It is hard to describe WATERFORDrama’s Thursday night performance of "Les Miserables." From the actors to the voices to the stage built just for that show to the lights to the music to the every detail. It might have been a bunch of teenagers – and even three elementary students – in some high school auditorium, but Thursday night’s performance was a professional show, and a top rate one at that.
A few things jumped out. First, any great anything has to have a great leader. And Shane Valle of WATERFORDrama has proved himself, again, as that great leader.
The most important trait for any leader is having incredibly high expectations and to be able to push people beyond what they think they are capable of. Just by picking "Les Miserables", one of the most heralded and intense musicals ever made, Valle showed he had high expectations. Really high expectations. And some man-sized cojones.
But then came the hard part: executing. Finding the talent in a high school of just under 1,000 kids, who didn’t just have to act but sing. And then all the people for the lighting and the set-building and the costume-making and all the everything else. And then getting them totally committed to making it happen.
I believe that Valle had a vision of how it would turn out – a vision filled of extreme high expectations – and Thursday was pretty close. And I bet if you asked, he would be able to point out all the things he would have like to done that much better.
But that truth is, there wasn’t much. It rocked.
Some standout performances. First off, everybody. Not a single person on that stage was anything less then spectacular. And the music by the pit orchestra was outstanding.
But a special shout out to Kim Smith playing Eponine. The costume was perfect, the acting was fantastic and the voice beautiful.
Another to the Dominic Bruno, a Great Neck Elementary School student who nearly stole the show as Gavroche. Just adorable, and really a lot of talent. Same for Madison Gates and Nina Pezzello.
Obviously, Jean Valjean played by Joshua Marcks was fantastic, as he played the part wonderfully. Same for Lexi Persi as Fantine, who sang “I Dreamed A Dream” – an impossibly difficult song – so well I nearly cried. And who could forget Mike Stankov and Ali Wolfey playing Monsieur Thenardier and Madame Thenardier, who both did one of the hardest things to do as a performer, make people laugh.
But I really have to take it off for Joshua Kelly as Javert, who played the part as well as it could have been played. The story was far too complex and realistic to have a true villain, and Kelly understood that and conveyed that. His voice was fantastic, he spoke with authority; he nailed the part.
Honestly though, it isn't fair to pick a single person. Because it was like a game of Jenga, with each part integral to the other. Everything had to work in concert, and everything did.
On a side note, I’m not a theater guy. I’m a sports guy. And when I heard the show was almost three hours long, I didn’t really want to go. But I was talked into it and I was blown away. It was amazing, and I am forever grateful for the person who made me go.
So since I’m a sports guy, and kind of a television guy, I’m going to use a television sports analogy to sum it all up. I don’t know what Kelly or Marcks or Persi or Bruno or assistant stage manager Chrysanthy Panagos or Nick Darling on the light crew or anybody else in that play will do with the rest of their lives, and I hope they don’t wind up marrying a red head they can hardly tolerate and kids that don’t listen to them.
But Thursday night was the same to all the students involved with that performance as it was for Al Bundy scoring four touchdowns against Andrew Johnson High School to give Polk High the championship in 1966. And no matter where their lives lead or whatever happens, every student can always be proud of those three days in May of 2012, where they did something great.
Somewhere, Samantha and Stirling are very proud, together.