‘Les Misérables’ at Reston Community Players by Beverly Fleisher

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Reston Community Players’ production of Les Misérables is la plupart magnifique!

From the moment the curtain rose on a group of prisoners, including Jean Valjean, toiling in misery to “Look Down,” to the reunion of Fantine and Jean Valjean at the end of life, the production was mesmerizing. Reston Community Players’ exquisite and brilliant production of the epic Les Miserables, directed passionately by Andrew JM Regiec, is a shining example of what a small theater can produce with a talented cast, designers, musicians, and a fine director.

Gavroche and Company. Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studios.

Gavroche (Ethan Van Slyke) and Company. Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studios.

The production evoked in me the same emotions I felt while watching the eponymous movie and being thrilled by the Broadway and National touring productions. The three hours of the infamously long musical felt like 45 minutes, so engrossing was this production. It is no wonder that Reston Community Players already has extended the run of Les Misérables through February 15th.

Bravo to everyone involved in Les Misérables. The actors/singers were, as expected, brilliant. Their performances were supported by a huge behind-the-scenes contingent of exceptional designers and technicians: the clever and effective set design by Master Carpenter Greg Steele, Skip Larson, Andrew JM Regeic, and Richard E. Schneider; the work of Properties Designer Mary Jo Ford and Set Decorator Bea Morse; the gorgeous lighting by local legends Ken and Patti Crowley; the crystal-clear sound design by Rich Bird; the colorful and beautiful costume design by Charlotte Marson and Judy Whelihan;the wig and hair design by Mary Price and Anna Michelle Jackson; the makeup provided by Suzanne Thomas, and the fight choreography by Karen Schlumpf – all contribute to make RCP’s Les Misérables! a stunning production. The amount of time spent on the quality of the behind-the-scene work must have been enormous, and it shows in the high quality of the show’s design.

And kudos to Conductor and Musical Director Mark V. Deal and his superb musicians whose lush playing reminded me how gorgeous the score by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil is: Mitch Bassman, Alisha Coleman, Jane Huges, Gwyn Jones, Jeff Kahan on reeds; Deb Kline on horn; Michael Barber and Jose Luis Oviedo on Trumpet/Flugelhorn;Scott Fridy and Rick Schutz on Trombone;Devon Oviedo on violin; Virginia Gardner and Kevin Uleck on cello; Randy Dahlberg and Richard Netherton on string bass; and keyboardists Stephen Przybyliski and Timothy Smith.

The ensemble members, many of whom also had cameo appearances, were fantastic! Their acting, dancing, and singing was superbly choreographed  by Director Andrew JM Regiec and the strength of each one’s talent was evident throughout. My favorite ensemble member was Rick Kenney, who appeared as Bishop Digne and others. He was present in almost every scene, melding back into the ensemble after lightning-fast changes in costume and character.

Both Michael Reid’s (Jean Valjean) tenor and Ward Ferguson’s (Javert) baritone were powerful and progressed into different realms as time and experiences passed in the story. In the first scenes, Reid’s voice was booming and angry as in “What Have I Done?” and Who Am I?” and then softened – becoming a beautiful falsetto as in his gorgeous rendition of “Bring Him Home.”

Ward Ferguson’s voice was a perfect match for the moods of Javert, ranging from anger to anguish as he wrestled more and more with moral dilemmas. His finest moments were his powerful plea to God in “Stars,” and “Soliloquy (Javert’s Suicide)” on the bridge when he could no longer bear the contradiction between earthly duties and his duty to God.

Emma Lord (Eponine) perfectly reflected tangled feelings of love and despair. Her duet with Sean Bartnick (Marius), “A Little Fall of Rain, was wrenching to the core. Cara Bachman (Cosette) was, like Lord, swift in her ability to use her voice to reflect different situations over the passage of time — from a young woman with seemingly not a care in the world, to a young woman desperate to be with both her lover and her father, as she sings in “In My Life” and “A Heart Full of Love.”

Jennifer Lambert (Fantine) remained an etherial force both in her heart-wrenching rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream,” through her early tribulations and final meeting with Valjean.

Chuck Dluhy’s Thénardier was so slick and treacherous – as he trickily maneuvered across the stage – that I was worried about the safety of everything of value in the audience. His antics brought humor and delight whenever he appeared. His wife, played by the delightful Alana Sharp, was the perfect foil for his antics and had many a great moment of her own. Their masterful rendition of “Master of the House” brought the house down as the delighted audience applauded wildly for their comedic efforts!

Scott Harrison (Enjoiras) and Sean Bartnick (Marius) were wonderful as leaders of the revolution and, for Bartnick, Cosette’s true love. Harrison led a vocally stirring “Red and Black” and Bartnick delivered an emotional rendition of ‘Empty Chairs and Empty Tables.” Ethan Van Slyke (Gavroche) perfected a tough street-kid accent which brought a wonderful spirit to his performance, and both Ella Schnoor (Little Cosette) and Maggie Slivka (Little Eponine) performed like theatre veterans, and were both adorable. Schnoor’s “Castle on a Cloud” was simply beautiful and moving.

The cast of 'Les Misérables' sing 'One Day More.' Photo by Traci J. Brooks Photography.

The cast of ‘Les Misérables’ sing ‘One Day More.’ Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studios.

Reston Community Players’ Les Miserables is a triumphant feat! It showcases the tremendous depth of talent we are fortunate to have in our region. Run and buy your tickets now!

Running Time: Three hours, with one intermission.

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Les Miserables plays through February 15, 2014  at the CenterStage Theater at the Reston Community Center – 2310 Colts Neck Road, in Reston, Virginia. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 476-4500 x3, or purchase them online.

CenterStage is handicap accessible and offers listening devices for the hearing impaired.

LINKS
Meet the Lovers of Reston Community Players’ ‘Les Misérables’ by Diane Schnoor.

Meet the Children in Reston Players’ Upcoming ‘Les Misérables’ by Diane Schnoor.


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One Response to ‘Les Misérables’ at Reston Community Players by Beverly Fleisher

  1. JR February 5, 2014 at 3:02 pm #

    While I understand this is community theater, and the performance I attended On Thursday, January 30th was generally very good, it did had a few serious production issues. We experienced many (more than a few) miking cut-outs mid-song, mikes not working for entire songs, and other sound problems. During the second act, a large set piece of set was pushed on stage (one scene too early) and had to be pulled back. And the band (brass section and strings) “cracked” many notes. Perhaps a recorded sound track would have been better. Not sure I would call this a “triumphant feat”. More of a solid effort.

    Editor’s response: Our reviewer reviewed another performance and what I heard from others who attended that performance is that Ms. Fleisher’s review was dead-on. What they and she saw was a flawless performance and unfortunately the performance you saw was flawed. People forget that a reviewer only reviews the performance he or she sees in front of them.