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April 27, 2010 > Theatre: Standing Ovation for "H's" Final Show

Theatre: Standing Ovation for "H's" Final Show

Les Miserables - A Review

By Emma Victoria G. Blanco

You could see their eyes widen in shock and surprise as the audience immediately stood up in applause. They weren't expecting it, especially not at opening night and especially not for a high school musical. A superb cast, sets to rival those at professional theatres, and the score to a hit Broadway musical - that about sums up Newark Memorial High School's production of Les Miserables (based on the novel by Victor Hugo), now playing at the Newark Memorial Theatre through May 8.

Les Miserables transports you to a time when 19th century France was in turmoil. It is the compelling story about one of the most tumultuous times in French history. Imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread, Jean Valjean is finally released from the chain-gang but pursued by relentless Inspector Javert. Thereafter he is taken in by a kindly bishop, but the hardened Valjean tries to steal from him. The bishop forgives him and convinces the authorities not to arrest him. Valjean is humbled by the bishop's actions and changes his ways.

Later, he becomes a mayor of a prosperous town. He takes an interest in Fantine, a factory worker who is fired because she has a bastard child. She becomes a prostitute and consequently gets sick and dies. She leaves her daughter, Cosette, with Valjean. While Javert is hot on his heels, Valjean manages to escape and find ways to care for Cosette. Years later, at the height of the revolution, Valjean and his charge are in Paris, where Cosette meets and falls in love with a young student, Marius Pontmercy. The concluding scenes of Les Miserables revolve around Valjean's attempts at redemption, the blossoming romance between Cosette and Marius, and the muddled intricacies of the French revolution.

Leading roles are impeccably cast. Ian Meyers and Marie Alexandra Ibarra are hilarious - successfully capturing the obnoxious and bawdy characters of Monsieur and Madame Thenardier. Yvette Marie Del Rio is magnificent and effectively convincing as the tragic and pitiful Eponine whose unrequited love and devotion for Marius leads to her untimely death. The cr¸me de la cr¸me is Michael Landreth, a standout as Jean Valjean. He has an undeniable stage presence and belts out "Who Am I?" and "Bring Him Home" with a force that demonstrates his vast vocal range. It is apparent that the whole cast works well together in order to put on such an impressive show but the leads display definite promise and undoubtedly hold bright futures in theatre or Broadway.

Les Miserables is Director Steven ("H") Harrington's last show. He is retiring to Colorado after 33 years as an educator in the Tri-City area, most of it as the drama teacher and theatrical director with Newark Memorial High School's Performing Arts Department. "It is with great fondness that I wish to dedicate this show to all of those souls who shared their lives with me... and especially to the ones who came to this magical space, to the Newark Memorial Theatre," he stated.

Experience rousing ensemble numbers that send tingles up your spine and make you want to "join in the fight that will give you the right to be free." Feel the intensity of emotions that can be conveyed only through the magic of theatre as the actors give it their all, gifting their utmost performances to their beloved director, Mr. "H." NMHS' Les Miserables, its cast, and its crew definitely deserve the standing ovation.

Les Miserables
April 23 through May 8
Fridays, Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sunday Matinees at 2 p.m.

Newark Memorial Theatre
39375 Cedar Blvd, Newark
(510) 818-4350

$10 pre-sale or $13 at the door

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