REVIEW: Hi-Liners’ “Les Miserables” Full Of Professionalism, Sheer Talent
Review: Les Miserables School Edition by The Hi-Liners. Produced by Gerry Gilbert. Directed by Kathleen Edwards. Musical Direction by R.J. Tancioco. Choreography by David Lorence Schleiffers. With Alex Gallo, Max Seifert, Brianne Wylie, Morgan Roberts, Kyle Stefanie, Grady Stevens, Kevin Beall, Brandon Hell, Michael Krenning, Victoria Knight and Shelby Gottberg. Performed at The Highline Performing Arts Center.
It’s quite an experience to be pleasantly surprised at something, but it’s a whole other thing to give something a standing ovation that you went into without expectations. Indeed, that is what I and the audience for last Saturday night’s performance of The Hi Liners’ “Les Miserables” did, as the cast members bowed and no doubt were filled with pride at their accomplishment; as they should be. I haven’t been so immersed in and attached to the characters of a musical as I was in this production for a long time. From the moment Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert (played by Alex Gallo and Max Seifert respectively) started their duet, I knew I would love every minute afterward. All of this can be attributed to the professionalism and sheer talent that the actors and everyone else involved has and used to the fullest. What makes it even more astounding is the age of the performers; there isn’t an actor above 19 and yet all of them perform at a level you wouldn’t associate with younger actors. To put it simply, every performer in this play shattered the misconception that just because an actor is younger or not in an extravagant production it doesn’t mean that the quality of the acting or singing isn’t well beyond the norm.
The story is a retelling of the musical adaption of Victor Hugo’s classic novel, albeit adapted to be a school edition. It begins with Jean Valjean, a prisoner on the chain gang for 19 years being released on parole by the draconian Inspector Javert, a hardened man of the law who sees no reform for Valjean, constantly referring to him by his prison number, 24601. As a condition of his parole, Valjean is required to show a yellow ticket of leave, condemning him to be an outcast. The only man who shows Valjean any compassion is the Bishop Of Digne, who Valjean later attempts to rob. When he’s recaptured by the police, the bishop pleads for his freedom, and at the behest of the holy man Valjean is free to go. The Bishop even gives him silver candlesticks that are worth very much, causing Valjean to have a revelation. He abandons his thieving ways, changes his name and becomes a prosperous mayor by the name of Monsieur Madeleine. What follows is the saga of characters that have been fully fleshed out thanks to the outstanding acting from all parties. Even when the villains were center stage, I felt a sort of morbid fascination with them; I didn’t see any of the characters as archetypes I saw them as real people, with doubts, fear and insecurities like any human being, good or bad. I would argue that no matter the amount of time certain actors were on stage, everyone was the star in their own way; if one person had been subtracted from the equation, the production would have suffered as a whole. It denotes a certain cohesion that even most adult productions seem to be lacking.
That isn’t to say that there weren’t any defining moments in the play; for example anytime Thernadier and Madame Therandier were center stage, everyone in the audience was laughing hysterically at their great sense of comedic timing. They could also be sinister and diabolical when the occasion arose, which says wonders about Grady Stevens and Kyle Stefanie as performers. I was also incredibly moved by Javert’s final scene, the barricades and the final scene of the play, bordering on tears for the latter.
Of course, all of the singing, the acting and the choreography would have been wasted if the production wasn’t up to snuff. I’m happy to report that it definitely was; the sense of immersion came not only from the tip top performances, but from the way that the accompanying instrumental music and sets complimented those performances. R.J. and Joseph Tancioco know how to capture the mood of a scene through instrumentals, and I would expect no less from anyone who works with Kathleen Edwards, a director of over 100 productions. The costumes also lend themselves to much praise, being both accurate and appealing to the eye and really, what else could you ask for?
Overall, this musical gets my highest recommendation; from the breathtaking music to the superb acting and singing, this is one production I’m glad I didn’t miss. Everyone of these actors and everyone else involved has a future in the performing arts; I just hope they all continue to dazzle us all.
Here’s a video blurb from KOMO-TV:
Here’s an audio profile of cast member Kyle Stefanie by KIRO Radio:
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[EDITOR’S NOTE: Philip Benais is our newest Intern from Highline School District’s Big Picture High School. He will be doing reviews, stories and much more over the next several weeks. Look for more of his work soon!]