The singing soars and delights, the orchestra packs a wallop and the sets of 19th century Paris stay fresh and ingeniously varied throughout Santa Rosa Junior College’s rousing production of “Les Misérables.”

Thursday’s packed house and prolonged standing ovation attest that this show is one for the ages for the college’s Theatre Arts department. The cast, crew and orchestra have shown they can pull off with style one of the more demanding musical blockbusters of our era.

Even in their ninth performance the voices stayed powerful and sweet Thursday. The show closes this weekend with its final four performances. Expect more full houses.

“Les Misérables” is so densely packed and its themes so weighty – injustice, forgiveness, sacrifice – that any production risks overwhelming the story in the midst of telling it. At its best it is more than a series of heart-stopping songs (“I Dreamed a Dream,” “One Day More,” “On My Own”).  It is the tale of a man released from prison after 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread, a man who society treats as subhuman and who breaks his parole but who also experiences an amazing gift of grace and the chance for a new start. The transformation of Jean Valjean will change several lives, including Cosette, the little girl he rescues after her mother dies; Marius, the young man who falls in love with Cosette; and Javert, the cold police inspector who one day will find himself at the mercy of the man he has hunted across the years.

What this cast brings to the production is an energy and youthful interplay that catches the spirit of young love, exuberance and over exuberance (Some might see a pattern). Their singing is uniformly solid. Stellar performances come from Carmen Mitchell as Fantine, Brittany Law as Eponine, Amanda Pedersen as Cosette and Anthony Guzman as Inspector Javert.

Christopher Hohmann rises to the role of Jean Valjean, a part so incredibly demanding for the vocal range required. Those who read Columnist Chris Smith’s article know this is a new actor seeking his own change of life. Indeed, the audience seemed to be rooting for him Thursday. When his pistol wouldn’t fire as planned at a key spot in the story, he looked out on us, smiled and shrugged. The audience chuckled.

Other noteworthy performances come Jordan Levine as Marius, Trevor Sakai-Jolivette as Thenardier, Lani Basich as Madame Thenardier, Zachary Hasbany as Enjolas and James Russell as the bishop. Rounding out this cast of three dozen is a hard-working and talented ensemble that carried along the tale in multiple roles and strong brief solos.

Give applause to director Laura Downing-Lee, music director Janis Wilson and scenic designer Peter Crompton. The orchestra deftly carried along the story with rousing crescendos and delicate interludes. And Crompton’s eye-catching sets gave us the slums of Saint Michele, the barricades of the doomed rebellion and the night lights of Paris.

The final performances will be at 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For tickets, call 527-4343 or go online to the theatre arts department.

— Robert Digitale



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