orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

May 3, 2014

OCP production of ‘Les Miserables’ is sure hit

Jeanette Boehme
The Orange Leader

ORANGE — The mega-musical, “Les Miserables,” is a mega-hit for Orange Community Players. The music is superb and the singers incredibly talented in this all-singing musical adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel. It presents audiences with a stage full of singers who, one by one, astonish us with the mighty heft and range of their voices.

With its thunderous anthems and heart-rending soliloquies, enough cannot be said about how splendid the music is. Equally as stunning are the performers, hand-picked by Director Doug Rogers. It is a given that with Mr. Rogers at the helm and months of preparation, this would be the happy result.

The plot of “Les Miz” is well-known. The main character, Jean Valjean, steals bread to feed his sister’s family and certainly lives to regret it. He goes to prison for the crime, escapes his parole, and is hunted by the policeman, Javert. On the run, Valjean agrees to take care of a prostitute’s child, Cosette. The story is set during a political upheaval in nineteenth century France, and Valjean’s life journey is one of seeking and finding redemption for his sins.

Jean Valjean is magnificently portrayed by Shane Taylor as he carries the play on his broad shoulders and with his beautiful voice. When he sings the heartfelt plea for mercy, “Bring Him Home,” his prayerful, hushed fervor moves the audience. His voice is a powerful instrument but he knows how to tame it for the tender moments. Taylor brings his character from criminality to spirituality. Bravo for a great performance!

The over-zealous policeman, Javert, is played by the talented Justin Sanders. His deep voice is perfect for his character and Sanders does a terrific job of giving life to the dogged pursuer of Valjean. Well-done!

Giving a solid portrayal of Marius, Cosette’s love interest, is Nolan Thornal. His lovely tenor never wavers as he sings the duet, “A Heart Full of Love,” with Cosette, and is especially good in “Empty Chairs At Empty Tables” as he mourns the loss of his fellow soldiers. Kudos for Thornal!

Not to be out-done, the ladies show their singing chops too. Hillary Gray plays Cosette’s mistreated, prostitute mother and she gets to sing the most recognized song in the play, “I Dreamed A Dream.” And sing she does, beautifully and poignantly.

Bethany Vermillion brings to life Eponine, the poor girl who loves Marius also.  She sings “On My Own” with her stunning, lovely voice. Grownup Cosette is played by Abigail Noah whose beautiful soprano reaches unbelievable notes. Congratulations to all the ladies!

The scene-stealers are numerous. Most notable is young Rhys Howeth who plays a spunky street urchin and sings with a perfectly pitched voice. The grasping, amoral innkeepers portrayed by Joey Nortman and Anne Lilyquist give a little comedy relief with their boisterous celebration of greed and a brief glance at Lilyquist’s knickers. Also, special mention goes to Milton Hardin and Joshua Scales who give standout singing performances.

There is not a weak singer nor actor in the play, the technical quirks are few, and the set and stage crew are wonderful. The best number in the play is “Do You Hear the People Sing?” which is performed so memorably and well by the whole cast.

This production is a joint effort with Lamar College, Orange who also helped out financially with the perfect, period costumes and royalty fees. This musical is considered the highest grossing and the world’s longest running ever.

Tickets, $15 for adults and $10 for students, may be obtained by calling 409-882-9137 or online at www.orangecommunityplayers.com. Performances are at 7:37 p.m., Saturday, May 3 and 2:37 p.m., Sunday, May 4. Performances next week are at 7:37 p.m., Thursday, May 8, through Saturday, May 10, and 2:37 p.m., Sunday, May 11.