Steve Holm, Tuacahn
Timothy Warmen, left, as Jean Valjean and Harold Barnard II as Javert.
"LES MISERABLES," Tuacahn, Ivins, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays through Oct. 18 (800-746-9822); running time: 3 hours (one intermission)

I went in to Tuacahn's production of "Les Miserables" feeling, honestly, a little bit skeptical.

After all, I've seen just about every professional production of the show, with a few school productions thrown in for good measure.

This production is worth the drive to Tuacahn — I was quite impressed.

Top to bottom, this musical boasts some truly wonderful voices and performances.

Normally staged with a revolving stage, this was the first time I've seen the full production on a nonmoving stage, and it worked well, thanks to director Scott S. Anderson and co-director/choreographer Derryl Yeager.

They did a great job using the whole space, kept the story moving during scene changes and kept many of the original effects in place without mechanical wizardry.

And the cast is outstanding.

John Preator (Marius) and Kevin Goertzen (Enjolras) are not only very handsome, leaving many in the audience swooning, but their voices were perfectly clear, hitting the soaring top notes with ease. Truly, when this music is sung well, it's unbeatable. If only the two had more songs to sing.

The women held their own, too. Stacie Bono (Fantine) and Emily Perucca (Eponine) were captivating as the women with less-than-great lives. And Melinda Lockwood DeBirk (Cosette) had a wonderful soprano and seemed genuinely smitten with Marius.

Another man I could have listened to all night was Harold Barnard II as Javert.

The Thenardiers (James Zannelli and Heidi Anderson) also sang their songs with ease, handled the task of comic relief well, and they seemed to be having a great time doing so.

Timothy Warmen, in the very difficult role of Jean Valjean, hit all the notes and was good. But I felt, perhaps due to opening night energy, that he came out of the gate running and then had nowhere to go. In a show that spans years, we should really see a nice arc for the character of Valjean, and I didn't really get that from Warmen. Having said that, perhaps I'm being picky, as the audience gave him a hearty cheer at the end of the show.

The chorus was also great, especially when the male students sang "Red and Black" and the whole chorus, "One Day More." It gave me chills.

There were only a few minor glitches that pulled me from this great production.

The live orchestra, under the direction of Christopher Babbage, seems a touch shakier on this music than "The Sound of Music." But I always applaud theaters that make the commitment to live music, since it gives the actors so much freedom. And they will only get better as the summer moves on.

The actors, maybe in an effort to add a little spice, sometimes syncopate their rhythms, and in this type of musical, it runs the risk of getting sloppy.

The biggest disappointment of the evening was when the curtain calls were made without the backup of the Claude-Michel Shonberg score. I'm not sure if that was a one-time gaffe, but having having curtain calls for a musical without music seems like an unfinished evening.

Again, I was really impressed. I, like most in the house, left singing the songs and, for the first time in years, I want to dig my CD out and listen to it again.


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