous actor with a wonderful voice. His rendition of “Bring Him Home” was glorious.

Opposite Felton is Ian Coleman as Javert. He is an intelligent young actor, with the talent to steal scenes from a professional actor. His voice fills the space with the gravity of a seasoned performer, and you saw and heard this in his performance of ‘Stars.’ There is a bright future in store for him as a performer.

The other young leads certainly are not shying away from their demanding roles. Zach Roberts (Marius) and Aidan Quartana (Enjolras) lead the student rebels. They are commanding actors with voices to match their presence. They inspire the ensemble members to fight in this revolution and are committed to to saving all of France at the arena-style space at the barricade. Roberts also captured the loneliness of self-reflection in the beautifully sung “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables.” Tina Ghandchilar gave a heart-wrenching rendition of ‘I Dreamed a Dream.”

Similarly, Korinn Walfall (Eponine) and Anna Fagan (Cosette) are undeniably young ingénues that sing about love and loss, and are certainly not upstaged by their male counterparts. Walfall sings a soulful version of “On My Own” and shows her commitment to her love for Marius. Fagan has a contrasting light soprano that rings out in “In My Life” and “A Heart Full of Love.”

The Ensemble. Photo courtesy of Theatre Lab.
The Ensemble. Photo courtesy of Theatre Lab.

The leads of the show were not the only ones who were talented vocally. The ensemble that varied from trained young actors, to some members who were appearing in their first show, are certainly making Music Director Buzz Mauro proud. “One Day More,” which ends act one, was incredibly moving. The company stood tall and filled the house with their beautiful harmonies and spirits of hope.

A unique space also contributes to this fine production. Although there is a proscenium style stage in the space, the house was set up as an arena-style using the stage as one side and a large platform opposite the stage as another arena of higher ground – which was used as the barricade. However, there was the entire floor space that was framed by the stage and platform that was used for the ensemble numbers, as well as some of the most intimate scenes. The space also has an incredible balcony in the space that brought in different levels the actors could use. Set Designer George Page gave Gottesman a lot of space to work with such a large cast, and not a bit of that space went to waste. Lighting Designer Marianne Meadows took this simple, yet very functional set, to a new level. There was chaos for the barricade attacks, a gloomy sewer, and a warm wedding, and ; that was just SOME of the excellent lighting in act two.

The Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts production of Les Misérables is a ‘Must-See’ for aspiring actors, as well as any fan of this Tony Award-winning musical.

Running Time: Three and a half hours, with one ten minute intermission.

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Les Misérables continues its run tonight and tomorrow and on June 13, 14, and 15, 2013 at 7:30 pm at The Theatre Lab – 733 8th Street NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online. For future events and information on classes, go to their website.