No amount of will power could have halted the tears that fell Nov. 18 at the Hurricane Fine Arts Center production of “Les Miserables.”
The community theater production, directed by Kyle Myrick, of the world-wide admired musical drew in a packed theater during its November performances — a remarkable feat considering the small-scale production. The show has since closed, but it brought to the community a powerful and unforgettable experience.
The opening overture of “Look Down” began; the booming trumpets and clashes of timbers made a melody all too familiar to the audience. Chills ran down my back, even though I’ve heard the tune more than a hundred times since I was a child. I had to wonder, after a quarter of a century, what keeps people coming to see “Les Miserables” performed on stage or on the big screen again and again?
Even being familiar with the story, even knowing the music by heart, people go in understanding they’re not going to get a show exactly like the one they’ve seen before. It’s because the characters in the story are fluid, and the show is never done the same way twice.
Brodie Perry, who played Jean Valjean, immediately caught my attention. If his incredible vocals weren’t enough, his approach to the relationship with Fantine was absolutely heartbreaking. While in other versions I’ve seen Valjean take a more fatherly liking to Fantine, Perry was clearly in love with Fantine. This made Fantine’s death scene all the more tragic to watch.
But before Fantine’s death, the incredible actress who played her, Alexa Thompson, sang “I Dreamed a Dream.” There couldn’t have been a dry eye in the house after she finished.
Thompson sang like a Disney princess — but like a mature and broken-down Disney princess. There was no need for the over-the-top vocals for a performance that spoke all of her pain.
Cosette, played by Ellie Seegmiller, gave another unbelievable performance. The only thing more adorable than her small, tattered dress was her British-accented singing voice. Out of curiosity, I glanced at the program and was shocked to see that Seegmiller was only four years old. Her talent was extraordinary through both of the scenes she was in.
My favorite part of the show is when Jean Valjean and little Cosette escape from the horrid Javert, who set out to recapture Valjean for breaking his parole. They sneak into Paris, and the story jumps a decade into the future. The full effect of Valjean’s actions in saving Cosette is soon to be revealed.
Then enters Gavroche, the orphan boy of France with a gut for rebellion and the bravery of a lion. Usually portrayed as a young boy of eight or nine years of age, this boy I saw come on stage was at least 13 years old. This is not a criticism of any sort, though, since the boy did a phenomenal job vocally and theatrically.
At this point, many new characters are introduced into the plot. There’s Cosette, played by Kimber Worwood, who is all grown up now; Marius, a dashing young man who is leading the rebellion against the new regime of France; and Eponine, played by Sammy Myers, a city girl who has been Marius’ closest friend and partner in the rebellion.
Something started to nag at me while watching the relationship between Marius and Eponine. The dynamic among those two and Cosette created the most heart-wrenching love triangle in all of literature and theater. Marius and Cosette are supposed to fall in love at first sight, a love that saves one life and ends another. What I couldn’t shake was noticing how Marius, played by Jadon Webster, had his love interests a bit skewed.
This became most apparent during Eponine’s dying song, “A Little Fall of Rain.” She lays in Marius’s arms bleeding from a gunshot wound to the head and finally admits she has loved him all this time. He sincerely acted like he was more in love with Eponine than with Cosette, which I can’t completely dislike because it made Eponine’s death all the more tear-jerking.
To put on a production of “Les Miserables” is to have genuine confidence in the cast and crew involved. For the Hurricane Fine Arts Center, they did rightly so. The talent in the cast and ensemble was breathtaking. The effort these people put in to building up this highly-acclaimed musical showed in their passion to tell an extraordinary story on stage.