Tuesday, September 13, 2016

reviews - LES MISÉRABLES: School Edition - Youth Works at Theater Works

Addison Bowman and Julian Mendoza
photo: Wade Moran / Moran Imaging
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through September 25th.

"...Kelli James, an (original cast)... member of the American premiere production of Les Misérables...has taken her first-hand experience working with the original creative team...along with her deep devotion to this show, to direct a group of gifted teenagers in Theater Works’ Youth Works production of Les Misérables: School Edition. It is an impressive production with a cast comprised of talented teens, sumptuous creative elements, and James’ surefooted direction that ensures every meaningful moment of Victor Hugo’s epic tale of struggle and redemption resonates with a deep passion....James has cast some of the most talented young actors and singers in the Valley for this production. Julian Mendoza makes an exceptional Valjean....His vocal abilities are stunning and his performance of “Bring Him Home” is one you won’t soon forget. It is vivid, stirring and profound with crystal clear notes that soar to the ceiling of the Peoria Arts Center and hang in the air to be savored. Trey DeGroodt does well as Javert...His delivery of the lyrics seems internal, and even somewhat unbalanced, which works well to show the uncertainty that Javert experiences and tries to hide under his calculating exterior. Addison Bowman is giving one of the best portrayals I’ve seen of Fantine, ...infuses the part with a deep sense of regret ...an extremely memorable and heart wrenching performance, full of an emotional heft and well thought out gestures, facial expressions and body movement...As Marius,...Vincent Pugliese instills the part with a keen sense of hope and compassion ...As Eponine...Sarah Pansing delivers a soaring version of “On My Own” as well as a feisty portrayal of the girl in love with someone who doesn't love her back. Katie Rodin is Cosette,...Her lovely voice hits some stirring operatic notes that bring a rich clarity to her songs....James' clear and concise direction ensures that each actor makes their roles distinct and that a deep emotional sense prevails throughout...Even though this is the school edition the mature elements of the musical are intact. So there are several PG-13 rated gestures...My only one quibble, and it is a small one considering how talented this cast is, would be that some of the cast makes some of these gestures a bit too broad or too over the top which makes those moments seem amateurish compared to the rest of this beautiful production... the combination of Brett Aiken's lush set design, and Jeff A. Davis' exceptional lighting, full of shadows and lovely hues (create) a non-stop visual treat throughout. Costume designers Tamara Treat and Barb Ross provide a visual feast for the eyes. Matthew Sanders' sound design delivers a crisp, clean and clear sound. James May’s musical direction is exquisite and considering this production is using prerecorded tracks (and they are sensational) makes it that much more exceptional in that the cast never falters in keeping up with the recording. ...Kelli James and her superb cast and creative team do justice to the beauty of this beautiful tale of redemption and love and prove that the young talent in the Phoenix area are more than up to the challenge to bring this musical vibrantly to life. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"Oh, my God! Truly, these were the first words out of my mouth as the prologue to LES MISERABLES began and then the silken voice of Julian Mendoza (Jean Valjean) sang "At the End of the Day." From that moment to the finale, I was enthralled by the captivating performances of an extraordinary cast and overwhelmed by the emotional impact of an exceptionally well-staged production....Yes, indeed, this was the School Edition of the show, but there is, believe me, nothing gratuitous about this review just because the performers are kids. Nothing short of superlatives will suffice to describe this staging of LES MIS by Theater Works YouthWorks. The quality of the performances ~ indeed, of the overall collaboration, is a testament to the masterful direction of Kelli James and her unique ability to cultivate and develop this very special gathering of talent into a finely tuned ensemble....Julian Mendoza, like his fellow actors, have dug deep within themselves to mine and polish performances replete with emotion and vocal prowess. ...Hours after the show, I remain moved by their performances and this very special production."  -Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

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