a touching, timeless tale of love and redemption
Published: Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 23, 2013 21:09
When Victor Hugo's masterpiece was transferred from book to stage, it transcended to a whole new level that only theatre could invoke – a portrayal of humanism so deep that the final scene of the protagonist’s departure to heaven moved the entire audiences to tears. The Sept. 21 production of “Les Miserables” was profoundly touching with the culmination of many themes wrapped into a beautiful interplay of morale and cataclysm.
“Les Miserables”, is the story of an ex-convict berated by the world until one act of mercy redeems him and sets him on a path of destiny where this change affects so many others’ lives. It is a story of redemption, of romance, love triangles, obsession of justice and vengeance. All themes presented throughout the play that resonate with real life are somehow that more real when materialized into emotion segued through song.
A depiction of the historical French Enlightenment, French Revolution period, the story is timeless. “Les Miserables” is unlike any other musical with hardly any spoken lines and three hours of straight music. This longest running international sensation has graced the stages of Broadway since 1987 and now, twenty-eight years later directors Susie Baer Collins and Carl Beck were finally able to obtain the rights to such a production, and present it on the local Omaha Community Playhouse stage.
Some things novel to the show is the use of sets and costumes. A turntable always rotates in timely order to prepare for the next transitioning scene and helps to transport space through time to beautiful sets with the right ambience. To deliver a period look, costumes were distressed or built from scratch and appear as if they came straight out of 19th century France.
Aside from character paradigms, elaborate sets and unforgettable songs, as well as the pool of talent selected to play the leads are impressionable. Over 350 people auditioned for the beloved roles.
Iowa native Timothy Shew plays Jean Valjean and Joseph Dignotti is Javert – the villainous antagonist seeking to bring prisoner 24601 to justice. Abbey Stewart is Eponine and Jennifer Tritz is ingénue Cosette. Julie Crowell, the tragic heroine, inspires with her strong belt and emotionally driven performance with "I Dreamed a Dream." Timothy T. O’Connor plays the romantic male lead Marius. O'Connor is a gem with his soaring tenor vocals in "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables."
"At first the thought of playing a role such as this seemed daunting, and in a way it still does," O'Connor said. “I never dreamed that I would get the opportunity to feel this kind of energy on stage; between the audience and the performers it is electric! The talent and dedication I am surrounded by everyday is such a gift. This will be a theatrical experience I am sure to never forget."
O'Connor is a former University of Nebraska at Omaha student and has performed in “All Night Strut,” “Alter Boyz” and “All Shook Up.”
Other notable talents are newcomers Tyler Buglewicz as Enjolras who's strong baritone voice commands the stage and gives eloquent presence as the student leader of the ABC society in "Red and Black.” Mark Thornberg has a cameo performance as Bishop Digne, a rather significant role and character that influences Jean Valjean’s restitution. Although the actors are raw talent and a strong cohesion of singers, the star of the show, without a doubt, is Shew, who lends to the cast the experience of an Equity actor who has performed the role of Jean Valjean over 1,600 times and is in his 6th production of “Les Miserables.” A veteran of the stage and Broadway royalty, Shew has finesse and delivers professionalism that is worth seeing.
A beautiful depiction of the thematic elements of love and redemption, the moral of “Les Miserables” rings true: To love another person is to see the face of God.
The production will certainly be a top-notch endeavor at the end of its run. Performances are from Sept. 20 to Oct. 27. Tickets can be purchased at the Omaha Community Playhouse box office.