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Orléans Ward
Bob Monette

(Posted 24/04/04)
Les MisÚrables c'est magnifique
By Fred Sherwin
Orleans Online

The St. Peter Players production of Les MisÚrables wraps up tonight at St. Peter High School. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Curtain rises at 7 p.m. Fred Sherwin/Photo

Amazing. Unbelievable. Spellbinding. Superb. Breathtaking. Stupendous.

Now that I've gotten the superlatives out of the way, I can honestly tell you that the St. Peter Players production of Les MisÚrables – on tonight at St. Peter High School – absolutely blew my socks off.

I should first embarassingly admit that I went to the musical fully expecting the type of amateurish, albeit earnest production of the type they used to put on when I was still going to high school.

So much for preconceptions. What I and the other 449 people in the audience were treated to Friday night was the type of production that would be welcomed on any stage in the National Capital Region including the NAC.

The set design, orchestration, costumes and choreography were top notch and without fault. As for the performances, they were absolutely mindblowing, especially when you consider the fact that several of the principles were first timers.

Of particular note was the performance of Samantha Mouchet, herself a veteran of five St. Peter Players productions. Mouchet appeared in
the role of Fantine, the single mother turned prostitute who’s dying wish is for the play’s principle character, Jean Valjean, to look after her daughter Cosette.

Fantine’s solo “I Dreamed A Dream” was worth the $10 price of admission alone. In fact, my only complaint is that I didn’t get to hear more of Mouchet’s amazing voice. My angst was eased somewhat thanks to the angelic contribution of Hannah Barrett who played Cosette.

This is Barrett’s third production with the St. Peter Players, but first in a lead role. Judging by her performance it will by no means be her last.

Other incredible performances were turned in by Stuart Douglas who played Cosette’s love interest Marius; Nick Lalumiere as Valjean; Amanda Molinski as the lovestruck Eponine; Mike Molinski as Gavroche, one of the leaders of the student uprising; and Adam Smart and Kate Heney as Monsieur and Madame Thenardier, the owners of a local tavern.

Neither Douglas nor Mike Molinski have ever been in a play before, let alone a musical. Ditto for Nick Walker who landed the lead role of Inspector Javert, the policeman who is consumed with bringing Valjean to justice.

Not only did Nick have to get over the jitters of playing the lead in his first theatrical production, he also had to endure some ribbing at the hands of some of his teammates on the school football team.

“Les Mis”, as the play is more affectionately known, tells the story of Jean Valjean who escapes while on parole after serving 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s child.

After changing his name to Monsieur Madeleine, Valjean rises through the ranks of social order to become the mayor of a small town and a factory owner. It is in his factory that we first meet Fantine. Pregnant with a fatherless child, she is shunned by her co-workers and eventually cast into the street where she is forced to work in a bordello.

Fantine and Valjean eventually meet in the street, but when our hero comes to the rescue of a woman trapped under a cart he is recognized by Inspector Jalvert, the man who has been searching for him since he broke parole.

After convincing Jalvert to give him three days to turn himself in, he escapes the small town having agreed to Fantine’s dying wish to look after her daughter.

Skip ahead several years and Valjean finds Cosette working in a small inn owned by the Thenadiers who treat the young girl like a slave while they dote over their daughter Eponine.

The inn scene provides the only comedic relief in the play when the Thenadiers sing a baudy version of “Master of The House” backed up by a chorus of their customers.

Valjean eventually buys Cosette’s freedom for 1,500 francs and takes her to Paris where they go into hiding together.

Once in Paris they come into contact with a mixed bag of young ruffians and politically motivated students who are planning an uprising against the city’s elite. One of the student leaders is Marius who falls in love with Cosette at first site. Caught in the middle is poor Eponine who is secretly in love with Marius and recognizes Cosette from her days sweeping floors at the inn.

On the eve of the student uprising, Valjean decides that he and Cosette must leave the country before Javert finally catches up to him. Before they flea, however, he joins the students on the barricades.

Prior to the main battle the students capture Javert, who is acting as a spy. When they turn him over to Valjean, the hero unties the hands of his old foe and lets him go free rather than killing him.

During the ensuing battle Marius is wounded and Valjean pulls him to safety only to be tracked down by the relentless Javert. After Valjean talks the policeman into letting them go free again, Javert meets his demise (you’ll have to see the play to know how). Marius soon recovers from his wounds and eventually marries Cosette. To wit they live happily ever after.

The performances in the production are strong throughout, but it is during the ensemble numbers that the entire cast is allowed to shine. Among the supporting leads are Juliana Siok as the young Cosette; Lydia Cardinal as the young Eponine; Matthew Dinardo as Enjolras; Jeff Roy as Joly; Dylan Ryan as Combeferre Courfeyrac; Wade Muir as Feuillyl Prouvaire; and Lukasz Lukaszek as Grantaire.

The cast is made up of 37 members which doesn’t include the all-volunteer orchestra led by Lisa MacLean, or the production and stage crews led by producer Carla Boyle, choreographer Melody Lavictoire and the driving force behind the St. Peter Players – Bernie Leger.

Kudos to the entire cast and crew. I can hardly wait until next year’s production. And in case their taking any suggestions, my vote would be for Jesus Christ Superstar.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

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