There’s a reason Les Misérables is one of the world’s longest running musicals. It’s an intensely passionate story of grace and redemption that strikes a chord in all who see it, and it takes a bit of bravado to actually stage a show like this successfully. It’s a musical that can’t be staged by newbies.
For Cardinal Music Productions, the bragging rights can start right now, because their current production of the Broadway hit show is a triumph in every way. The opening night audience on Friday night responded to every moment, every song and every character as if each was watching the show for the first time.
There is a multi-tier stage that provided the backdrop for the entire show that looks like something from Stratford. When added to a deep set of lights that use dark blues, whites and reds (it is France after all), there is a tremendous tone to the show that looks stunning throughout the entire production.
The real magic of the show, however, lies within its youth cast and exceptional choreography.
The entire cast was incredible. From Cavelle Doucet Lefebvre’s Jean Valjean and Emma McDonald’s Cosette all the way through to smaller roles like Brooklyn Tehan’s Claquesous and Shawn Evon’s multiple characters, the youth cast nailed it. It felt like a professional touring version of the show in every way. There was a feverish depth to this that we rarely see in locally staged musicals – a depth that takes a lot of dedication and hours to master.
Set in early 19th-century France, Les Misérables is the story of Jean Valjean, a French peasant, and his quest for redemption after serving nineteen years in jail for having stolen a loaf of bread for his sister’s starving child. Valjean decides to break his parole and start his life anew after a kindly bishop inspires him by a tremendous act of mercy, but is relentlessly tracked down by a police inspector named Javert. Along the way, Valjean raises a daughter named Cosette and he joins a slew of characters who are swept into a revolutionary period in France, where a group of young idealists make their last stand at a street barricade.
McDonald is gorgeous as Cosette and her voice lifts through the entire auditorium. She lights up the stage with a glow that one would expect from a beautiful young woman of culture and privilege. Lefebvre is a charming Jean Valjean. His wavy hair and musky voice are perfect for the part. One of the standouts in the strong cast is David Sivak as Inspector Javert. He gave a commanding performance that brought the house down.
Another notable moment in the show was the large bar-room song Master of The House where inn-keepers Owen Bortolin (Thenardier) and Sydney White (Madame Thenardier) gave the rather serious show its moments of laughter. Bortolin was a comedic master in the song with his dancing, facial expressions and movements, while White ran around the room stealing items from the guests in a large choreographed routine. It was one of many great ensemble pieces in the show.
The true success of this show lies with Joseph Cardinal who had the vision to produce and direct this masterful take. It was by far and away the best production from the Cardinal arsenal in the last two years and may very well be his crowning production moment (audience members were comparing it to his 2015 production of Sweeny Todd and the 2016 version of Little Shop of Horrors, but were quick to rate this one higher when asked).
Cardinal had a little fun in the last few years with shows like Legally Blonde and 9 to 5, but Les Mis gave him the chance to showcase the best of what musical theatre can do. He has his work cut out ahead of him as he prepares for upcoming shows like The Hunchback of Notre Dame in November and a revival of Heathers: The Musical in January.
This Cardinal Music Productions version of the classic musical will satisfy even the stickiest of Les Mis lovers. It’s full-throated, visually immense and thriving with life… and death.
Les Misérables runs for three more shows at The Green Room Theatre at E.J. Lajeunesse from Sept. 28 to 30. Visit cardinalmusicproductions.com for more information on tickets.
The Cast includes:
Cavelle Doucet Lefebvre as Jean Valjean
David Sivak as Javert
Lev Tokol as the Bishop of Digne, Bamatabois, Babet, Feuilly, Major Domo
Regan White as Fantine, Factory Girl, Prostitute, Courfeyrac
Karly Green as Fantine, Factory Girl, Prostitute, Old Beggar Woman, Jean Prouvaire
Owen Bortolin as Convict 4, the Foreman, Fauchelevant, Thenardier
Sydney White as Madame Thenardier, Factory Girl, Prostitute, Turning Woman
Katie Kerekes as Madame Thenardier, Factory Girl, Old Woman Joly
Koen Kavanaugh as Little Cosette
Juliet Lewsaw as Little Cosette
Emma McDonald as Cosette, Factory Girl
Charlee Norris as Young Eponine
Alyvvea Beemer as Young Eponine
Charlotte Salisbury as Eponine, Factory Girl, Sick Prostitute, Turning Woman
Meredith Garswood as Eponine, Factory Girl, Prostitute, Turning Woman
Mason Doornaert as Gavroche
Peyton Del Papa as Gavroche
Nick Palazzolo as Convict 3, Farmer, Factory Worker, Marius
Shawn Evon as Convict 1, Factory Worker, Enjolras, Lesgles
Kelly Killen as Convict 1, Enjolras, Lesgles
Jackson Balint as Convict 5, Pimp, Grantaire
Isaac Newton as Constable 2, Brujon, Combeferre
Brandon Presley as Convict 2, Montparnasse
Abby St. Pierre as Constable 1
Rhyse Lamont as Innkeeper, Solo Urchin
Brooklyn Tehan as Claquesous
Ensemble: Caitlyn Gates, Liah Howard, Anne Garant, Addysyn King, Kaiya Taylor, Angelo Lucier, Elizabeth Evon, Brooke Dominguez and Maya Jessop
Director and Producer: Joe Cardinal
Assistant Director: Roseanne Palazzolo
Music Director: Regan White
Choreographer: Sydney White
Stage Manager, Costume Design: Darien Paré
Set Design & Build Joe Cardinal Costume Design & Build Chey Gauthier
Sound Designer, Audio Engineer, Computer Operator: Joe Cardinal
Lighting Design & Operator: Eric Tulp
Front of House: Anita De Luca Carlini, Kris Lucier, Bonnie Porteous, Trisha Leigh, Michelle McDonald, Chris Halik & David Lucier
Poster / Program: Christopher Lawrence-Menard