Broadbrook Opera House, Broadbrook, CT
through May18, 2014
by Shera Cohen
How many times can one see “Les Miserables”? There can be many answers, one being “never enough” and another “four times.” Yes, audiences in the Pioneer Valley had the opportunity to enjoy four community theatre productions during the 2013/14 season. This is a very big musical, and the locals took on the task of mounting each “Les Miz” brilliantly.
Broadbrook (BB) is the latest and last of the quartet. Where to begin with the accolades? Setting aside kudos to Victor Hugo and to those who wrote the original musical, we jump to BB’s leaders: Producer Moonyean Field (who knew BB had the talent to face this challenge), Director Sharon FitzHenry (who doubled and tripled as set and lighting designer), and Music Director Bill Martin (who lead his 4-piece band to sound like a full orchestra). These musicians are ever-present, keeping the momentum of every action taken and every syllable sung.
Let’s assume that every reader knows this story spanning several decades in 19th century France. The simplistic staging of large multi-purpose scaffolding (as a courtroom, gate, stairs, streets, sewer) against a pure black backdrop, accentuated by hauntingly imprinted shadows creates the mood and human psyche of the important characters.
Luis Manzi steps into the body, mind, and heart of our sad hero Jean Valjean. A community theatre stalwart, Manzi has shined in dramas and comedies. Valjean, however, is the character he was meant to become. His signature piece, “Bring Him Home,” is equally beautiful as it is difficult. Manzi nails it.
Valjean’s nemisis Javert, portrayed by Tim Reilly, is given two exquisite songs -- “Stars” and “Javert’s Suicide.” Reilly is a singer who can act, looks like Russell Crowe with a far superior voice. The death scene has been directed in various ways; Broadbrook literally takes a unique and creative leap of faith.
The women of this “Les Miz” are strong in character and voice, especially Gabrielle Carrubba as Eponine, whose “On My Own” is poignant and rich. Kendra Scott as Fantine sings a wrenching and beautiful “I Dreamed a Dream.” Kaytlyn Vandeloecht as Cosette brings such innocence and love to “In My Life.”
There’s more, much more -- the talented chorus, the sympathetic young actors, seamless scene changes, spectacle, the furling red flag, and “One Day More.”