Les Miserables ends run after entertaining C-U

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Online Poster

By Stephanie Lulay

As the final installment of the 2004-05 Champaign News-Gazette Broadway Series, many University students and Champaign-Urbana residents gathered to see the acclaimed musical Les Miserables.

The musical, which tells the story of one man’s battle and the uprising of a nation during the French Revolution, ran April 26 to May 1 at Assembly Hall. It has been appearing on Broadway for more than a decade, featured in more than 28 countries and has won eight Tony awards and more than 50 international awards.

Many students who had already seen campus theatrical productions were excited to see a professional musical once again.

Pamela Roley, senior in engineering, had seen productions of Once Upon a Mattress and Fiddler on the Roof produced by the Illini Union Board, in addition to As It Is In Heaven at Krannert Arts Center.

“This musical was really great,” she said. “It featured some awesome voices and performances.”

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Chris Boggs, freshman in LAS, who has seen the musical many times in both the United States and London, was impressed with the performance featured here.

“It’s definitely the best performance I’ve seen in the United States, and I can easily say that it rivaled the London performance,” he said.

Roley said she felt that what really sets the musical apart from a normal theatrical performance was the advanced use of scenery.

“The scenery was awesome. The rotating circle on the stage helped make transitions from one scene to another smooth and natural,” she said.

One of the most noticeable differences between this performance and other traveling and local theatrical performances was the venue choice. Usually housing basketball games and rock concerts, Assembly Hall was an interesting place to hold a musical. Both the size of the auditorium and the lack of acoustic engineering made the Assembly Hall’s Star Theater an unusual venue choice in comparison to the normal theater.

Roley, who sat in section A, thought holding it in Assembly Hall had its pros and cons.

“They try to transform Assembly Hall, and they do a good job, but it’s hard to forget that you’re in a basketball stadium,” she said. “I think selling popcorn and soda makes it feel less like you’re at the theater. But I like it when shows are at Assembly Hall because you’re more likely to get a ticket, especially if you wait until really late to buy tickets.”

Although he sat in section B, Boggs said he was pleased with the seating arrangement and that he preferred the large arena to a smaller theater.

“I like the way Assembly Hall has the theater area set up,” he said. “It’s more so amphitheater seating, like back in Roman and Greek times, rather than modern day methods in smaller venues.”

Rachelle De La Cruz, freshman in LAS, agreed.

“I was sitting in section C, which is pretty far from the stage, but it wasn’t too bad,” she said. “Seeing a play at Assembly Hall was just as impacting as seeing a play in a theater. They made it have an atmosphere that had that theater aura.”

The musical also featured a very experienced and award-winning cast and crew.

“The lead male actor had the most amazing vocal range,” said Joanna Machen, junior in LAS, referring to Randal Keith, who played Jean Valjean.

Roley was equally as impressed with the vocalists.

“The actor who played Jean Valjean and the actress who played Eponine (Melissa Lyons) both had beautiful voices, and they gave awesome performances,” she said.

Although it was a three-hour show, Boggs said he thought Les Miserables passed quicker than the usual musical.

“The pace of the show quickly passes the time,” he said.

“The show and plot moved quickly. I was amazed by the quick costume changes,” Machen said. “Overall, the performance was flawless with a professional gloss.”

Les Miserables was the last in the series featured on the campus, following Miss Saigon and The Full Monty in October; Contact, which played in January; and Fiddler on the Roof in February. Each of these shows was performed for one or two days, but Les Miserables ran for six because of its popularity.

De La Cruz said she would highly recommend others to go see it if they have the chance.

“It has a good message and has an effect on all your emotions – love, hate, pity, happiness and even laughter,” she said.