Within minutes after the musical Les Mis at Lakewood Playhouse began my eyes teared up with pride for the young actors performing. Director Jen King, Musical Director Deborah Lynn Armstrong, Lighting Technician Skye Llewelyn, Property Master Will Moray, and Stage Manager Kal Wallace put together a fantastic presentation. Budding actors from the South Puget Sound area gathered in Lakewood to give the audience a three hour presentation that was at times funny, hateful, vengeful, and always emotional. Tickets were only $10. Only $10! If you weren’t there; you missed out.
Les Mis opened on Broadway in 1987 and ran for 6,680 performances. The musical was based on the book Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Hugo’s burning goal was to illuminate social injustices and class inequity. The problem existed in 1862 and still exists today. The music was written by Claude-Michel Schonberg with lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer. The musical book was written by Alain Boublil. The story line, the characters and the music combine making a powerful statement. Hugo believed in speaking up and showing people what needs to be changed. He would have loved the musical version of his book. “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” – Victor Hugo
PJ Sills presented the letter-of-the-law Javert as a no nonsense automaton who didn’t care about real justice. PJ graduated from Auburn Riverside High School. He loves to sing and will be attending Central Washington State University and studying music education. I hope he continues acting as well. My cousin, Lavinia Hart studied acting an Central and is currently teaching drama and directing at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. She joined my wife, Peggy and me at Lakewood Playhouse to see this production.
Harlon Camacho played Enjoiras. Enjoiras encouraged insurrection and defiance as he led the downtrodden in revolt. Camacho loves singing and hopefully loves acting even more, now. Very nice job.
Zach Thomas carried the bulk of the acting as Jean Valjean and in this scene, he carried Marius (Corbin McKay) as well. He carried him up stairs and down stairs . . . and still had air enough to sing. Zach is an incoming freshman at Pacific Lutheran University where he will major in Music Education. PLU has an excellent theatre department, so I hope he continues acting as well.
Excellent young actors. Other stand-outs? Jackson Cook and Tuppence Cooney as Monsieur and Madam Thenardier were hilarious. Tuppence stole the show stuffing silver plates into her bosom. Barrett Stowe did a nice job with several roles. The same goes for Sam Rios. Fantine was carried well by Roslyn Addy and Thea Ramirez as the adult Eponine did a very nice job. Sweet voice. It was difficult putting names to faces and roles, so not everyone gets the attention they deserve in this review. I was perplexed by Alexis Dyson’s red wig (?) as the adult Cosette. She did a great job singing and dancing in Forbidden Broadway and will soon we astounding audiences down south at The University of Mississippi. We wish her well.
The huge cast was simply amazing. Peggy and I both observed a young student who looked like she was remarkably committed to her numerous parts in this show. We were impressed. Peg asked her name. She is Julianna Guzman-Ferreira. She loves to act, sing, and dance. That all came through. We first saw her in Tacoma Little Theatre’s production of A Little Night Music. Lakewood Playhouse managing artistic director John Munn directed that musical at TLT. His musical director was Deborah Lynn Armstrong. He also brought along a couple of other actors from Lakewood to join him. I am impressed that our local theaters assist and promote each other.
One last accolade: Musical Director Deborah Lynn Armstrong. She sat front-row-center directing the singing. She is the driving force of the Lakewood Institute of Theatre. Peg and I interviewed Debbie last June and said, “There is a hidden treasure in Lakewood . . . and she often wears her hair in braids: Debbie Armstrong.” – thesubtimes.com/2019/06/18/imagination-and-make-believe-are-the-reality-in-lakewood/
This was our first review of a student production. We enjoyed the whole three hours. We were impressed by the students AND their energy. The cast turned around less that two hours later and did the last presentation of Les Mis. I will not miss the next production of the Lakewood Institute of Theatre. You shouldn’t either.