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February 06, 1995 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-02-06

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8- The Michigan Daily - Monday, February 6, 1995

Years later, 'Les Miz' remains a crowd-pleaser

By Melissa Rose Bernardo
Daily Theater Editor
Riding on the success of the 2-1/2
month run of "Miss Saigon" at the
Masonic Temple, "Les Mis6rables"
arrives at the Fisher Theatre (through
Feb. 18). And not a moment too soon,
it appears. Detroit audiences took to
Mis rables
Fisher Theatre
February 1, 1995
Tickets: $27.50-$50
When: Performances are Tuesdays
through Sundays, every evening plus some
matinees. Call (810) 645-6666 for exact
dates and times.
"Saigon" even more ravenously than
expected; it was extended twice. So a
follow-up with Alain Boublil and
Claude-Michel Schonberg's first-
born Broadway baby seems only right.
Not that "Les Miz" is a gamble; this
is the musical sensation's fourth visit to
the Fisher, the first repeat engagement

for the Third National Company. It's
confirmed: Detroiters just can't get
enough of "Les Miz." It is undoubtedly
the Fisher's highest-grossing show, sell-
ing out almost every performance. Even
if the production is slightly flawed , as
this one is, theatergoers are coming in
droves for the mega-musical, and leav-
ing with more than their money's worth.
Based on Victor Hugo's 1862
novel, the story centers on Jean
Valjean, a convict who has spent 19
years in prison for stealing a loaf of
bread. Propelled by the kindness of an
elderly bishop, Valjean breaks pa-
role, he decides to live a respectable
and charitable life. The rest of the
show deals with the people who touch
his life, including a sickly but devoted
mother named Fantine, her waif of an
orphan daughter Cosette, an activist/
student named Marius, and an obses-
sive policeman named Javert.
Nearly eight years after its debut on
Broadway, "Les Miz" is still a breath-
taking show. Entirely sung, Boublil and
Schbnberg's score is enveloping and
Herbert Kretzmer's lyrics have a sur-
prising amount of depth. Lyrically, this
show is far superior to "Saigon," the
lyrics striking in their wit, resonance
and accessibility. Trevor Nunn's direc-

tion is fluid (the revolving stage makes
itall the more impressive), John Napier's
set design is a landmark, and David
Hersey's lighting is perfection.
"Les Miz" is a huge show in every
aspect, especially in length: a cool 3
hours and 10 minutes. (The length may
seem excessive, but consider this: the
authors whittled down Hugo's novel
from over 1200 pages to this one
evening.) Though the revolving stage
does its part, it is up to the performers to
power the show. The chorus bears most
of those duties, as this is probably the
most chorus-dependent show in musi-
cal theater history. So if the leads are not
consistently outstanding, as is the case
here, it is forgivable, and still an unfor-
gettable musical theater experience.
These are not the best lead perform-
ers Detroit has seen. William Solo, as
Valjean, is more than sufficient; he is
sympathetic and believable, and sings
quite well. But he makes an unforgiv-
able gaffe by choosing not to hit the
higher-than-high final note in "Who am
I?," in doing so robbing the song of the
climax, to which it has built until that
point. Solo did reenter the role that very
morning, so perhaps he will grow stron-
ger over the duration of the run.
Aside from a little acting-
schmacting, Anne Torsiglieri is even
more moving than the usual Fantine.
Gary Mauer has only grown stronger
- vocally and dramatically - since
his last Detroit visit in the role of
Enjolras, the leader of the student

