rchan: (LMTO -- her life was cold and dark)
[personal profile] rchan
I realize I haven't been around much. At this point, I think it's fair to say that this journal is reserved for Yuletide stuff and for things that I don't want to post in an easily searchable place. This post falls under the latter category, because I know that some stage actors stalk their tumblr tags and I don't want to upset anyone with what boils down to my own opinions. But since people have been asking and this is easier than answering everyone individually...

Here we go.

So, I've been to see Les Mis Broadway twice this week, once to see John Rapson as Javert and once to see Adam Monley. These were also my first viewings since many of the principle cast members were replaced. On Thursday my gut reaction was that I hated all of them with the sole exceptions of Gavin Lee (because, let's face it, I just love Gavin Lee and was predisposed to liking him in anything ^_^) and Chris McCarrell (who I already knew I loved). But that was cast change grief talking, so I resisted the urge to say or post anything on Thursday.

Then I went back last night and I think I have a slightly more objective viewpoint now... so, here it is (in order of appearance):

1) Erika Henningsen as Fantine

I really, really, REALLY wanted to like her. Her 15 second interview was adorable and she seems so very sweet and I just kind of instantly wanted to cuddle her. So, I was really rooting for her. But I'm fighting against an awful lot of mental static on her because I adore Caissie Levy and I'm having some MASSIVE Hair feels these days and vocally those are some BIG damned shoes to fill.

...but this isn't about Caissie. This is about Erika. And apart from the fact that she isn't Caissie, and that's not her fault, I have two very specific problems with what she's doing as Fantine. First of all, her accent and vowels are ALL the hell over the place. And since that was true on both nights I saw her, I think that's just a problem she has. I couldn't figure out if she was trying to use a French accent, an English accent, or no accent. And it was confusing and resulted in some really odd sounding vowels. And that just kind of threw me right out of what she was singing. When she's speaking (like... all five spoken words she has?), she's clearly going for French, but it's not clear when she's singing and those odd vowels left her very pitchy in a way that reminded me forcefully of Genevieve Leclerc... and you may remember how I felt about her. -.-;;; And it's a shame, because underneath all that, she has a lovely voice.

ANYWAY, secondly, my issue is... she's fresh out of school and it shows. She's a scenery chewer. Every one of her acting choices is WAY over the top. Like... if she could just tone it down a notch, her choices would be fine -- different from Caissie's in many places, but fine. In a way, her acting choices are more true to Fantine's brick age than many Fantine's I've seen. She's a young girl who's been beaten down and is scared, but is doing the best she can. And I have a feeling I'd really like that interpretation if she could reign it in a little and just not shove it in my face. O_o;;;

Some of the choreography and staging was awkward too, but I figure that's a rehearsal/practice issue and should get better.

2) The Kids

On Thursday, Athan Sporek was on as Gavroche, Fabi Aguirre was on as Little Cosette, and Lilyanna Cornell was on as Young Eponine.

Athan... is really cute? I honestly don't remember much about his Gavroche. He didn't leave much of an impression, but that might have been more due to my fighting to take it all in rather than any true lack on his part. Fabi is really nasal. REALLY nasal. OMG. So nasal it almost hurt to listen to her. O_o;;; And she's another scenery chewer -- which, ironically, really, really works when she's playing Young Eponine, because it made her an actual presence and character on the stage rather than a prop like Young Eponines usually are -- but did NOT work for Cosette. O_o;;; And I feel awful saying that about a little kid, but... yeah. -.-;;; SORRY.

On Saturday, Sam Chuck was on as Gavroche, Lilyanna Cornell was on as Little Cosette, and Fabi Aguirre was on as Young Eponine.

Sam was a bit more out there than Athan. He got VERY into Valjean's face as Petit Gervais, but apart from that, there honestly wasn't much difference between them. Neither of the boys has anywhere near the stage presence that Joshua or Gaten had, but I suspect they'll grow into it. Lilyanna was vocally a bit better than Fabi (nowhere NEAR as nasal), but has less stage presence than Fabi, too. Again, kind of hoping that's just nerves and she'll grow into the part.

