Aurora's grand Paramount Theatre knows how to sensationally close an already successful season of accomplished theater feats.
The finale to the venue's 2014-15 Broadway Series is a stirring and stellar new production of "Les Misérables" running through April 26.
I've seen many stage incarnations of "Les Mis" over the years, from the large downtown national Broadway tours to regional mounts of this memorable story of passion and perseverance. But none of those previous ticket experiences can compare to what I witnessed at Paramount Theatre during the opening weekend. Running two hours and 45 minutes, which includes one 15-minute intermission, this is a collected cast of talent that leaves an audience impression not to be soon forgotten.
Add to this stable of powerhouse actors and actresses the Paramount's creative team bringing the sets, music, lighting, costumes and scenes to life, and this is a not-to-miss ticket.
Paramount Artistic Director Jim Corti directs "Les Mis" with focus and dedication to the dialogue, with Tom Vendafreddo at his side as Paramount Theatre Orchestra music director and conductor providing the stirring and hauntingly beautiful score. I must add, this ranks as the first time I have witnessed such a carefully crafted clarity for the delivery of the story's power lines, dripping in a range that spans clever exchanges, passionate pleas and, at times, humorous overtones. This director and cast make sure not a word is missed.
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Ricky Falbo is the tiny, but mighty street rebel Gavroche, while adult Eponine is Lillie Cummings, who captures the character's longing for the love of Marius, as played by steadfast Devin DeSantis. Young Cosette is Nicole Scimeca, balanced with beautiful Erica Stephan as the adult incarnation of Cosette.
Travis Taylor is rich and resonant, making his Paramount debut as revolution man-in-command Enjolras, while Hannah Corneau captures the tragic life of Fantine. While not quite angry and obsessed enough for my taste, Rod Thomas offers and admirable turn as Javert, the man who is in pursuit of this musical's legendary leading man, the superb Robert Wilde, who embodies the role of Jean Valjean.
Two of my favorite stage fiends are played wonderfully here by George Keating and Marya Grandy. The Thenardiers are the evil innkeepers who always have their hands in somebody else's pockets. Scenes with this duo offer some of the excellent examples of Jesse Klug's brilliant lighting, for example, using shadows to emphasize the sallow faces of this pilfering pair.
Kevin Depinet and Jeff Kmiec offer a transforming, revolving set that is incredible (although at Sunday's performance, a tangled chandelier that descended swinging like a scene from "Phantom," forced a 10-minute interruption in the middle of Act 1). Theresa Ham's costuming with Adam Rosenthal's sound, Sarah Ross' props (I loved the pipe-smoking women of the streets) and Lauren Cecil and Katie Cordts' wigs, complete the experience.
Performances are 1:30 and 7 p.m. Wednesdays; 7 p.m. Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays; 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; and 1 and 5:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $41 to $54 at ParamountAurora.com or (630) 896-6666. "Les Misérables" is rated PG.