Student Ensemble Thrills Audience with Glorious Anthems of Les Mis
The Grand Theatre is celebrating 20 years of High School Projects with the opening of Les Misérables which includes a cast of 47, plus 17 crew members and three student musicians. And this year, the ensemble shines, raising the roof and filling the house with the rich anthems that make Les Mis memorable.
Les Mis is the epic story of convict Jean Valjean (Dean Holbrough) who serves his time for a minor crime and becomes mayor under a new name. Although he is aided by a kindly Bishop (Peter Nye), he is hunted by Inspector Javert (Preston Cooper-Winder) for breaking parole. When a worker in Valjean’s factory, Fantine (Keirsten Overton), dies leaving young Cosette (Amber Sellars) an orphan, Valjean raises her as his own. He retrieves her from the conniving innkeepers M. Thénardier (Christopher Pitre-McBride) and Mme. Thénardier (Colleen Moodie) and their daughter young Eponine (Olivia Farquar).
Eventually Cosette (Claire Latosinsky) falls in love with the student Marius (Justin Eddy), but sadly Eponine (Isabella Majewska) loves him, too. Marius joins the student rebels under the leadership of Enjolras (Jared Brown) with little Gavroche (Marcy Gallant) as their young spy. Eponine and all the students but Marius, who is saved by Valjean, die in the battle. The story concludes with the marriage of Marius and Cosette, surrounded by the spirits of all those they have loved.
The entire cast deserves praise for their handling of the rich score. Harmonies are excellent and the voices magnificent, making it difficult to believe that they are students whose vocal ranges may not have fully matured yet. The rousing anthems “One Day More” and “Do you Hear the People Sing?” are beautiful and powerful. In particular, “Drink with Me” shows the amazing scope of male voices in this production. Another favourite is “Master of the House” which features the Thenardiers as comic relief. Pitre-McBride and Moodie display the humour perfectly, with the ensemble backing them in drunken fun.
Marius’ song “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” is well presented by Eddy, and Overton gives a moving rendition of Fantine’s “I Dreamed a Dream”. As well, credit goes to Majewska for Eponine’s heart wrenching “On My Own”.
The opening night audience, filled with proud parents and family, was very appreciative of the production. Especially poignant was a warm send-off for former Artistic Director Susan Ferley who directed this production of Les Mis. Ferley has been at the helm for 15 High School Projects, and was honoured by the current cast plus a myriad of grateful alumni who joined the cast on stage at the end of the show. Ferley was thanked by two notable alumni, Doug Price and Ben Sanders, as she heads to the UK to study.
Twice a year the professionals at the Grand audition high school students across the area, and select the most promising for a big musical production or a play. We trust this 20 year tradition will continue at the Grand under new Artistic Director Dennis Garnhum.
Les Misérables continues at the Grand Theatre, London until October 1. Tickets are available at the Grand box office at 672-8800 or 1-800-265-1593 or visit www.grandtheatre.com.
Photo: M. Thénardier (Christopher Pitre-McBride) and Mme. Thénardier (Colleen Moodie) add comedy to Les Misérables at the Grand’s High School Project. Photo by Claus Andersen.
By Alain Boublil & Claude-Michel Schonberg
Based on the novel by Victor Hugo
Directed by Susan Ferley
Musical Direction by Floydd Ricketts
Choreographed by Kerry Gage
Performed by the students of the High School Project
Grand Theatre, London
September 20 to October 1, 2016
Reviewed by Mary Alderson