IBJNews

LOU'S VIEWS: Beef & Boards' 'Les Miz' is ready for its close up

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Lou Harry

Let’s start with a flashback.

The first time I saw “Les Miserables” was circa 1988. The blockbuster had already been running for a year and the populace was praising it as the savior of Broadway. The critics, on the other hand, had mixed feelings, generally up on the spectacle and down on the music.

For me, from the cheapest of seats at the Broadway Theatre (back then a prime orchestra seat would have set me back an unaffordable $47.50), the show offered a thrilling, emotionally powerful first 40 minutes or so.

But once we said farewell to Fantine and the dream she dreamed, once our hero declared to the court that he was Jean Valjean, and once we thudded into the Thenardiers, “Les Miserables” never reached the same heights.

Seeing it another four or five times in touring productions—from better seats—and catching it in concert versions on PBS raised my view of the musical. And experiencing it from a vantage point about 12 feet from the stage—as I did at Beef & Boards (where it’s being given its professional Indianapolis regional theater premiere through Nov. 25)—I now appreciate it even more.

ae-i-dreamed-a-dream-1col.jpg Sarah Hund, as Fantine. (Photo courtesy of Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre)

I, too, made plenty of jokes after hearing that our dinner theater would be producing the epic centered around the starving masses. I teased that it might use its serving stations as the barricades and speculated as to the trouble I might get in if I stole some bread from the buffet.

But all joking aside, Beef & Boards is offering a sincere, satisfying, terrifically sung, intimate-yet-still-epic production of the musical. It’s got a strong Valjean in Greg Goodbrod, who has played the part elsewhere. He gives the early scenes a feral quality that feeds his performance throughout. He knows—and subtly shows—that the prisoner still exists inside the model citizen Valjean later becomes. And that everything he has could be taken from him at any moment.

For “Les Miserables” to work best, it needs a compelling Javert to match its Valjean. And B&B has one with Joe Tokarz (whose credits include being among the singers of “One Day More” at last year’s Oscars).

ae-jean-valjean-15col.jpg Greg Goodbrod as Jean Valjean. (Photo courtesy of Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre)

The default for actors is to play Javert as single-minded as The Terminator. But Tokarz’s nearly showstopping rendition of “Stars” is less about an automaton declaring his obsession and more about a man locked into a world view while trying to wipe away some nagging doubts that his fanaticism might not represent the true path.

Kudos, too, to Dominic Sheahan-Stahl, who is perfectly fine as the love-smitten Marius. But he brings a deeply moving truth to the character when confronted with the fatal reality of his pals’ protest. And to Douglas E. Stark and Annie Edgerton who, by minimizing the grotesque, keep the Thenardiers from being the annoyances I’ve always previously found them to be.

ae-2nd-cosette-1col.jpgAnja Reese as Young Cosette (Photo courtesy of Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre)

Sure, a six-piece orchestra isn’t going to offer the symphonic sound you might be used to in this score—and occasionally the obvious synthesized sound jarred. But the music and vocals were appropriately scaled to the theater. As was the spectacle. Only in one key moment did director/choreographer Ron Morgan and his designers overstep—in Javert’s second-act leap, where awkward wires distracted from the drama with an overambitious effect that drained the drama instead of enhancing it.

Otherwise, no joke, Beef & Boards’ “Les Miserables” is a treat. I suspect I’ll be hungry to see it again long before this long run ends.•

__________

This column appears weekly. Send information on upcoming arts and entertainment events to lharry@ibj.com.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. I am a Lyft driver who is a licensed CDL professional driver. ALL Lyft drivers take pride in providing quality service to the Indianapolis and surrounding areas, and we take the safety of our passengers and the public seriously.(passengers are required to put seat belts on when they get in our cars) We do go through background checks, driving records are checked as are the personal cars we drive, (these are OUR private cars we use) Unlike taxi cabs and their drivers Lyft (and yes Uber) provide passengers with a clean car inside and out, a friendly and courteous driver, and who is dressed appropriately and is groomed appropriately. I go so far as to offer mints, candy and/or small bottle of water to the my customers. It's a mutual respect between driver and passenger. With Best Regards

  2. to be the big fish in the little pond of IRL midwest racin' when yer up against Racin' Gardner

  3. In the first sentance "As a resident of one of these new Carmel Apartments the issue the local governments need to discuss are build quality & price." need a way to edit

  4. As a resident of one of these new Carmel Apartments the issue the local governments need to discuss is build quality & price. First none of these places is worth $1100 for a one bedroom. Downtown Carmel or Keystone at the Crossing in Indy. It doesn't matter. All require you to get in your car to get just about anywhere you need to go. I'm in one of the Carmel apartments now where after just 2.5 short years one of the kitchen cabinet doors is crooked and lawn and property maintenance seems to be lacking my old Indianapolis apartment which cost $300 less. This is one of the new star apartments. As they keep building throughout the area "deals" will start popping up creating shoppers. If your property is falling apart after year 3 what will it look like after year 5 or 10??? Why would one stay here if they could move to a new Broad Ripple in 2 to 3 years or another part of the Far Northside?? The complexes aren't going to let the "poor" move in without local permission so that's not that problem, but it the occupancy rate drops suddenly because the "Young" people moved back to Indy then look out.

  5. Why are you so concerned about Ace hardware? I don't understand why anyone goes there! Every time ive gone in the past, they don't have what I need and I end up going to the big box stores. I understand the service aspect and that they try to be helpful but if they are going to survive I think they might need to carry more specialty parts.

ADVERTISEMENT