Yes, you could figure that “Les Mis” might be just a tad over-saturated these days.
Many have seen it at least once. Or, they’ve heard the wonderful score.
But, you know what? “Les Mis” is still worth seeing, worth being affected by, worth pondering for its immense world view. And the production opening the season at Ocean State is a first-rate effort. No, it doesn’t have the great turntable racing the pace on stage. It hasn’t reached the incredible settings of Broadway or top flight road shows.
But, directed by Ocean State’s artistic leader, Aimee Turner, and with a vibrant cast, this production meets the major challenge facing any “Les Miserables.” It presents Victor Hugo’s timeless theme concerning the needs and wants, the drive and fecklessness, the very humanity of mankind. Most of all, it gives us a look at our morality, or, sometimes, the lack of it. It’s a production well worth seeing, one that lets you know why the barricades will be manned.
When Les Mis began back in the ‘80s, a lot of folks, including me, figured it was taking place during the French Revolution. But Hugo was writing about an earlier revolutionary trial, one equally concerning the outlook of the haves and the have- nots.
His sometimes bumptious but eventual moral hero, Jean Valjean, was jailed for stealing a loaf of bread. He got more time for an escape attempt. Later, he became a wealthy, well-connected man. But he was always pursued by a high- pressured police official named Javert.
The plot becomes complex. But always maintains a good-versus-evil through line that’s never lost by the French dramatists of the musical adaptation.
At Ocean State, Fredric S. Scheff is a powerful Jean Valjean. He’s a big man with a dynamic presence and an ability to show both power and indecision. His singing voice is strong although, at times, his diction falters. But he provides the major affect for Valjean, showing us a man filled with need and drive.
As the policeman, Javert, Kevin B. McGlynn is a wonder. It’s not often you see an actor whose posture tells you much of what you need to know about his character. But McGlynn’s upright, rigid stance lets us see Javert’s staunchness, his inner conflicts, the ones that bring about his eventual downfall.
Others, Lindsie Vanwinkle as Fantine, Meagan McNulty as Cosette, Alyssa Gorgone as Eponine and Nicole Paloma Sarro and JP Sarro, a husband wife team who play a husband and wife, with comic realism, are all very fine.
In fact, so is this production. Turner’s direction never loses sight of the core of “Les Miserables.” That is, that our world, whether in the 19th century or today, is a place of passion and trouble ameliorated, just often enough, by love and good intention. “Les Mis”is about all of us
Want To Go?
“Les Miserables” continues at the Ocean State Theatre Company in Warwick through October 27th.