A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to see the PCPA production of “Les Miserables.” It was a terrific evening watching the tremendous story unfold in front of me.
Then this last Christmas Day, I went to see the film production. From what I understand, people either hated it or loved it — I loved it.
“Les Miserables” is classic theater and as sad as the story goes, I always thought it was something that could be satirized, because of the seriousness of the play.
And now for something completely different — The Great American Melodrama in Oceano is now serving up its version, but they aren’t taking it serious at all.
“Les Miserables ... or a whole lot LESS Miserable,” is a terrific farce and satire of the classic Victor Hugo novel, and of the Broadway play.
Written by Tom Jordan, then liberally adapted by director Eric Hoit, “Les Miserables” is a very funny and edited down version.
The play is narrated by Monsieur and Madame Thenardier, played wonderfully by Alex Sheets and Kat Endsley. The pair opens the night with a nod to “Cabaret” and continue throughout the night with very funny observations.
They tell the story of Jean Valjean (D.J. Canaday), a prisoner released on parole by Javert (Philip David Black). When Valjean breaks his parole, Javert swears to catch him and return him to prison.
Meanwhile Fantine (Crystal Davidson) is a woman who was fired from one of Valjean’s factories and has to find other ways to earn money to support her daughter Cossette (Bethany Edlund), who is under the care of the Thenardiers.
The couple’s daughter Eponine (Bethany Rowe) is also introduced.
One of the best parodies is when Fantine sings “I Dreamed a Dream.” One of the most heartbreaking songs in musical theater is turned into a brilliant satire as Fantine complains about her horrible haircut.
The lyrics are very funny and almost as funny as Fantine’s dying scene, which is quite stretched out to humorous effect.
In Act Two, Marius, played by Steven Freitas, is introduced. He is a student who has joined the revolution and also falls in love with Cossette. Eponine is in love with Marius and throws herself at him, but he doesn’t notice. In fact, a good running gag is that Marius cannot remember her name and calls her something different every time.
Marius and Cossette eventually marry, but not before Valjean dies.
Now that is where the similarities with Hugo’s classic ends.
There are several song parodies, many featuring new lyrics to the musical written by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg. Many other great musicals are referenced as well, including “West Side Story,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and others — all very funny.
Canaday is terrific as the sad Valjean and he has some nice parodies to sing as well. Black plays Javert as a classic melodrama villain, to good effect.
As funny as the Fantine song, “I Dreamed a Dream” is, I would love to hear Davidson sing the original song because she has a great singing voice.
The entire cast does a very good job under the direction by Hoit, which is fast and furious.
The set design by Brian Williams and the costumes by Renee Van Niel, are also very good.
The Vaudeville Review is called “Pirates Take The Stage” and it is funny. Black and Endsley are kidnapped by a group of pirates led by Captain Crunch (Sheets).
The entire cast does well singing and dancing and the finale featuring a song by the rock group Styx, is fun.
The creative team of Rowe, Sheets and the producing artist director Nova Cunningham, have put together a nice 30 minute mini-play with choreography by Billy Breed and musical arrangement and accompaniment by Sarah Wussow.
The blend of tearing down a Broadway classic and the tribute to pirates is a nice mix and is a very enjoyable night.
--Brad Memberto (The Santa Maria Times March 22, 2013)
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