Here are three signs that you've been to a great musical:
1) You find yourself humming the songs a week later.
2) You're compelled to buy the soundtrack to actually learn the words of said songs.
3) You're ready to sign up for a revolution . . . even though it occurred almost 200 years ago.
Well, maybe that last one only applies to "Les Miserables," the 1987 Broadway show recently given a creditable production by West Potomac High School.
Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, "Les Miserables" conveys the sufferings and yearnings of the French people that culminated in an 1832 revolution in Paris. With dialogue entirely set to music, a mechanically revolving stage and explosive sound effects, this musical is a daunting project, but West Potomac pulled it off quite well.
The crucial elements in this mammoth show are the energy and passion radiated by the performers, and for West Potomac's production, these elements were apparent in the major songs.
"At the End of the Day" was the most rousing performance of the first act, while "Lovely Ladies" reveled in the sensuality and sauciness of the French prostitutes. But nothing surpassed the reprise of "Do You Hear the People Sing?" at the musical's end, as characters both living and dead implore the audience to join in the struggle for a better future.
There were standouts among the individual actors, as well. The sweet and clear voice of Rachel Greenspan as Fantine, coupled with her touching portrayal of the devoted single mother, made all of her numbers a treat for the audience.
The strongest characterization of the evening belonged to Andrew Allen, as Inspector Javert, particularly at the moment when this rigid man of principles realizes his principles may be wrong.
Lest one think "Les Miserables" is nothing but tragedy, the outrageous Thenardiers (played by Audrey Bales and Ben McVety) appear every once in a while to lighten the mood with their raucous antics.
The revolving stage floor was a highlight of the West Potomac performance, though set changes tended to be noisy and distracting, but this situation was likely unavoidable.
And that stage, coupled with gunfire explosions, made the climactic barricade battle especially impressive.
If you saw the West Potomac production of "Les Miserables," chances are you're still humming the songs. But don't forget about buying that soundtrack.
Bishop Ireton High School
"At the end of the day, there's another day dawning!"
These powerful words melodically vibrated to every corner of West Potomac High School's auditorium with a chilling inspiration that left the audience pleading with applause for more.
That was only the beginning of West Potomac's riveting production of "Les Miserables," the timeless Broadway musical that took the world by storm.
With a powerful cast and an elaborate rotating stage, the West Potomac cast and crew literally brought their audience to its feet.
Enrapturing from prologue to epilogue, "Les Miserables" is the tale of the suffering lower class in France during an 1832 insurrection -- a tenacious struggle to overthrow an oppressive monarchy and bridge the gap between seemingly hopeless peasants and an affluent nobility.
This multifaceted modern opera encompasses many of the great themes in theater. It is a love story intertwined with a struggle for justice, a revolution -- and the heartaches of loss and unrequited love.
The plot follows Jean Valjean (Billy Cover) in his quest for self-redemption in his journey from escaped criminal to respected citizen. Cover carried this ambitious role with a skilled baritone voice and an extremely emotional performance.
Javert, a police inspector obsessed with bringing Valjean to justice, was played by Andrew Allen. The maturity with which Allen carried his compulsive character was exceptional. His strong tenor voice truly shone in the song "Stars."
Fantine (Rachel Greenspan), a poverty-stricken single mother, is thrust onto the streets by a misunderstanding in the workplace and forced to support her darling daughter Cosette through prostitution. Greenspan exhibited a rich, controlled alto voice as she sorrowfully sang "I Dreamed a Dream."
The house rang with gorgeous music (also accredited to the superb orchestra) in the ensemble numbers "Do You Hear the People Sing?" and "At the End of the Day."
The troupe's technical crew was also responsible for the show's profound effect, successfully executing that rotating stage, an effective fog machine and an excellent lighting design (Adam Zahn).
West Potomac's "Les Miserables" earned its standing ovation. "Here's to you," West Potomac!
J.E.B. Stuart High School