C’est magnifique! Rick Kerby, producing artistic director and director/choreographer, is making his vision for the new space come true with every nightly rendition of the signature song, “I Dreamed a Dream,” throughout the run of this spectacular season-opener at the Manatee Performing Arts Center.
Among the most brilliant of the world’s great classic literature, Victor Hugo’s novel ignited such a "grande passion" in lyric writer Herbert Kretzmer that he captured Hugo’s epic story so completely the actors sing out their hearts, hopes and humanity on the stage as if they were born from the book itself. Composer Claude-Michel Schonberg matches Kretzmer’s passion with the divine spirit of music, completing the triumvirate most responsible for the phenomenon affectionately known as “Les Mis.” Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel wrote the original French text, based on the novel.
To add a new rung to this "Art de Triomphe," Kerby has culled an entirely organic cast from the fertile soil of Florida’s west coast. His crop overflows in its sheer abundance and, most notably, its prolific talent, adding a new twist to the injunction, “Eat local!” I lack the space to mention each one individually, but, together they weave a richness that greatly enhances the broad proportions of this well-mounted musical.
Hugo’s iconic characters are well served here. As Jean Valjean, the peasant imprisoned 19 years for a desperately needed loaf of bread, Kenn C. Rapczynski is riveting in his singing and reveals Valjean’s nobility with his acting. Sarah Cassidy plays a sweetly sympathetic and desperate Fantine, who is also despicably treated by a hypocritical social structure. She invokes the fantasy of “I Dreamed a Dream,” and her duet with Rapczynski, “Come to Me,” is especially moving. Bradley Barbaro as the super-villain, Inspector Javert, the self-righteous emblem of those who seek to control and condemn others, is astonishingly powerful in his portrayal of this demanding role. Adding a more mundane brand of villainy as well as superb comic relief are self-serving tavern owners M. and Mme. Thenardier, played with clever salaciousness by multitalented David W. Walker and Stephanie Woodman-Costello. All three of their riotously funny scenes with the ensemble are loaded with delightful bits of choreography and tomfoolery. The young love triangle of Cossette, Marcus and Eponine is perfectly cast, played and sung by Anna Trinci, James Hyde and Holly Rizzo.
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- Saw Les Mis Saturday, I must say this has been THE BEST SHOW ever performed at the Players, I've been to all, for the last three years. The talented Bradley Barbaro and Holly Rizzo stopped the show. We have so much talent in our area.
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