Sophia Buono, a student at Oakcrest School , reviews Heritage High School’s ‘Les Miserables, School Edition’ as part of the Cappies Critics and Awards Program .

As a misty blur of light arose, a line of weary men trudged onstage, groaning in pain.  In perfect synchronization and with on point expression, they heaved their arms through their slavish duties, while parole officers stoically marched by.  With this powerful opening, Heritage High School dove into their performance of Les Miserables.

The unforgettable tale of Les Mis began as a celebrated 1862 novel by Victor Hugo.  Later, it was adapted into a French musical, with music by Claude-Michel Schonberg, in 1980. Three years later, Cameron Mackintosh worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company and translator Herbert Krestzmer to create an English version.  A huge success, Les Mis is currently the world’s longest running musical.  It follows the life of Jean Valjean, an unjustly held prisoner who, upon being released, breaks parole and spends his life fleeing from the merciless inspector Javert.  Throughout his journey, Valjean learns the power of charity and forgiveness, as he cares for the victimized Fantine, her child Cosette, and later for the young students who stage a revolution. Heritage High School’s adaptation of this musical shone with visual appeal, vocal superiority, and emotional power.

From the very first scene, the interplay between Jean Valjean (Jamie Brown) and Javert (Vinny Okechukwu) established the firm tension of the production. Each grasped his character with authority, hit difficult notes with ease, and captivated the audience with their facial expressions.  Supporting characters also executed their roles with enthusiasm and poise.  Eponine (Lauren Gold) wowed the audience with her pure voice and passionate delivery, and Cosette (Maria Regina) successfully balanced a sense of grace and boldness in each of her songs.

The ensemble carried the show with stellar energy; all members amplified the emotion of the story with their ringing harmonies and sharp, committed movements. The ensemble of revolutionary students, in particular, mixed an original flavor into the show by adding comedic punch to “Red and Black,” in which they scolded the heartfelt Marius (Devin Clawson) for his romantic thoughts.  Several featured actors also stood out:  the Thenardiers (Alex Hoyle and Aiden Orr) made a dynamic pair with their hilariously eccentric acting choices and vocal spirit.  Fantine (Katie Blackburn), in addition, effectively combined her melodious voice with agonizing tears during her death scene. Despite a few off-pitch notes and moments of stiffness while singing, the cast of Heritage’s Les Mis overwhelmingly commanded the stage with their talents.

The excellence of the stage crew also contributed to the show’s success.  Scenes transitioned smoothly and quietly, and the use of a turn table provided visual interest.  The lighting consistently added to the show’s somber tone, and all cues were executed with precision although sometimes falling short of revealing characters’ faces. The set also brought the show to life, from a high balcony with a Paris backdrop to a towering barricade of broken doors and chairs. Furthermore, the student pit orchestra was the capstone of the show’s profound delivery, brilliantly interpreting each song and matching performers’ singing.

Thanks to the technical, visual, and vocal beauty of the performance, Heritage High School’s Les Miserables took the audience on a powerful journey of struggle, love, and forgiveness, making them believers in true hope and freedom.