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South Lakes takes on challenging ‘Les Misérables’

Daniel Browne, a student at Paul VI Catholic High School, reviews “Les Misérables-School Edition” performed by South Lakes High School as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

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Sout Lakes High School’s Kirrolos Guirguis, Nikhil Delahaye, Nigel Moore, Sobe Chinaka, Eric O’Brien, Austin Bur, Tyler Dos Santos and Topher Rodrigues. (Photo by Michael A. Slivinski)

The sound of gunfire cracked and popped, as smoke billowed from behind the backlit barricade. The red banner of the French revolutionaries fell from the hands of their leader. The young French students lost their lives in that fight, but South Lakes High School's production “Les Misérables”— the musical adaptation version by Alain Boubill and Claude-Michel Schönburg from Victor Hugo's classic novel—had the audience rooting for them nonetheless.

The plot of “Les Misérables” is long and complex. It follows Inspector Javert’s (Ben Cohn) lifelong pursuit of capturing escaped inmate Jean Valjean (Sean McCoy). Under persecution, Valjean tries to raise Cosette, the orphaned daughter of one of his workers. In the midst of the revolution, while exposing the plight of the lower classes, the musical confronts the universal struggle of the poor and downtrodden—the miserable ones—that Valjean encounters.

From escaping the chain gang to dragging a dying friend through the sewers of Paris, McCoy—a South Lakes freshman making his musical debut—expressed the emotional weight of his character’s moral dilemma. Cohn, a sophomore playing Javert, exuded frightening authority over Valjean until his failure to capture the elusive Valjean led him to contemplate suicide.

In each of the musical numbers, the chorus sang with strength, authority and clarity. “Master of the House” was particularly memorable. The physicality of Alex Turner, playing Landlord Thenardier, as he drunkenly staggered on stage and welcomed guests with a twisted smile was one of the exquisite moments of the production. And the dancing and drinking of the inn guests, while they sang about Thenardier’s greed, nearly had the audience singing along, not to mention, it provided levity to the serious subject matter.

Other standouts were the show’s best-known numbers, “I Dreamed a Dream” and “On My Own”—delivered with gripping sincerity by Fantine and Eponine, played by Abby Coryell and Mary Davis, respectively. Both actresses commanded the empty stage with nothing but a spotlight, as they stood in front of the curtain and the student “Les Miz Pit Orchestra” backed them with passionate and precise musicianship.

The ensemble’s acting, whether they were playing dying soldiers at the barricade or starving beggars on the streets, created dynamic and emotive scenes.

Kenzy Forman’s light design helped make the actors’ facial expressions and emotions come alive during night and day scenes. Striking silhouette backlighting helped underscore the production’s most dramatic moments. Scene changes, led by stage manager Ariel Lang, were quick, efficient and quiet—the hallmark of a strong stage crew.

Despite being one of the most challenging productions to pull off at high school-level theater, South Lake’s “Les Misérables” had caliber beyond its student thespians' years and rendered superlatives practically inadequate.

By Daniel Browne, Posted by Mario Iván Oña  |  May 9, 2010; 11:47 PM ET
 | Tags: Cappies 2010  
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