Theater Review: 'Les Mis' rouses the house

It has been 21 years since the first performance of “”Les Miserables”” in Paris, so naturally, a question arises: Can a touring production of an old musical still invoke emotions as it did on opening day? If there was a “”master of the house,”” it would be “”Les Mis.””

Set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, “”Les Miserables”” is the epic story of Jean Valjean (Randal Keith), who is imprisoned 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. Upon parole, he eludes Javert (Robert Mammana), a brutal and cold officer of the law, and starts a new life of honor to give back to society as the mayor of a town.

In this town, a single mother, Fantine (Joan Almedilla), is dismissed from her job and forced into prostitution, which gets her in trouble with the law. Valjean promises to take care of Fantine’s child, Cosette.

The musical goes on telling the story of Valjean’s care of the now-older Cosette (Stephanie Waters). On the streets of Paris, Cosette falls in love with Marius (Edward Juvier), who happens to be the object of affection for Eponine (Diana Kaarina), a peasant living on the streets of Paris.

Valjean has to deal not only with Cosette, but also with confrontations from the revolution and eluding capture from Javert.

Sound confusing and complex? So are daytime soap operas. But unlike those TV shows, from “”Les Mis”” you’ll get not only superb acting but also an intelligent plot that flows smoothly, and music that eloquently and captivatingly guides the audience.

What defines “”Les Mis”” is the music. The score appeals to all; from its comic relief to soliloquies to ensemble cheers, the music is the soul and driving force of this production. Not only is the music as addictive as crack, it’s funny, sad, thrilling, inspiring and brilliant.

The music is so enthralling that it really doesn’t matter who’s singing — it’s just a matter of who does the better job.

Kaarina does a marvelous job as Eponine when singing “”On My Own”” to portray a fragile voice in the midst of chaos. Juvier also does a commendable job as Marius, providing a sad but gripping cry during “”Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.””

However, it is the comic relief of Thenardier (J.P. Dougherty) and Madame Thenardier (Aymee Garcia) that brings joy and laughter to the house. Their rendition of “”Master of the House”” brings laughter and silliness to what would otherwise be an all-serious musical.

The spotlight shines alone on Randal Keith, who plays Valjean. The vocal range required for Valjean’s part is demanding and changes rapidly, but Keith hits all the highs and lows with superb accuracy. When Keith sings “”On My Own,”” he sets himself apart from the rest of the cast; he is on a cloud of his own.

Do you hear the people sing? They’re singing for an encore of this great musical.

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