REVIEW:  Academy of the Company Theatre’s ‘Les Miserables School Edition’ cast Turning, Turning Wise Beyond their Years

Having read Victor Hugo’s epic novel Les Miserables, witnessed three film adaptations including a 1998 mediocre version starring Claire Danes as Cosette and Liam Neesen as Jean Valjean (without an Eponine), GBH’s 10th and 25th anniversary of Les Miserables in Concert as well as Les Miserables live onstage from Broadway to Lexus Broadway in Boston to right here a few years ago at the Company Theatre, the Academy of the Company Theatre’s Les Miserables School Edition features the youngest cast I’ve ever witnessed onstage.  Les Miserables is a masterful show and a paramount redemption tale, but it does deal in underlying mature themes such as criminal injustices, swindling, prostitution, and war.

Weston Hammond as Javert and Sal Garcia as Jean Valjean Photo credit to Dean Palmer Jr./Zoe Bradford

Set in 18th century France, Les Miserables is a brilliant tale about an escaped convict attempting to rebuild his life under the watchful eye of Inspector Javert.  Life experience suggests that adults might have a firmer grasp on the show’s complicated and mature themes, but with exceptional Sal Garcia starring as Jean Valjean and a wise beyond their years cast, it is not difficult to imagine.

Skillfully directed and staged by Sally Forrest and musically-directed by Melissa Carubia, Academy of the Company Theatre (ACT) presents Les Miserables School Edition continuing through Sunday, January 30 live and in person at the Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts.  This musical is over two hours with one intermission.  The School Edition is a bit abbreviated, but only meticulous fans of the full length musical would notice.  Click here for more information and tickets. 

Will Moon as The Bishop of Digne and Sal Garcia as Jean Valjean Photo credit to Dean Palmer Jr/Company Theatre

With a thick beard and an imposing figure, it is not much of a stretch of the imagination that Sal Garcia could take on the reigns of Jean Valjean.  With a vocal range from a whispered lullaby to a powerful belt, Garcia’s vocal gymnastics take off from Soliloquy onward and especially for extraordinary solos, Bring Him Home and Who Am I.  At just 16 years old, it is amazing to think his voice will only become more powerful and pliable in the years to come.  Garcia as Valjean and Will Moon’s clear and distinct vocals as the Bishop of Digne combine for a moving performance in the musical’s most pivotal and iconic scene.  Valjean’s encounters with Weston Hammond as mysterious Inspector Javert work well together to fuel the mounting tension between them.  Hammond’s deep baritone and Garcia’s versatile vocals heighten each scene together.

Sal Garcia as Jean Valjean and Brianna Casey as Fantine Photo credit to Dean Palmer Jr./Company Theatre

Brianna Casey may look young, but her deep and rich vocals exude that maturity needed to take on Fantine’s complexities from a struggling mother to a woman haunted by visions of the past exhibited in the anguish of I Dreamed a Dream.

Elsa Hancock-Happ as Young Cosette is pitch perfect and adorable, but her distinct and reactive facial expressions with the Thenardiers are the most fun to watch.   Jack Baumrind is a little scene stealer as Garouche, his sweet smile and streetwise antics outsmarting most everyone he encounters.

Tessa Beshere and Jackson Parker as the manipulative and amusing Thenardiers only seem to get better as the show progresses.  With a cackling laugh, scheming Parker as Thenardier excels in the show’s darkest number, Dog Eat Dog with Garcia as Valjean and Dabady as Marius.  The Thenardiers’ playful, dynamic chemistry and physical humor is at its best as they become the life of the party for Beggars at the Feast.

Jackson Parker as Thenardier and Tessa Beshere as Madame Thenardier Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

Usually I don’t care for the character of Cosette, but Katherine Dee changes my mind through her angelic, soaring soprano vocals and sweet chemistry with Gilbert Dabady as strong-willed and charming Marius.  Dabady exhibits playful chemistry with a lovely Isabelle Assaf as Eponine.  The trio creates beautiful harmonies for A Heart Full of Love and the collective cast’s harmonies are exceptional for One Day More.

Gilbert Gabady as Marius and Katherine Zee as Cosette ‘A Heart Full of Love’ Photo courtesy of Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

Antoine Aoun is also memorable and charismatic as Enjolras, leader of a student revolution.  Aoun builds excitement for the future with ABC Café and The People’s Song.

Antoine Aoun as Enjolras with revolutionaries and the barricade Photo credit to Zoe Bradford/Company Theatre

From subtle cobblestone streets to the finely detailed and massive barricade, Ryan’s Barrow’s set design strikes the contrasting tone of the elite and the poverty-stricken parts of France accentuated by Martine Assaf’s aesthetically pleasing costumes faithful to the musical’s vision.  Dean Palmer Jr.’s impressive lighting is prominent throughout the production from an atmospheric glow to flickering street lamps to twinkling stars to illuminated lanterns most evident in a gorgeous display for Turning and the unique and stirring staging accentuates the resonating and timely number, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables led by Dabady who pays melancholic and poignant tribute to ghosts of the past.

Academy of the Company Theatre (ACT) presents Les Miserables School Edition continuing through Sunday, January 30 live and in person at the Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets.

3 comments

  1. Rosemary Aronson · January 29

    Wonderful review of this youth group’s performance of a very demanding and complex play. They were all outstanding as was the set & costume designs. This cast certainly represents the voices of tomorrow that soar today. Proud to have served as an usher for 4 performances and can say this cast was superior to some of the pseudo-professional theatrical I have seen.

    • The Sleepless Critic · January 30

      Thank you for reading and your comments. Totally agree with all you said!

  2. Pingback: REVIEW:  Go see Academy of the Company Theatre’s heartwarming, moving, and family-friendly ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ | The Sleepless Critic

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