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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

17554029_1278609212226718_2292847556785370800_nThursday evening saw Mrs. K and I attending opening night of the school edition of Les Misérables. The show was held at McGowan Hall on the old Northside of Indianapolis. A very large audience, mostly family members, saw a wonderful performance of this world famous musical brought forth by a platoon of 69 young actors and actress ranging in age from 4th graders to high school seniors. Add the 20 set-change/backstage crew members and you have 89 young people who work hard to make this show happen!

You would be mistaken to assume that this was some charming little effort, with cute kids attempting adult roles. On the contrary, Director Dr. Kathy Phipps has managed to instill her young charges with a gravitas of dignity and emotion that runs through the presentation.

Led by a bevy of top-notch turns by the lead actors and actresses, this offering ranks high on stage essentials such as focus, interpretation and integration. It can be said it is among the very best of shows I have seen from any youth theatre company.

Luan Arnold, a Herron HS senior, portrays Jean Valjean with a heroic persona furthered by his tremendous vocal talent. Arnold is on the mark throughout the immense role and delivers on all points. As Valjean’s adversary Javert, Eli Robinson, a senior from Center Grove HS, renders a strong voiced offering. Never overdone, his fine character choices present a man convinced that his is the right way, even to the end.

Other main roles are equally well-crafted. Samantha Koval leaves few dry eyes with her “I Dreamed a Dream” as Fantine. Katherine Sabens puts her clear, sweet voice to excellent use for Little Cosette’s “Castle on a Cloud”. Thomas Tutsie and Hannah Phipps enliven the proceedings as the dastardly Thenardiers. Alex Bast (Enjoiras), Christopher Golab (Grantaire) and Connor Cleary (Marius) are tenacious in their action as revolutionaries, joined by 4th grader Aaron Sickmeier, who is a feisty Gavroche. Olivia Renee Ortmann uses her remarkable voice talents as the forsaken Eponine. And operatically voiced Christina Canaday joins with Cleary’s Marius for some very fine romantic moments.

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Some of the fine supporting cast of “Les Miserables” in The Beggars scene.

The overall effect of the gigantic cast and the preponderance of talented voices and acting skills make for a truly outstanding evening of theatre entertainment. A few points were lost on some nagging technical concerns, which I am known to notice. Lighting issues and mike problems seemed to run throughout the performance and I certainly hope that these things can be brought under control – but the night belonged to the talented young performers who put on a notable display of theatre. I hope that some of these fledglings will keep theatre as a part of their lives, either professionally or as an avocation, at local venues or theatres afar.

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Luan Arnold (center) as Jean Valjean, rescues Marius in the Barricade scene in “Les Miserables”

One final impressive aspect of the show needs mention – the fine orchestra, led by David Turner, which provided an exceptional sounding background for the many songs. This is a difficult score and the 17 member group of musicians are to be congratulated on a superior job.

One major unfixable problem with this Les Misérables is that it only runs through a single weekend! Even as I write this on 4/7/17 – a Friday afternoon show is getting ready to launch at 1 pm and then only Friday and Saturday evening shows and a late afternoon Sunday program remain. You are urged to go to http://www.thelittleboxoffice.com/agape for ticket information. I encourage everyone to see this remarkable hit show.

  • – Photos from Director Kathy Phipps

 

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