For this review, Seattle Pockets is thrilled to welcome guest blogger, Chanel Ryssel.
Full disclosure: Les Miserables is my second favorite musical of all time, and after their production last season of my first favorite musical (Avenue Q), Balagan is quickly eclipsing all local theaters as the nearest and dearest to my heart. This summer, Balagan has found a new artistic director in Louis Hobson who also plays Jean Valjean in Les Miserables. If his acting is any indication of talent at artistic direction, I would expect an excellent year for Balagan.
Without giving too much away, Les Miserables tells the humanistic story of the social injustice the working class faced in 19th Century France. Playwright Victor Hugo’s central themes are that love and compassion can be found even against the backdrop of destitute living, starvation and revolution. Balagan did an excellent job performing a show in their smaller sized venue that feels like it needs a lot of space. They utilized an intricate set vertically and with an interesting 3D aspect that didn’t need much set breakdown between scenes, thus lending a sense of escapism and cohesiveness between songs. Interestingly, the battle scenes were constructed to give an unexpected angular view to audiences who might feel like they have seen most possible renditions of blocking for Les Mis.
While the cast’s performance as a whole was tight for an opening weekend, a few star characters really make the show. Balagan’s Eponine (Danielle Barnum) steals the show with her gripping, emotional testament through song and amazing stage presence. Similarly, Madame Thenardier (Rebecca M. Davis) and Monsieur Thenardier (Robert Scherzer) are often cast as comedic relief, but in this production also serve to reinforce the motif of “the plight of the orphan” and contrast with their daughter Eponine to really display the compassion that camaraderie can build in people despite their parentage and early station. .
Balagan, with its intimate venue and excellent stage blocking, does Les Miserables as much justice as big-house theaters! I would recommend that both people new to Les Miserables and veterans see this production, all the original elements are well done with a few refreshing changes. All in all, Balagan’s approach is dynamic and soulful, exactly what one would want from an excellent production of such a classic show. No spoilers here but bring some tissues with you! Les Miserables closes September 28th.
Disclaimer: Balagan Theatre provided SeattlePockets.com with two complimentary tickets to see this production. As always, free doesn’t change our opinions!