OREM — Although Les Misérables directly translates to “The Miserable Ones,” I was definitely NOT miserable during this fantastic production directed by Laurel J. Barham and performed by Acting Up, the SCERA Youth Theatre’s award-winning high school company. Yes, I said high school, but don’t let those two little words deceive. If your jaw is anything like mine, it will drop with in the first few minutes of the show. These kids are talented.
Les Misérables: School Edition opens to a stage completely covered in fog. As the fog floats out into the audience and settles, you feel drawn into the scene with the characters. The lights go up and you journey back to the time of the 1830 French Revolution. You are part of a chain gang, working off your crimes with every bead of sweat whipped out of you. Jean Valjean (Jake Titensor), a long time member of this particular chain gang, is set on his parole and we begin to follow his life. Once sucked into the narrative, you live and breathe with the characters through a smooth story line and gorgeous music. Your heart goes out to poor Fantine (Samantha Frisby) and her daughter, the young Cosette (Madeline Mathis) and jumping on stage to help doesn’t seem illogical, because you really feel like you are there with them.
The night was full of excellent performances. Fantine’s “I Dreamed a Dream” was one of the best solos of the night and Eponine (Ashlyn Hirachak) can really sing! And not to give too much away, but, during Act II Eponine makes a dramatic exit so moving it brought genuine tears to my eyes. Her performance was stunning.
Diction was the only major flaw in the performance. Every word in the play was sung and because of the poor articulation, it was hard to distinguish a lot of what was said. Throw in gun shots, many different voices and the music, some scenes went by without me making out a word. M. Thenardier (Barrett Penrod) and Mdme. Thenardier (Linnea Pugmire) were especially hard to understand. Accents, mixed with singing and quick movements, made their scenes completely incomprehensible. Thankfully, the two Thenardiers’ facial expressions and body movements told the story all on their own. They were hilarious.
Les Misérables: School Edition was brought to a close by three major events: a final battle whose awesome stage effects, lighting and set looked like the cover of Cold Play’s “Viva la Vida” album; Javert’s (Andrew “Scott” James) chillingly beautiful solo; and a wedding of Marius (Thad Nelson) and Cosette (Amy Kesler). At the end of this whirlwind, you leave the theater with mixed feelings. The play may end happily, but there is an undercurrent of pain for all that the characters lost during the show, for these characters represent actual people killed during the 1832 French June Rebellion. You leave wanting to make a difference—to help the downtrodden in life.
Les Misérables: School Edition plays every night through April 3 at 7:30 PM at the SCERA Showhouse II at 745 South State Street in Orem. Adult tickets are $8, and child, senior, and student (w/ID) tickets are $6. This is a short run play that has been selling out almost every night, so make sure to get your tickets early.