Theater review: PTC's 'Les Miserables' masterfully conceived, breathtakingly beautiful

Published: Tuesday, May 7 2013 4:12 p.m. MDT

Cast of Pioneer Theatre Company's "Les Miserables."

Alex Weisman, icewolfphotography.com

“LES MISÉRABLES,” Pioneer Theatre Company, through June 1, $42-$70, 801-581-6961 or pioneertheatre.org

The world’s longest-running musical and Utah’s favorite theater work gets the state’s most breathtakingly beautiful production.

Audiences at Pioneer Theatre Company feel the passion of the “Les Misérables” cast and share in the energy coming from the stage as it reverberates through the theater. Masterful conception and a perfect balance between the epic and the intimate are hallmarks of the production, along with a tight focus on the singing not overtaking the acting. The scenes flow with grace, and each moment has been meticulously studied and is presented with the full emotional poignancy the captivating story requires.

Quite simply, heart-racing performances, exquisite design and inspired direction.

It’s the company’s second staging after its first regional production six years ago of the acclaimed musical, and director Charles Morey again displays a sincere trust in the material and avoids any of the excesses of the recent movie adaptation (and it’s Russell Crowe-free!).

Rather than launch into a review of the leads, let’s reverse and start with the splendid ensemble players, who are deeply committed to their performances and sing with matching determination.

The small moments are as important as the stirring “One Day More.” Brigham Inkley is sprightly as street urchin Gavorche, and Maggie Scott, who gave such a memorable performance as Mary Lennox in Hale Center Theater Orem’s “Secret Garden,” plays Young Cosette with beauty and sings angelically.

A dashingly handsome Kevin Vortmann as Enjolras, a superb Melissa Mitchell as Cosette, a slightly too reserved Perry Sherman as Marius and surprisingly strong Manna Nichols as Eponine (her “On My Own” is a high point) play the romantic young people with tenderness and devotion.

As the Thernardiers, Christianne Tisdale and Dale Hensley play the roles with equal parts clownish comedians and horrid abusers. Kelly McCormick is the tragic heroine Fantine, but her joy as she relives her early life is a refreshing addition to the role.

Along with returning the constant menace to Javert, Josh Davis is vocally and physically intimidating; his character becomes stronger and more threatening through the evening. His “Stars” is full of depth and clarity.

Joe Cassidys’ voice as Jean Valjean is truly remarkable, as is his tenderness toward Cosette and Fantine. Watch for the paternal love he shows to Young Cosette when, at their first meeting, he teaches her to sing a few notes to dispel her fear. Vocally, he effortlessly moves from a piercing roar in the lowest register to rise to heaven with an inspired falsetto, especially in his featured song, "Bring Him Home."

My only complaint is the few glitches in the sound design, with the blend between voices and orchestra focusing too often on the pit instruments over vocal prowess on stage.

After the immense joy of “In the Heights” that opened Pioneer’s season, “Les Misérables” is the perfect accompanying bookend.

If you have even a passing interest in “Les Misérables,” or fall in the category of being bored to tears, this is the production to see. It wasn’t a reminder that was overly necessary, but this production renews. The musical stands alone in its dramatic and emotional achievements as it continues turning, turning through the years.

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