Thursday, October 3, 2013

Les Misérables: "What your sacrifice was for"

by Jenni Morin

Les Misérables, playing at The Playhouse through November 3, 2013, is a multiple Tony winning musical by Alain Boubil and Claude-Michel Schonberg adapted from Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel by the same name. The novel, one of the longest in history, touches on several themes from politics to romance to justice to morality. The 2012 film version can be credited for a sort of resurgence of the musical with a 2014 Broadway revival in the works. The production at The Playhouse is high energy and fast-paced spurred by the vigor and spirit of rebellion.

Photo courtesy of The Playhouse, credit Siggi Ragnar.
Les Misérables follows the life of Jean Valjean and his struggle to overcome his past as a prisoner on a chain gang and become a respectable man. Due to the kindness of a priest, he is able to move beyond his station and continue to do good by taking in the daughter of a former employee who he discarded and consequently died. As he attempts to escape his past, it catches up with him in the form of the indefatigable police inspector Javert.

Hugo’s work leads up to the 1832 June Rebellion when, propelled by moral justice and redemption, the wretched poor of Paris rise up to escape the hell on earth the “civilized” government has created. The current government shutdown is a serendipitous reminder of the relationship, or lack thereof, the people have with their government. The clear delineations between the bourgeois and the poor are apparent and a stark contrast to the tragic circus of the bacchanalian desperation played out in the Thenardiers’ scenes. After the rebellion, the dead remain and their sacrifice feels left unanswered except for the fortunate few—a great commentary on today’s political climate, what incites rebellion and what it means to fight for freedom.

Hats off to Tim Hedgepeth for impeccable casting and directing in this production. While it is difficult to not compare this production to the recently released film, it is clear this cast is better matched. Where the movie fell short, this production picks up the slack. The appropriately broken and seemingly unfinished pieces of Alfy Valdez’s set frame the production. Costumes, designed by Raul McGinnes and Yvette Oakes-Crabtree, border on perfection, fitting the characters and the actors well. Terry Price’s lights shed light and cast shadows subtly. Choreography blends well into the action of the production. Even the sound effects are on point. Music director Andrew Hendley expertly melds the orchestral tones with his vocalists, so much so that it almost sounds like a recording.

Operatic voices dominate this cast, once again bringing together some of the most talented singers and actors in San Antonio. The younger cast members have some great theatrical role models to glean technique from to gain that endearing and occasional pity their characters’ require. The cast overall gives great performances. Jason Mosher as Jean Valjean and Jessie Enderie as Javert especially triumph over the script’s sing-song speech. Mary Morrow as Fantine, Constanza Aileen as Cosette and Carlye Gossen as Epinine fervently play their parts, leading the women through the revolution. Trevor Chauvin charmingly plays the romantic and loyal role of Marius, while his counterpart Chris Berry as Enjolras bravely leads the rebellion with unwavering zeal. Not to be forgotten and impossible to miss are the riotous cirques Monsieur and Madame Thenardier brought to life with boisterous dedication by Isidro Medina and Jane Haas respectively.

The Playhouse brings Les Misérables to the stage where it rightfully belongs, making the situation of these undesirables more immediate and more empathetic. Les Misérables will always be a symbol of revolution, justice, morality, and perhaps above all, the right to human dignity. The Playhouse’s production of Les Misérables pushes these all to the foreground in a compelling way.

Les Misérables runs at The Playhouse on the Russell Hill Rogers stage October 3 through November 3, 2013 with performances at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; and 3 p.m. on Sundays. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

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