Les miserables, at MPC, Aug 17, 2013

Do you hear the people sing?

MPC goes big musical in their newly renovated Morgan Stock Stage theater with Les Miserables.By Peter Tuff

MPC Theatre Company concluded its four-week run of Les Misérables last Sunday at Monterey Peninsula College’s newly renovated Morgan Stock Stage, and the answer to the above question must be a unanimous and resounding “Yes!” Fine singing it was, too, by all—but many other factors contributed to this show’s success (about which much has already been said). Director Gary Bolen’s effective staging, John Anderson’s steady command of a solid 15-piece orchestra featuring concertmaster David Dally, Dan Beck’s efficient-but-impressive sets (especially the barricade, which drew applause from the audience) and Constance Gamiere’s abundant and beautiful costumes all contributed to the synergy of this show. Bolen and choreographer Susan Cable were also able to use the theater’s new revolving stage very effectively. Carey Crockett’s scenic art and Charles Houghton’s lighting, despite a couple of technical glitches in execution, only reinforced the production’s success. 

Sean Boulware, in a tour-de-force performance as redeemed convict Jean Valjean, delivered everything. With a heroic voice to match the force and depth of Valjean’s character, his powerful tenor, thrilling high notes and dramatic instincts were right on the money. Michelle Boulware gave a beautiful performance as Fantine, with lovely singing in I Dreamed a Dream and a persistent dignity that shone through her character’s suffering. That’s a lot of talent in one family, but wait—there’s more: the cast also included the Boulwares’ son, Isaiah, as Gavroche, the savvy street urchin who dies on the barricade while helping the revolutionaries.

Soprano Lori Schulman delivered an ideal Cosette—youthful and lovely—and she sang with a voice to match. Dale Thompson’s Marius was also outstanding—well sung and acted from beginning to end. Rob Devlin as Inspector Javert, who pursues Valjean relentlessly in spite of his obvious transformation, displayed a fine voice and controlled manner. As Javert and his letter-of-the-law ideology succumbed to the power of grace and redemption manifest in Valjean, Devlin poured out his torment passionately in his suicide soliloquy.

Megan Root gave a powerful and poignant portrayal of the complex Eponine, who loves Marius and helps him in spite of his love for Cosette. Root’s compelling rendition of On My Own showed off a lovely voice and focused presence.

The dynamic duo of Jennifer Newman and Chris Beem as the brutal, slimy and pathetic Madame and Monsieur Thénardier provided much dark comic relief. Beem’s Master of the House was splendidly over the top, and Jennifer Newman was a dynamic and delightful scene-stealer, as she usually is.

More noteworthy performances—too many to mention here—included John Daniel as a fine Enjolras, Mitch Davis as the Bishop, Hadley Sprague as Young Cosette and Lynette Graves as the Old Woman. The ABC Students, the men’s and women’s ensemble, and all the children and youth in the cast were excellent. When the entire company raised its collective voice in the Act II reprise of The People’s Song (Do You Hear the People Sing?) in this final performance, well…we really heard it. There were many tears of joy, as well—on stage and in the audience. Here’s to more fine productions on this “new” Morgan Stock Stage.

Photo credit: Richard Barnard