3) Gavin Lee as Thenardier

OK, so right off the bat, I love Gavin. I've seen him as Bert in Mary Poppins before and when his casting was announced, I was SUPER excited. So... I'm admittedly a bit biased here. That being said, I think he's doing a fantastic job as Thenardier. He's exactly the right blend of weasely and evil and comedic. I do miss Cliff's Cliff-isms and his easy fluidity of movement and his sheer physicality, but I think that Gavin has really made the role his in ways that are very subtle and very smart choices. He's different enough that I don't feel like he's competing with my memory of Cliff and the new bits and mannerisms have made those scenes fresh again for me in ways that I appreciate.

Now, from what I understand, they allowed Gavin and Rachel to kind of find their own little bits in Master of the House and such scenes, so the blocking is a little different. Most of the new bits are fine, but I confess, I was so busy watching Gavin that I wasn't entirely paying attention. One thing I'm sad about, though, was that Adam Monley's bits in MotH have changed and honestly, that was one of my favorite ensemble tracks in the whole show. (I mean... shoot. I've been writing fic for his MotH character in my head since like... my second viewing of the Broadway show. O_o;;;;) So, I'm sad that a lot of that is gone.

...but on the other hand, I'm not sad. Because as much as I love his Combeferre (and I REALLY do), that's one less reason for me to be sad if he were to say... get promoted out of his ensemble track? ^_~

(Not that Will's announced a leaving date. And he's pretty good about that. But if Will WERE to leave... and they WERE to consider promoting Adam... well, let's just say that I have one less reason to be conflicted about that. And then they could give Andrew back his Javert cover and I could have both of my favorite Javerts in one show and THAT WOULD MAKE ME HAPPY, OK? ^_________^ *coughs* But like I said, this is all pure fanciful/wishful thinking on my part and I really would miss his and Nathaniel's Courferre interactions if he got promoted, but... I'm babbling. I'll stop. -.-;;;)

MOVING ON.

The punch line is that I really enjoy Gavin Lee as Thenardier. ^_^ Vocally, he's stronger than Cliff, and in terms of comedic menace, he's a little less menacing, but overall pretty effective. So, I've no complaints and I look forward to seeing him grow in the role. ^_^

4) Rachel Izen as Mme. Thenardier

Rachel is another person who has some new bits, because, again, she was allowed to find her own. She has a running gag with a soup ladle that's pretty priceless. She's not as over the top as Keala was and does a lot less screaming. (As much as I love Keala, every time she did that, I'd just wince because OW, how can you maintain that kind of shrieking and not ruin your voice? O_o;;;) Anyway, Rachel plays a quieter, more subdued, Mme. Thenardier. You also get the impression that she's a bit smarter and more cunning. Overall, again, I like her acting choices. She's also taken her character down a notch to be more subtle and less over the top, and I think that's really effective, both for her as an actress and for the show. So, I'm pretty happy with her, too.

5) Chris McCarrell as Marius

OK, I've said it before and I'll doubtless say it again: I LOVE CHRIS' MARIUS. SO MUCH. Seriously... he's the closest to Perrius that LM Bway has gotten. And now that he's had a chance to really make the part his own? He's SERIOUSLY matured into it and it's AMAZING. (It should be noted... I had issues with Andy's Marius. So I was REALLY looking forward to Chris' promotion from the second I heard it might happen. HE DOES NOT DISAPPOINT. And I have very strong feels about the things I think he's doing better, so... yeah.)

First of all, all that borderline anachronistic bullshit that Andy used to pull? GONE. And the scenery chewing? GONE. And the in-character temper tantrums? GONE. Thank FUCK. Chris' Marius is less over-the-top and he plays several key scenes quite differently, in ways that are subtle, but really enhance the character.

