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Les Miserables

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With nearly thirty songs – ranging from the regularly showcased "I Dreamed a Dream" to the cold-hearted "Dog Eats Dog" – Les Miserables is the musical derived from Victor Hugo’s renowned 1862 novel of the same title, which is set in France in the early 19th century. When it premiered in Great Britain in 1985 –with a musical score by Claude-Michel Shoenberg and an English language libretto by Herbert Kretzmer – Les Miz, as it’s commonly called, received tepid reviews from the drama critics of the day as well as London’s extant literati.

Nevertheless, by the time it arrived on Broadway in 1987, the show had become popular enough with audiences and producers to win the Tony Award for Best Musical that year. Les Miz continued on The Great White Way until 2003, becoming the third longest running production in the history of Broadway.

The maudlin musical is currently touring internationally in celebration of the 25th anniversary of its Broadway debut. And now it has arrived at Orange County’s Segerstrom Center for the Arts, through June 24. Though meticulously reconfigured by co-directors Laurence Connor and James Powell, there is no carousel of characters rounding out the plotline. With new and additional orchestrations by Chris Jahnke, Stephen Metcalf, and Stephen Brooker, the show feels overly distant while the live orchestra, conducted by Kevin Stites, seems overblown, often to the point of distortion.

With a serviceable but rather nondescript portrayal of the victimized Jean Valjean by tenor Peter Lockyer, we learn that the character has served 19 years on a prison chain gang. Upon his release from prison Valjean is issued a so-called ticket-of-leave, which designates as an him as an ex-con for life.

When the Bishop of Digne (a marvelous Benjamin Magnuson) demonstrates kindness to the former inmate, Valjean seizes the opportunity to steal silver from the clergyman. When he is arrested for the theft Valjean is flabbergasted when the Bishop lies about Valjean’s misdeed to the police. Valjean is sincerely contrite, vowing to change his life forever and for the better. But the relentless police official, Inspector Javert (baritone Andrew Varela in a persuasive portrayal), won’t forget or forgive the crimes of Valjean.

Against tensely scripted issues of oppression, obsession, corruption, rebellion, and redemption we are given a full-scale spectacle (thanks to Matt Kinley’s Hugo-inspired set design; Paule Constable’s intricate lighting motif; Andreane Neofitou’ costuming; and Mick Potter’s visceral sound design), but at a distance and at the expense of riveting drama.

More akin to melodrama than tragedy and more in keeping with the histrionic displays of opera than with Hugo’s novelistic characters living through their challenging circumstances, this Les Miz is a monument to stagecraft, pageantry, and pyrotechnics more than it is an assaying of dramatic conflict or poetic poignancy.

Still, with a cast of over three dozen players – all of whom perform professionally –there are several stand-outs: Shawna M. Hamic as Madame Thenardier and Erin Cearlock as Little Cosette as exemplified in their duet "Castle on a Cloud" and several children, notably Joshua Colley as Gavroche and Abbey Rose Gould as young Eponine, who exhibit performing chops that defy their youth.

This OC exhibit of the celebration tour of Les Miz’s quarter-century mark as a performance piece is, at times, an eye-popping affair; but, like a museum installation, it’s more a cerebral occasion than a cathartic theatrical experience.

Les Miserables continues at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts – 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa – through June 24. Evening performances are Tuesdays - Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and at 6:30 p.m. on Sundays. Matinees are at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and 1 p.m. on Sundays. For reservations, dial (714) 556 – 2746. For online ticketing, visit  



Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.