March 14, 2009

Review – Les Miserables, as performed by St. Catherine’s High School

Posted in 1 tagged , , , at 12:00 pm by suepenkivech

Something different today, as reviews go. Instead of a book, I’m feeling a need to gush over the performance of Les Mis I saw tonight at St. Catherine’s High School in Racine, Wisconsin.

Now, I’m a long-time fan of Les Mis, as some of you probably know. I’ve gone through two copies of the 25th Anniversary Concert CD, I have the DVD, and I was fortunate enough to see a professional live performance a few years ago in Milwaukee. So, when my daughters came home from school and told me St. Cat’s was performing the play this weekend, I immediately checked the calendar and asked if they wanted to go. Even the “School Edition” as performed by high school students promised to be a real treat for them, though I’d expected a “compressed” version of the original play.

Surprisingly, my older daughter, who enjoys performing in live theatre, declined in favor of watching Wolverine and the X-Men on TV (Sadly for her, this proved to be a rerun, so I imagine there will be regrets expressed tomorrow). My younger daughter begged to go anyway, so we rushed through dinner and headed off to the theatre. Unfamiliar with the School Edition, I’d thoroughly expected to see, at best, the highlights of the regular stage performance.

I was wrong.

There were parts cut from the play, granted – mostly some of the back and forth between Javert and ValJean, which no one who hasn’t listened to the CDs for years were likely to miss. Second verses of certain songs were lost as well. But the performances themselves – I had to keep reminding myself that these were high school students. Alex Krummel did an amazingly convincing performance as Jean ValJean, which I can’t think would be a role easily played by your average high school senior. He has an incredible voice, and if there were any notes he missed, I didn’t notice.

As for Zena Mengesha, who played the part of Eponine…

Eponine is my favorite character in Les Mis by far, and I absolutely adored Lea Salonga’s performance on the concert DVD. The professional actress whom I saw years ago impressed me far less in the role than the high school student who performed tonight. Eponine’s death scene, as performed by Dominic Diehn (Marius) and Zena Mengesha, was easily my favorite part of the play, and the next scene had begun before the audience stopped applauding.

The play was 3 hours long, including a 15 minute intermission – an ambitious undertaking for a high school. I have a great deal of respect for everyone involved in the show – all of the performers, the orchestra, the directors, whoever was responsible for the amazing backdrops. They’re performing again on Sunday at 2pm, and if you’re in the area, I strongly recommend catching the show.

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2 Comments »

  1. Katey said,

    God, how cool is it that there’s a high school that can pull that off? I’d have loved to see it! Eponine’s death is probably my favorite scene, too, since I was a little kid. Brilliant!

  2. suepenkivech said,

    I saw it again on Sunday. If anything, it had gotten Better, and the freshman boy who I actually knew in the cast did a great performance as Enroljas – on Friday he sounded as if he might have been losing his voice on and off.

    I’m still totally awed.


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