For example, I'm a bit obsessed with how he plays the aftermath of Eponine's death scene. The anger at Enjolras for trying to turn her death into a lesson/cause is still clear and present, but he plays his grief much more quietly. His Marius doesn't throw himself all over the stage wailing in grief. First of all, when they carry Eponine off and he picks up her hat, HE HOLDS IT OUT TO HER LIKE HE THINKS SHE'LL NEED IT. And then he realizes that she won't need it, not ever again, and his hand drops. Then he slowly walks over to the bench and lets himself drop onto it, all the while staring at the hat like he can't believe he tried to do that and doesn't know what to do next. And that's SO perfect, because that's what you do in a traumatic situation -- you focus on really inane shit like, "Wait, Eponine, you forgot your hat!" Even though you know that she's dead and doesn't give a fuck about her hat anymore. And from that point on, he just seems so bewildered, like he doesn't really understand what just happened. His grief it partly for Eponine, definitely, but it's also born out of his own grief for himself -- because he's finally started to understand that this ISN'T a game and that they could all die. And the occasional ferociousness that comes after that come from that realization and his need to prevent any more of his friends from dying. It's Marius finally growing up a little. He's reckless not because he's so grief-stricken over Eponine that he wants to die, but because he's seen Eponine die and he'd rather die himself than see any more of his friends die, as well. And that is SUCH a powerful difference and I LOVE IT.

Also, his ECAET? NO FUCKING WORDS. He's depressed and leaden and furious and grief-stricken all in turns and it's BRILLIANT and I love him. *_*

And another minor thing -- His "Cosette, Cosette!" line in their duet after ECAET? Andy also used to play that as this lightning fast switch from grief to numbness to AGONY (at the "Cosette, Cosette" line) to JOYOUS RAPTURE and I used to get freaking whiplash watching it. O_o;;; Chris plays that line as pure joy. Because Cosette's name, Cosette's EXISTENCE is what gives him back that joy. So he comes back from ECAET numb and grieving and bewildered, begins to listen to Cosette and starts to center back into reality and, more importantly, on the future, and when he reaches the "Cosette, Cosette" line, this smile suffuses his face and it's like he's finally coming out from behind all that to take up his life again, and instead of burying his face in Cosette's skirt to cry at that line, HE'S the one to stand and pull Cosette with him. And given what Cosette is singing in that moment, that line reading and staging makes SO MUCH MORE SENSE. Because Cosette IS his joy and invoking her name is what makes him realize that. And it's beautiful and sweet and a little awkward and SO perfectly Marius. ^_^

I also like that he plays the initial reaction to Valjean's reveal as confused rather than immediately condemning. I could say more about that, but I think I've run on about Chris for long enough. O_o;;;

6) Brennyn Lark as Eponine

Brennyn... oi, Brennyn. -.-;;; She's our third scenery chewer. She's another one who's fresh out of school and it shows. She has a lovely voice and it's powerful... and that's the problem. With very few exceptions, she has two volume settings: loud and LOUDER. Like... in the trio between her and Chris and Samantha, she almost DROWNS THEM OUT and that's pretty fucking impressive because she has the alto line. O_o;;; And just... I don't even know how to describe what my problem is. *sigh*

OK, part of it is this: she's sexily sassy in a way that feels out of character and anachronistic. And she makes these lightning fast flops between that sexy sass and an almost innocent, vapid little girl effect when Marius is paying attention to her. Mind you... that's actually not too far off canon, but the speed and intensity with which she flip-flops combined with the anachronistic characterization choices reminds me a LOT of what I disliked about Andy's Marius. :-P

The other thing is this: one of my favorite movies is "Center Stage". And there's this scene where the director says to Maureen: "You make it look like work. I need to see the movement, not the effort behind it." And every time Brennyn came on stage, that quote ran through my head. Because she's not being Eponine... she's performing Eponine. When I saw her on Thursday, she didn't wait for her coat to fall open to reveal the injury or for Crhis to do it. He wasn't moving fast enough, so SHE opened her coat -- and it wasn't so Eponine could look down at see the damage, it was so the audience could. And just... a lot of what she does feels very contrived and a bit American Idol and it's really a shame because she DOES have a lovely voice. I would gladly pay to hear her sing a solo concert.

Just... her acting. It needs some reigning in. O_o;;; Again, hoping that's a maturity thing that she'll grow out of? O_o;;;

And last but not least, the one you've all been waiting for...

7) Wallace Smith as Enjolras

OK. The firs thing that needs to be said is that Wallace is NOT Kyle. He doesn't have anywhere near the level of stage presence that Kyle does (or Jason, for that matter). Not even close. It's actually possible to lose him in the crowd onstage. (Part of that may be because compared to some of the giants in the cast, he's a bit short, but whatever.) The point is... he's not a presence. His voice is weaker, too. And it has a warbly vibrato that I don't much care for.

