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REVIEW: Huntington’s rendition of ‘Les Mis’ is intimate, breath-taking show

(Poster provided)

(Poster provided)

On Dec. 3, Huntington’s new theatre company, Different Stages, opened the classic musical “Les Miserables,” winner of eight Tony awards including best musical. This is Different Stage’s second production following a run of “Sound of Music” in the summer.

The performance I saw over the weekend was nothing short of breath-taking. Different Stage’s theatre, located in downtown Huntington, only a block from the popular student destination Antiqology, is an intimate setting, with just over 100 seats, allowing for any member of the audience to feel like part of the show.

The stage, designed by the director himself, was a masterpiece. There were many moving parts which allowed for the locations to vary drastically. The most impressive part to me was several sets of staircases on wheels that were paraded across the stage while actors sang and danced on them. This gave a quick pace to what could have been a painfully long show, coming in at three hours with intermission.

“Les Miserables” is a show stacked full of powerful roles. While there is no question that the story is about Jean Valjean, none of the supporting leads live in the shadow of Valjean. So too this was true of the performance I saw. Valjean was played by Landon Sholar, a seasoned actor who was reprising his role for a third time, and you could see his mastery of the character in the way he carried himself. There wasn’t a moment that I was taken out of the story during his performance. The highlight of his acting was the solo “Bring Him Home” , an emotional prayer to God. I would  go so far as to say that his rendition was as good if not better than some of the recordings I’ve heard from Broadway and the film.

Not far behind Valjean in talent was Eponine, portrayed by Brooke Quintana, who’s beautiful delivery of “On My Own” left myself and much of the audience in tears. Her entire time on stage was marked by top-notch acting and singing voice to rival her Broadway counterparts.

To single out those two performances is in no way to discount the rest. What made this musical so awe-inspiring was how every member of the cast was a star. Every single actor was on their A-game at all times. From Fantine, played by Melissa Weyn, who brought such emotional depth to the role and made the audience feel her sorrow, to the electric connection between Monsieur and Madame Thenardier that brought countless laughs with their witty lines and raucous numbers, this was a musical made spectacular by the fact that no one cast member held the show on their back.

It was equally supported by all.

My only complaint with the show was the lack of live music. The entire show was sung to a prerecorded track. I immediately had my doubts when I heard the first note, but even though I would have preferred a live orchestra, the stellar singing voices of the actors more than made up where the sound lacked.

The theatre offers a steep discount to students, bringing the price down from a steep $60 on the weekend to $25 if they have tickets left the day of, but honestly, I would have happily paid the $60 to see this high-quality show.

I know I’ll be back to see it again, and I highly encourage both the hardcore theatre enthusiast and the casual patron to indulge in the visual, audible and emotional feast.

Matt Whitney is a senior film production major. He can be reached at whitneym@huntington.edu. This article reflects the views of the writer only.

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