Les Misérables - Review

Les Misérables (School Edition) was presented by BTC's Combined Junior / Senior Ensemble in the Fall of 2004. This was the first show directed by BTC's new co-Artistic Directors Jason Brantman and Fiona Santos. Performances were held at Irvington Town Hall Theatre on November 19, 20, and 21, 2004. Claude-Michel Shonberg wrote the music for Les Misérables. The book and lyrics are by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg and were adapted for English by Herbert Kretzmer. The show is based on the novel by Victor Hugo.

Broadway Training Center combined the talents of its Junior and Senior Ensembles to present Les Misérables, the hit Broadway musical by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg. The production was performed on three consecutive nights in November, 2004 at the Irvington Town Hall Theater and drew standing ovations from packed houses.

Jason Brantman and Fiona Santos, BTC's newly-hired co-Artistic Directors, came up with the idea of combining the Ensemble groups as a way to bring some of the more ambitious and powerful musical theater works within BTC's reach.

"We could not have attempted anything on the scale of Les Mis with just the Seniors or just the Juniors," explained Brantman, who directed the production. "But with the larger and more varied combined group, we were able to cast all the roles beautifully, and the many chorus numbers were very powerful."

Indeed, BTC's production delivered on the emotion and power for which Les Mis is so well known. "I was blubbering through the whole performance," admitted one theatergoer.

Stand-out numbers by Sam Barnard (Jean Valjean) and Kate Bolger (Javert) brought prolonged ovations, as did Allie DiMona's (Eponine) heart-wrenching rendition of On My Own. "The confrontations between Valjean and Javert were more powerful than I recall from the four times I saw Les Mis on Broadway," exclaimed one thrilled patron.

Melanie Burg (Cosette) and Todd Ritch (Marius) provided romantic fervor from their love-at-first-sight encounter in the streets of Saint Michel to their reunion after the battle at the barricades and their tender final meeting with Valjean. Their beautifully sung duet, A Heart Full of Love will be long remembered.

James Masciovecchio (Thénardier) and Arra Gentile (Madame Thénardier) were hilarious as the wretched and conniving innkeepers who sold young Cosette to Valjean and later turned up leading a Paris street gang.

Roxy Schoenfeld (Fantine) brought forth tears with I Dreamed A Dream and with the duet Come To Me which she sang with Barnard (Valjean).

Stirring performances were also turned in by Danielle Zweibon (Enjolras) as leader of the student uprising, Ciana Proto (Gavroche), the street-smart urchin who "runs" Saint Michel, and Madeline Kolker (Young Cosette), who delivered a beautifully sweet and sad Castle On A Cloud.

Pit Orchestra Adds Power

Santos, as Musical Director for the production, was able to assemble a full pit orchestra, drawing on high-school age (and younger!) area talent as well as a small number of professional musicians including Santos' sister Patricia on violoncello.

"This was another first for BTC," explained Santos. "Never before did we look to the young musicians in our area to add the powerful dimension of a full orchestra to our production."

Neatly packed into the right wing of the balcony, the orchestra played literally non-stop under Santos' baton and added tremendous power to the performances.

Faces Unseen

There are a huge number of personnel behind the scenes, who work tirelessly to support the productions. In addition to lighting, sound, and backstage technicians, the production was blessed with assistant director and Ensemble student Michael Rudd. Rudd assisted Santos and Brantman during the rehearsals, and then ran the entire backstage during the performances. According to Brantman, "The show literally could not have run without him."

Supportive Attitude Is Key

For Santos and Brantman, one of the most gratifying aspects of this production was the manner in which the students prepared.

"This is an incredibly supportive group of kids," declares Brantman. "That's something we always stress at BTC, and it's one our main considerations when we're making casting decisions."

"One of the things I love is to see the kids arriving for rehearsals and greeting each other with such warmth and enthusiasm," explains Santos. "And this year, with the combined ensemble, we saw that across a very wide age range, with 16- and 17-year olds running up to greet 9- and 10-year olds, and everything in between."

Brantman continues, "For one of these kids to get up on stage in front of hundreds of people and dance and sing their heart out is a very courageous act. We try to make sure that each student knows that the entire cast and crew are behind them all the way, and we work very hard to foster that support."

Santos also notes the students' work ethic. "We worked these kids incredibly hard. We scheduled five- and six-hour Saturday rehearsals throughout October and November, in addition to the two-hour Friday classes. Then during the week of the performances, we held five-hour rehearsals each night at the theater. Through the whole thing, everyone showed up - week after week - and worked hard. I think the results speak for themselves."

Looking Ahead

The Juniors and Seniors are now split into separate classes and are busily preparing their Spring productions. Junior Ensemble will present Once Upon A Mattress in May, while the Seniors will stage Little Shop Of Horrors in March. See the calendar on the BTC website for details.

Will the combined Ensemble become a tradition at BTC? Brantman and Santos are noncommittal, though noting that the Les Mis production was "everything we hoped for and more." Either way, we can all look forward to more theater magic from BTC in the years ahead.

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Who We Are
Broadway Training Center of Westchester, under the artistic direction of Jason Brantman and Fiona Santos, was recently awarded Best Theatre Classes in Southern Westchester by Westchester Magazine.  This premier performing arts school, located in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, provides children, teens, and adults with Broadway oriented performing arts training focusing on the joy of accomplishment and the enrichment of personal expression through classroom and performance work. Broadway Training Center of Westchester is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization.