Glory and passion, love and loss, singing and acting all united on West Springfield’s stage with their production of “Les Miserables.” Based on Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name, the world-famous French musical’s 16-year run was the second-longest in Broadway history. Its tale of “the miserable people,” as it loosely translates, is just as stirring today as it was when it first opened in 1980.
The story, all sung, follows escaped convict Jean Valjean (Bobby Hundemer) through the years, as he runs from the law, gives his “soul to God,” and becomes involved in the failed French Revolution of 1832. He touches the lives of the denizens of France.
Jack Powers radiated a sense of power and control as the menacing Inspector Javert, obsessed with justice. He commanded the stage every moment he appeared on it, and was especially riveting in the pivotal moment when his world is turned upside down by Valjean’s mercy, and he commits suicide.
Meredith Mazie’s quiet desperation as Fantine, the factory worker turned prostitute, was heart-wrenching in “Fantine’s Death.” On the other side of the spectrum, Madame (Jasmine Mahboob) and Monsieur Thernardier (Nathan Taylor) were sly and shrewd in their attempts to con the world, especially in “The Bargain” with Jean Valjean.
Chris Douglas’ love-struck Marius was sweet and innocent, with a mature and refreshing tenor voice. Eponine’s (Rachel Alba) unrequited love for him was agonizing and emotional. Their duet “A Little Fall of Rain” was one of the most moving moments of the show, as Eponine died on the barricade, creating a poignant tableau that was gorgeous in its quiet despair.
The ensemble was strong, especially in “The People’s Song” and the “Epilogue,” in which they sang the stirring call to arms, asking: “Do you hear the people sing?” Though there was at times an imbalance of harmony, most of the time the cast blended well. The orchestra supported them well, and never overpowered them.
Costumes were appropriately bedraggled, especially for the “lovely ladies.” The set (by Maggie Rosbolt and Rebecca Pell) was impressive, as the show demands so much, including a rotating turntable and a barricade. Scene changes were swift, and relatively quiet, given the size of the pieces being moved. Use of special effects such as strobe lights and a fog machine helped to create the atmosphere.
West Springfield tackled this difficult show and triumphed, leaving the audience inspired to “join in [their] crusade” for love and mercy.