Les Miserables: School Edition by Eastern Regional High School in Vorhees, NJ
March 21, 2017
Review submitted by Victoria Kline of Academy of the New Church
Do you hear the people sing? They are the students of Eastern Regional High School, whose recent production of Les Misérables: School Edition proved a powerful testament to a turbulent time.
Originally a French novel by Victor Hugo, Les Misérables has taken many forms. It premiered as a musical in French in 1980, and in English five years later. Since then it has become a classic, translated into twenty-one languages and re-adapted into a film in 2012. This masterful musical of intricate plot-lines and complex themes tells the story of a time full of hardship and revolution, through the lives of the people of Paris.
The story begins and ends with Jean Valjean, an escaped convict, played phenomenally by Gary Bowman. Bowman’s emotive acting combined with incredible vocal talent captured the internal journey to redemption Valjean must ultimately make. His rich tone and pure falsetto moved the audience to tears. Robert Sundstrom provided a perfect foil as Javert, a police officer obsessed with finding Valjean. His robust and merciless voice lent itself not only to the harsh rhythmic melodies of the officer, but also to his tragic and beautiful soliloquy.
Notable among the rest of the incredibly talented cast were Marius and Cosette, two young lovers played by Vincent Melara and Chelsea Chaet who complemented each other with clear vibrato and youthful energy. Kayla Kantakusin looked on as Eponine, proclaiming her unrequited love for Marius with passionate vocals in “On My Own”. Also memorable were Monsieur and Madame Thenardier, played by Caleb Schneider and Lindsay Cohen, who provided constant, conniving comic relief with catchy tunes such as “Master of the House”.
The chorus brought a revolutionary energy to the performance, transforming a high school stage into early 19th century France. Their desperate and defiant voices blended to capture the upheaval and unrest of the era in a powerful way, backed by a marvelous pit orchestra.
Fortifying the stellar cast were brilliant technological aspects. Colors reflected characters’ moods, and the spotlight stayed ever true. A newly built turntable added dimension to haunting scenes on the barricade, and a student designed set perfectly portrayed the toughened Paris streets. Although a few microphone issues occurred, the cast forged through without hesitation.
A compelling tale of passion and justice that is extremely difficult to pull off, Eastern Regional’s Les Misérables was a beautifully executed call to action: a call to fight, to live, and to love.
Review submitted by Abigayle Harnum of Bordentown Regional High School
During the 19th century, France was faced with social and political upheavals in which many lives were lost and many others lived in impoverished conditions. Eastern Regional High School’s production of Les Misérables: School Edition not only successfully depicted this time of despair, but delivered an uplifting and passionate portrayal of one of the most iconic musicals of all time.
Based on the novel by French author, Victor Hugo, Les Misérables by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg first graced the Broadway stage in 1987, winning eight Tony Awards. Les Misérables tells the tale of a convict during the French Revolution who is sentenced to nineteen years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread and then trying to escape the penitentiary. The story then follows the release of “prisoner 24601” on parole, his confrontations with the police, and those he encounters on his journey of redemption.
The students of Eastern Regional High School brought forth not only spectacular vocal ability, but incredible stage presence which made the performance seem close to professional quality. Each and every cast member put their heart and soul into show-stopping numbers such as “One Day More” and “The People’s Song,” underscoring the idealism in France during the 1800s.
Jean Valjean, played effortlessly by Gary Bowman, is the former convict who begins a new life after his years in prison with his transformation from a petty thief to a selfless man of his word. Bowman’s breathtaking voice and poignant storytelling brought the character to life, most notably in his phenomenal rendition of the classic, “Bring Him Home”. Robert Sundstrom as Javert, the policeman relentlessly pursuing Valjean, was extremely convincing as a dark, obsessive character with his beautiful voice and mysterious presence.
Vincent Melara and Chelsea Chaet, as Marius and Cosette, were bright spots against the somber story line, with their angelic duets and heartwarming depiction of young love. Other memorable performances included Bridgette Burton, who brought an honest and raw portrayal with stunning vocals to her role as Fantine, and Kayla Kantakusin, whose great stage presence and vocals effectively displayed her undying love for Marius in her character, Eponine.
Eastern Regional High School’s hardworking students also assembled a revolving stage that was used seamlessly to enhance the production. The Sound and Lighting Club’s efforts were especially notable with the perfectly timed gunshots and the white lighting to show Fantine from the afterlife.
Eastern Regional High School’s production of Les Misérables: School Edition was an inspiring performance of strength and sacrifice, and ultimately resulted in a well-deserved standing ovation.