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Les Mis cast

The Arts Club Theatre Company closes out its 51st season with a barnburner revival of Les Misérables (colloquially known as Les Miz or Les Mis), the multi-award winning Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg musical based on the classic novel by Victor Hugo.

The basic story, set in early 19th century France, is well known. Jean Valjean (Kieran Martin Murphy) is released from prison after serving 19 years in jail for having stolen a loaf of bread for his sister’s starving child. Inspired by an act of mercy by a kindly bishop, Valjean decides to break his parole and start life over as an honest man but is relentlessly pursued by police inspector Javert (Warren Kimmel).

Warren Kimmel
[Warren Kimmel]

Along the way, Valjean agrees to care for a factory worker’s daughter. And a group of young idealists, swept up into the unsuccessful Paris Revolution of 1832, make their last stand at a street barricade.

Les Miz has everything: hate, love, jealousy, revenge, heartbreak, hope, greed, all set against the backdrop of a turbulent time in French history. Although initially panned by the critics when first produced in London in 1985 as being overblown and too sentimental, Les Miz has gone on to be a perennial favourite of theatre-goers everywhere. It won eight Tony awards, and was the fifth longest running show in Broadway history.

The current Arts Club Theatre Company production, directed by Bill Millerd (also the Artistic Managing Director of the Company), features a talented cast, excellent technical support (lighting, set design, costumes, choreography), and an impressive six-man behind-the-scenes orchestra that comes across with the power of a much larger group of musicians.

Jamie Olivia MacLean, Kieran Martin Murphy
[Jamie Olivia MacLean, Kieran Martin Murphy]

Playing the dominating roles of hero and villain, Kieran Martin Murphy and Warren Kimmel set a high standard for the rest of the cast. Which they met. Fantine, the doomed mother (Rebecca Talbot), her daughter Cosette (Kaylee Harwood), students Marius (Sayer Roberts) and Enjolas (Stuart Barkley), and street girl Éponine (Jennie Neumann) are the main supporting roles.

All have stage presence and very good singing voices. They shine in both single turns and in group numbers such as A Heart Full of Love. Ms. Neumann in particular is a standout presence, especially in her solo rendition of On My Own, as is Mr. Roberts. The duo are backed up by an enthusiastic 12-person ensemble.

Cameron Andes and Les Miz cast
[Cameron Andes and Les Miz cast]

Particularly impressive was 11-year old Cameron Andres (Gavroche). He has talent and personality to spare and more than held his own in a company of experienced adults.

Nicola Lipman, Andrew Wheeler
[Nicola Lipman, Andrew Wheeler]

Ably rounding out the cast are Andrew Wheeler and Nicola Lipman as the avaricious and amoral innkeepers M. and Mme. Thénardier, typical examples of unscrupulous survivors. They work very well together and demonstrate their comic chops to great effect in Master of the House and Beggars at the Feast. Mr. Wheeler in particular is always a pleasure to watch on stage.

As noted above, the technical elements of this production are also top-notch. One constraint for such a large show, turned here into a plus, is the relatively small size of the stage at the Stanley (compared to larger theatres).

Rebecca Talbot
[Rebecca Talbot]

Ted Roberts’ set is both imaginative and functional, consisting of a series of bridges and arches that reminded me of Euro notes. Especially impressive and imaginative is the barricade that drops down at the beginning of Act II.

With the stage as a backdrop, often in shadow, Marsha Sibthorpe’s lighting design and Chris Daniels’ sound design take on added importance. These elements really work in tandem to create a bigger space. Both the barricade scene where Gavroche is killed and the wedding scene are especially impressive.

Les Miz cast

Costume designer Alison Green and her team do an admirable job of producing a variety of period costumes for a large cast of soldiers, students, labourers, and thieves. The costumes really work well both with the lighting and with Valerie Easton’s choreography. Cosette’s blue dress and wedding gown as well as the Thénardier costumes during the wedding scene are stand-outs.   

The opening night audience really seemed to enjoy themselves, showing continuous approval throughout, giving the ensemble a standing ovation at the end of the performance.

During the course of the evening, I had good cause to reflect on the comment of a friend after his first and recent trip to New York, that there was nothing he saw on Broadway that was better than what he can see on Vancouver stages.

This current production of Les Miz by the Arts Club Theatre Company is certainly a first-class effort on all levels. The Arts Club’s definitely ending its season on a high note (no pun intended).

Les Misérables continues at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage through August 16.

Photos by Ross den Otter.

About Our Contributor Michael Pigeon

Michael Pigeon

Michael is a long-time Vancouver resident who’s recently returned home after living abroad for over a decade. Michael enjoys reconnecting with Canadian culture through the Greater Vancouver theatre scene and being retired in a city that offers so many opportunities to live a healthy, engaged lifestyle.

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