Les Mis: An uplifting uprising | Program Notes
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Friday, July 17, 2009

Les Mis: An uplifting uprising

Posted By on Fri, Jul 17, 2009 at 9:06 AM

I'd never seen Les Misérables before Tuesday night, but I brought a seven-show vet to the Benedum with me, who dished out the following nugget of Les Mis zealotry as we took our seats:

"If you don't like this, you're seriously not even human."

I did like Les Mis very much, though not so much for its representations of personal tragedy that my friend was no doubt referring to. The solo performances were indeed captivating (especially Robert Cuccioli's portrayal of Javert's sad obsession with law and order), but what really did it for me was the artfully organized chaos of the mob scenes.

As Les Mis is set in revolutionary France, the musical supplies plenty of packed-stage rioting and revelry, but there were three numbers that I thought the CLO ensemble pulled of with especially ferocious aplomb.

"Lovely Ladies"

This number took all the grime and glamor of 19th century prostitution and raised it to a colossal exponent -- a feat that's even more impressive when you consider they did it with clothes on. The song was a kind of see-saw "duet" between the titular females and their boorish pimps, wherein the raunchy thrusts of a half-dozen couples obeyed the swells and dips in the orchestration. Apparently, sex-on-the-street-corner is, somewhat paradoxically, even filthier when well-choreographed.

"Master of the House"

Overly-stylized choreography can sometimes infringe on a scene's verisimilitude, especially if that scene happens to unfold in a sleazy inn full of drunk peasants. But Barry Ivan (who directs as well as choreographs) found the perfect intersection of synchronicity and sloppy here. Thénardier (Tim Hartman) stood on a chair and did a pompous knee bend as his inn guests wove and stumbled below him.

"Red and Black"

Poor Marius (Mathew Scott). He finds love at first sight just as revolutionary fervor hits the boiling point in Paris. If this happened in real life, Marius might have told a few friends who might have given him sympathetic pats on the back, but this is Les Mis, where, instead, his buddies have booming and sonorous voices and join him in an incendiary celebration-cum-lament about love and war.

(Les Miserables runs through July 19.)

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