Written by 5:56 pm fullerton, Maverick Theatre, Musical, Uncategorized

Les Miserables @ The Maverick Theatre in Fullerton – Review

Written by Alina Mae Wilson 

Les Miserables. Just writing the words, I begin to shudder in awe and expectation. As a storytelling device, the play itself is rushed (have you read the book it’s adapted from? It’s a wonder they made it fit in the space it does), but the music is historically beautiful. The Maverick Theater has made the latest attempt to master this gargantuan piece, which I would call a choral success.

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Photo Courtesy: Austin M. Bauman

So we meet Jean Valjean, a convict fleeing the relentless pursuit of police Inspector Javert while revolution brews among some of the lower classes in France. The larger-than-life music is often performed grandiose with elaborate staging to match the dramatic score and high tensions. The Maverick is a smaller theater, so the impact on stage is immediate, but this intimate setting is not without benefits. There is no strain to see the characters’ facial expressions here, no struggle to understand the lyrics. One can always tell who is saying what and why. This is important in a musical where each song is packed with character development.

The acting is decent, with leading ladies Jenny Moon Shaw and Andrea Somera (who play Fantine and Eponine, respectively) turning in touching performances. Shaw’s sensitivity and faltering bewilderment are evident throughout. She looks like she might collapse into tears at any moment. Special mention of the night goes unquestionably to Andrea Somera, who steals the show every moment she is onstage. Her Eponine is solid and confident, and she makes a conscious effort to do what she considers the right thing–and she is pleased about it. There are many different opinions on how Eponine should be played, with portrayals ranging from timid to courageous, downtrodden to somewhat stronger, and one can’t say which is correct. Somera’s take works, and you will root for her the entire time. I would also not be able to sleep without mentioning Stephen Hulsey, who plays Enjolras.  Let it be known that this is the most emotion I have felt for Enjolras ever. In my life. Acting, singing, it doesn’t matter. Hulsey is brilliant across the board.

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Photo Courtesy: Austin M. Bauman

Aside from various technical issues, the singing is quite lovely. Together the cast’s voices blend beautifully, so while some of the soloists are somewhat lacking, the beauty of the ensemble pieces remains intact. There aren’t many people in the show, so most must play multiple parts. This wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that we are so up close and personal that it is obvious that they are the same actors, and they don’t put any dirt on their faces or change their hair at all from scene to scene. Something is frustrating about seeing the cherubic faces of a dozen actors ages 18-21 play paupers in one scene and guards in another, without so much as one make-up alteration.

When considering the theater space, I feel Les Miserables is an ambitious venture for the Maverick Theater to undertake. But in general, the choral work is excellent, and the performers come together to make it all work.

8/10

April 10 – May 30

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