By: Dale King Contributing Writer
A masterful production of Les Misèrables, the captivating story of shattered hopes and unrequited love; passion, sacrifice and redemption set against the backdrop of embattled 19th century France, has already mesmerized one Palm Beach County audience this year.
The emotional concert-style show, presented last month at the Duncan Theater at the Palm Beach State College campus in Lake Worth, starred famed countertenor Terry Barber in the lead role of thief-turned-redeemer Jean Valjean. A vocalist renowned for his powerhouse voice and vast range, hand-picked a half-dozen fellow performers and five musicians to present the drama based on Victor Hugo’s book.
A repeat performance of Barber’s Les Misèrables is scheduled Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. at the Crest Theater in Old School Square, 51 North Swinton Ave., Delray Beach. (561-243-7922.)
A nearly full house at PBSC Lake Worth praised the production with loud applause and a lengthy standing ovation. Barber, as Valjean, was joined by Shelley Keelor as Fantine and Mme. Thenardier and Jonathan Cummings as Inspector Javert and Thenardier.
Four student performers – all with excellent voices – rounded out the troupe. “The “student” roles are double cast,” said Barber, “as I am always looking for the opportunity to mentor up-and-coming talent.”
In the Lake Worth show, young Cosette was touchingly portrayed by Kamryn Zucker. The older Cosette was exquisitely sung by Emily Kirschner. Trevor Wayne poignantly performed the role of Marius and Eponine was powerfully sung by Eliza Levy. Summer McCarty and Sydney Carbo will replace Levy and Winkler in the show at the Crest.
The acclaimed story of the historic period in French history from 1815 to battles at the barricades of Paris in 1832 includes such classic songs as “I Dreamed a Dream,” “On My Own,” “Stars,” “Bring Him Home,” “Do You Hear the People Sing?,” “One Day More,” “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” “Master of the House” and many more.
An energetic, fast-paced show that’s entirely sung, except for occasional narration, it opens with Valjean’s release from prison after serving 19 years for stealing bread to feed his sister’s family. Inspector Javert (Cummings), seeking revenge against Valjean for dissing him in front of his squad, follows him, hoping to put him back in jail.
In the song, “Stars,” Javert sings, pointedly: “There, out in the darkness, a fugitive [is] running.”
Nearly all the cast’s songs exude passion, particularly Barber’s, many of them close to tearful as his voice approaches the higher ranges. Countertenors can sing to a level an octave above tenor in full voice, without slipping into falsetto.
His “Soliloquy” is a rapid recitation of his life’s woes. “What have I done?” he exclaims. “They chained me and left me for dead/For stealing a mouthful of bread.”
Barber’s voice soars to extremes when he sings, “Bring him Home,” one of the show’s most passionate anthems, set on the tattered barricades. “Let him rest/Heaven blessed,” the singer implores.
Keelor also brings a keen, clarity to her musical performances, in particular, the popular “I Dreamed a Dream” which she sings with authority.
While most tunes are dramatic, the sprightly “Master of the House” offers some comic relief, with Cummings and Keelor changing roles and playing a couple of thieving domestics.
Actress/singer Keelor has been a soloist with various orchestras and cabaret settings, and appeared in Beehive at the Wick Theatre in Boca Raton and Sweeney Todd at Palm Beach Dramaworks in West Palm Beach. Last year, she appeared with Barber in his Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber show at the Crest.
Cummings has been a prominent member of the live music community on the Treasure Coast since the late 1900s.
Musicians in the Lake Worth presentation included music director and pianist Tyler Williams, Jackie Robbins on cello, Sy Pryweler on drums, Jason Pyle on trombone and Rick Kissinger on winds. Show director was Don Butler. And the chamber ensemble was created by Amy Greenhalgh under Barber’s direction.
The show at PBSC Lake Worth was a benefit for Artist for a Cause Inc., a non-profit Barber founded in 2009 which helps visual and performing artists to use their talent for community improvement. He is also head of faculty for the Treasure Coast College of Fine Arts.