revolutionaries. J.P. Dougherty is still
going strong as Thenardier, the con-
niving innkeeper, and Kelly Ebsary is
a fine match as his wife; together the
two provide the entirety of the show's
much-needed comic relief.
Jodie Langel wimps out with
Cosette, probably because she lacks a
high-powered upper range - unfor-
givable because Cosette is to upper-
range what Ethel Merman was to belt-
ing. And I'm still not sure what Tom
Donoghue was doing with Marius. His
supposed passionate love-at-first-sight
for Cosette seemed about the equiva-
lent of excitement over a new sweater;
his solo, "Empty Chairs at Empty
Tables," was sung with angst reminis-
cent of "Memory." Perhaps he has a
little too much of a boyish quality for
the role. However, youth reigns su-
preme in Jessica-Snow Wilson and her
portrayal of Eponine, in which she ex-
hibits remarkable vocal power and dra-
matic fortitude.
Turning in another redeeming per-
formance is Richard Kinsey as the self-
righteous, tortured Javert. Every aspect
of his performance is carefully moni-
tored, with regulated amounts of inten-
sity released with impeccable timing.
There were a few disagreements be-
tween the orchestra and the chorus (and
an overactive smoke machine), butchalk
that up to opening night jitters. The
show is still an incredible experience-
even in my ninth viewing -and that's
where all the points go.
Continued from page 5
Oscar Madison and Jimmy Stewart:
grouchy, yet reflective, Playful, yet
Director Nada Rakic strives for sim-
plicity and style in thepresentation in order
to emphasize the feeling and emotion that
the actors were conveying. The play was
also punctuated by several surreal scenes
of Tom's hospital room. We never actu-
ally see Tom, but we see his hospital bed,
and we hear the deafening drumming of
his beating heart, eerily reminiscent of
Poe's "The Tell Tale Heart."
"A Better Way to Die" is atechnically
difficult play to present, but it was ex-
tremely well-executed, despite a high po-
tential forerror-there are over 100 stage
cues forthelightingalone. Rakic'sAmeri-
can debut as a director is flawless.

N _


Japanamation never gets off the groun
Wings' neve
By Sarah Stewart
Daily Arts Writer
Animation at its best is an escape
from reality, a feat of visual artistry that
becomes a world of its own. In fact, it's
not unusual for animated films -
The Wings of
Directed by Hiroyuki
Yamaga with Robert
Matthews and Melody Lee
at the Michigan Theater
Disney's "The Lion King," forexample
- to sacrifice an intriguing plot for an
infinitely more pleasing visual spec-
tacular. Yet, as viewers of the Japanese
animated film "The Wings of
Honneamise" (1987) will find out, even
superb animation cannot conceal the
tedium brought on by an unusually dull
storyline and a poorly written script.
Shiro Lhadatt (Robert Matthews)
is a slacker until he meets the staunchly
religious, pixie-like Riquinni
Nonderaiko (Melody Lee). Inspired
by henergetic idealism, he instantly
changes from a merely complacent
cadet at the disrespected Royal Space
Force to a fearless astronaut, willing
to risk his life for the sake of the +
unknown. In the ambiguous historic /
futuristic world director Hiroyuki
Yamaga has created, no one has ven-
tured beyond earth's realm, so Shiro +

id in this movie. But it looks good.
r take flight
will be the first man in space and a
hero to both the Royal Space Force
and the nation.
In the beginning, both the potential
for a compelling love affair between
Shiro and Riquinni and the promise of
forging new frontiers Mnakes "Wings"
interesting enough. But soon, all points
of interest are either ignored or drawn
out painfully slowly. After patiently
enduring Shiro's overly dramatic so-
liloquies and stilted narration through-
out the film, it's a tragic letdown when
the supposed climax, the launching
scene, makes a typical space shuttle lift-
off seem exciting.
Yamaga can be commended for
condemning space exploration as a form
of military armament, but his statement
is too obvious to take seriously. Riquinni
is quickly understood to embody paci-
fism, teaching Shiro that space is the
only place left without boundaries.
Unfortunately, this same metaphor,
which doesn't come off as being terri-
bly original the first time around, is
used over and over again to beat the
point into the ground.
"Wings" is not for casual anima-
tion-goers, unwilling or unable to direct
all their attention to the qualities of the
animation. But for those who can ap-
preciate the intricate detailing of the
space technology, modeled after actual
aerospace design, and for those who
can be amused for two hours by the rich
colors, sweeping landscapes and realis-
tic motion sequences that "Wings"' $8
million budget provides, by all means,
enjoy. Otherwise, forget it.




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