...but something really odd happened halfway through the show on Thursday. He grew on me. A LOT.

I was actively prepared to dislike him because he wasn't Kyle. And in spite of that, I found myself liking him. And it took me that second viewing to figure out why.

First of all... he can't be Kyle. There's no fucking way that he could play the same Enjolras that Kyle did. He doesn't have the physical or vocal presence to do it. So, he cose to go the complete opposite route. And it's SO fucking effective and in-character in its own way that he kind of blew me away.

He's quieter. He's more subdued. He's more introspective. But he LOVES his friends. You can see it in every gesture, in every look. And it's not just Grantaire. It's EVERYONE. It's Feuilly and Courfeyrac and Combeferre. It's Grantaire and Gavroche and Marius. This Enjolras loves every single one of his friends and comrades in such a quietly fierce way that it kind of broke my heart a little. I could absolutely picutre Wallace's Enjolras sitting silently in a corner of the Musain fanboying in his own head over how amazing all his friends are. I could see this Enjolas stopping a speech on the barricade to tell everyone that Feuilly is amazing. And that's SO brick!Enjolras that it floored me.

The moment that flipped it for me was on Thursday when Gavroche went over the barricade to get the bullets. Tyler Muree was playing Grantaire and he's one of the few adult men on that stage shorter than Wallace. And when he went to follow Gavroche, Wallace LUNGED at him and just wrapped his entire body around him, chest-to-back, with his arms under Grantaire's, locked around his stomach and his face buried in Grantaire's back. And just... FUCK. There was nothing sexual or shippy about it. It was just Enjolras acting to protect a friend from doing something where he could get hurt... and SHIELDING HIM WITH HIS OWN BODY WHILE HE DID IT. Because Enjolras would never ask a friend to take a risk that he, himself, wasn't willing to take.

And THAT was when I turned the corner in my feelings for Wallace Smith.

So, Saturday I went into the show with a much more open mind where Wallace was concerned and I started catching other things that I really liked that he was doing.

When Gavroche announces that Lamarque is dead and Enjolras lifts him down from the table, even though you can see he's getting that distance in his eyes thinking of the future, even while he's starting to make those plans, he turns Gavroche towards Grantaire and actually pushes him at Grantaire. He doesn't just let Gavroche wander off, he specifically sends him to the person he knows will best look after him in his grief over Lamarque.

During Drink With Me, he's as concerned about Grantaire as Enjolras should be in that moment, but when Grantaire storms off, clearly wanting nothing more to do with him and he sees that Gavroche is going to go after him to calm him down, he goes over to Combeferre and checks on HIM. Now, that staging was always there, but both Kyle and Jason play it a bit like an afterthought -- like "yes, I'm checking on Combeferre, but my thoughts are still with Grantaire." Wallace doesn't play it that way. He is legit concerned about Combeferre after that altercation that he had with Grantaire, so once he's ascertained that there's nothing more he can do for Grantaire, he goes where he can help AND HE HELPS.

Wallace's Enjolras isn't just leading the barricade. He has his hands in every menial job that's going on there. He doesn't stand out; he sometimes gets lost in the shuffle... because that's what his Enjolras is all about. He's one of Les Amis and he leads from within, only taking the obvious lead when he has to -- like in DYHTPS? -- instead choosing to let his friends' strengths shine and let THEM take the lead whenever it's appropriate.

And I LOVE THAT. Way more than I expected, too. And just like with Gavin, I don't feel like it's a betrayal of Kyle or Jason because it's SUCH a different interpretation that I feel like it's OK to love them all. SO I WILL. GLADLY. ^_^

And... that's everyone? I think?

PHEW. That took longer than I expected. Then again, these things always seem to. O_o;;; *coughs* So... I hope you enjoyed it? And there weren't too many awful grammar issues? Because HELL if I'm going back to edit this monster. -.-;;;

Feel free to drop any questions or comments either here on the post or in my tumblr ask box! ^_^

January 2017

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