Does "Les Miserables" get you down? Are you saddened when a favorite character sings like an angel in one scene only to become one in the next? Do you find the mega-musical goes on and on and on?
Well, Desert Star Playhouse turns "Les Miz's" turntable on its ear with the parody "Les Miserables - A Whole Lot Less Miserable." And Desert Star does it in 1 hour, 20 minutes and 17 seconds flat!The show opens as Prisoner 2002 (played with gusto by Ben Millet) is released from jail after stealing a loaf of bread (why he didn't take the TV and VCR, too, is anyone's guess.) He throws away his parole card and starts life anew as industrialist Jean Levi Jean.
Inspector Javert, played to the hilt by Scott Holman, vows to bring Prisoner 2002 to justice. Holman, complete with Snidley Whiplash-style mustache, is hilarious as the bumbling inspector, a cross between "The Pink Panther's" Inspector Clouseau and Saturday morning cartoons' Inspector Gadget.
Levi Jean hooks up with Fontine (pronounced Funtime, played by Portia Alison) just as she is crushed by a wagon. She begs him to look after her daughter Cossette (pronounced Cassette - the French accents really are deliberately atrocious), who is living with the wacky Thenardiers (Norman Plate and the brassy Danielle Omer) and their spoiled daughter Eponine (Kaycee Raquel). Raquel also did the choreography.
Cindy White, who plays Cossette, has a great singing voice, as do Plate and Omer. Like the Broadway original, the Thenardiers in this production provide extra comic relief (if that's possible in a comedy).
Levi Jean takes Cossette to Paris, where she falls for handsome revolutionary student Marius (Paul Murphy - who also has a great voice). Together they build a barricade (can you say "I-15 reconstruction"?) and fight for freedom.
The show, originally written by Tom Jordan and updated by Plate, features a host of goofy moments both in song and dialogue. Nothing is sacred, and jokes on the Olympics, "Les Miz" merchandising and politics abound. The Act 1 finale, sung to the tune of "Tonight" from "West Side Story" is particularly funny.
Kudos, too, to director Beth Bruner, who keeps the pacing fast and furious, musical director David Len Allen, costumer Ruth Todd, scenic designer Seven Nielsen, lighting designer Bronwyn Teague and set designers Nielsen and Ron Hansen.
While Desert Star's version of "Les Miz" packs the punch of the Broadway original, Salt Lake audiences are bound to get a chuckle from this production.
After the show, be sure to stick around for the "Give My Regards to Broadway" olio, which features the entire cast in songs and send-ups of "A Chorus Line," "The King and I" and "Fiddler on the Roof," among others. Especially funny is a set of songs - "Maria" from "West Side Story," "I Could Have Danced All Night" (except in this version it's "I Should Have Danced All Night") from "My Fair Lady," "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria" from "Sound of Music" and "They Call the Wind Maria," from "Paint Your Wagon" - sung by White, Holman, Plate, Millet and Murphy.