Few musicals are as universally loved as Les Misérables. With epic music, tragic characters, and a unique theatrical magnificence, it’s no surprise that Les Mis has been successfully produced on a global scale. The Glyndon Area Players attempt to take on this gargantuan piece of theater caught some of that magic which makes this show so great, creating an admirable work of local theater.
The troupe describes itself “the theatre-in-residence at Sacred Heart Parish. Founded in 1998, GAP was established as a creative outlet to showcase the talent of Glyndon, Reisterstown, and the surrounding Maryland communities. To accomplish this, every GAP show encourages and embraces participation by all groups in the local, and (now) greater Baltimore community, both on-stage and behind the scenes.” Considering the full pit orchestra, conducted passionately by Musical Director Matt Hartman, the cast littered with exceptionally talented vocalists, and the scale of the design in this production, I would say that the GAP met their purpose with several exceptional performances, both technical and dramatic.
Tom Zepp’s Jean Valjean was fantastic. His voice could switch from booming to tender between beats as demonstrated in his scene-stealing rendition of “Bring Him Home.” He hit similar notes as he balanced the imposing side of his character with the more caring, paternal aspects that are so vital to this role. Zepp was the pin that held this show together, consistently delivering remarkable dramatic feats.
Zepp’s foil Javert was played by Cameron Casey. A performance with militaristic precision and impressive vocal technique, Casey measured up to his foe and kept up with Zepp as they duked it out through the years. His performance of “Stars” was powerful and moving. Dawn O’Croinin also complimented Zepp well while she delivered her own heartbreaking story as the beaten and broken down Fantine, delivering an emotional “I Dreamed a Dream.”
Another standout was Henry Cyr as Marius. While this Romeo-style character can easily become a hammy caricature, Cyr gave his role heart and depth that invited empathy and understanding to his situation. Vocally, Cyr hit it out of the park. His voice is crystalline, perfectly controlled, and fully emotive at all times. Cyr’s “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” shook me more than any other song in this show, complimented by Homero Bayarena’s haunting staging.
Marius’ love interest and Valjean’s adoptive daughter Cosette was played by Libby Burgess, who hit incredibly high notes with clarity and precision, especially in “In My Life.” Two young actors – Corrine Ertel (Little Cosette) and Anthony Johnson (Gavroche) delivered their big numbers “Castle on a Cloud’ and “Little People” with great confidence and emotion. Donald Ertel and Tiffany Beam provided some much needed comic relief as the Thenardier’s during “Master of the House.”
Christina Bagley’s Eponine also hit all the right notes, exposing her character’s deepest desires while giving a fine vocal performance especially during “On My Own.” The rebel leader Enjorlas was infused with charisma by Jacob Oland who commanded the stage with his authoritative demeanor and powerful vocal chops. especially in “Do You Hear the People Sing?” Out of the rest of the rebel ensemble, Josh Altenburg stood out with his operatic voice and captivating stage presence.
Director Homero Bayarena did a commendable job at capturing the magnificence and scale of this musical. Numbers like the opening, “One Day More,” and “Epilogue” made excellent use of his huge cast, creating movement, depth, and an overall epic feel to these standout songs. Bayarena also had an eye for impactful stage pictures, creating moving works of art that were aesthetically on point.
I do wish, however, that Director Bayarena would have have encouraged some of his performers to dial themselves back, because it lead to comedic bits falling flat and attention being grabbed from what should have been the central focus of a scene. I would have liked it if Bayarena had worked on amping up the intensity at certain parts, such as the anti-climactic duet between Javert and Valjean at Fantine’s Death. While the inclusion of children was certainly welcome in this show, I would have preferred it if they were included more as a texture than as a separate group with their own choreography in the group numbers.
The design by Directory Homero Bayarena and Technical Director Michael Parks is praiseworthy in its widespread attention to the whole cast. Kari O’Donnell’s costumes were well-layered and carefully plotted for each performer, whether he or she was an ensemble member or a lead, and overall, the costuming was evocative of the time period. Jim Shomo’s lighting design amplified several dramatic moments, looking its best when it was at its most subtle, such as the candlelight effect during “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.” However, at times, some choices with the moving lights came off as unnecessary, such as the strange spiral effect used during the Wedding sequence.
This was the first time I’ve ever heard a set piece elicit applause, and nonetheless, the barricade deserved the clapping it received as its bulky texturing and functionality made it a highlight of this show’s technical side.
With great performers, staging, and source material to run with, Glyndon Area Players’ Les Misérables is is an exceptional piece of theatre.
Running Time: Three hours, including one intermission.
Les Misérables plays through August 17, 2014 at Glyndon Area Players performing at Sacred Heart Auditorium-63 Sacred Heart Lane, in Glyndon, Maryland. For tickets, order them online, or purchase them at the door.
Glyndon Area Players’ ‘Les Misérables’: An Interview with Dawn O’Croinin (Fantine), Tom Zepp (Jean Valjean), and Cameron Casey (Javert).
Glyndon Area Players’ Les Misérables: An Interview with Henry Cyr (Marius).
Tom Zepp and Henry Cyr are named Scene Stealers on DCMetroTheaterArts.
Here is the cast of Les Misérables.