Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Les Miserables

The Broadway Rose Theatre Co.
June 27 - July 20, 2008

Review by peanutduck

Captivating: grossly attractive Thenardier (Pierce); staccato, anal-retentive Javert (Norby); Enjolras (Willis) - I would follow anywhere; Eponine’s (Murphy) “I love him.” Yes, the orchestra’s markedly lost; but what really prevents this production from shining is the lack of theatrical magic to lift it from darkness and, well, into the stars.

70 comments:

Tony B said...

Sorry to jump the gun, but I saw the preview tonight - I think it was officially the final dress rehearsal - and I have to write here and say WOW.

Wow - the voices! This is one of the best sung musicals I've seen in Portland, and I've been here about 6 years now. From the principals to the last ensemble member, great voices all around.

Wow - the commitment from every single member of the company. This is a cast givin a very brave performance with difficult material. Kudos to their director, Richard Hunt.

Wow - that Broadway Rose could actually pull this off!

Less than wow were the costumes and the patchy sound, but it WAS a preview and I bet these things will get ironed out.

There are other things to quibble with (like the orchestra), but it's just a great cast up there. So bravo!

BRTC said...

We saw the opening night and all I can say is great.

Don't miss it. The singing is wonderful as is the show.

Anonymous said...

This show is off the chain! Everyone sings so beautifully, and the action moves really fast. The fellow playing Valjean can really carry it -- and that's saying something. I don't want to start anything here about Leif Norby, but I've seen several productions of this show, including in NY, and he is by far the best Javert I've ever seen. By far. He just owns that stage whenever he is on it! You feel you are watching a legend. Eponine is also excellent, as are Gavroche and young Cosette. And, too many great performances to name! But more than all of that, the chorus really rocks!!! Every one seems to be in character at every moment, and their musicality is outrageously good. The orchestra isn't as good as the cast, but hopefully they'll get the horns on the mark before the run is done! I plan to go back again -- once is not enough!

Anonymous said...

agreed with everything i've read here and in the rave reviews in the oregonian, willy week and tribune... here is a production setting a new bar for excellence in portland professional musical theatre AND PRETTY MUCH THE ENTIRE CAST IS PORTLAND BASED. that is saying something! there are some familiar faces (leif norby, joe theison, james drake) and some new ones, too, and some really fine trained voices that haven't been heard on portland stages to my knowledge.

bravo to the bway rose~!

Anonymous said...

Did everybody catch the interview with Norby in WW last week? It may have only been online -- that's where I saw it. Shenanigans on Followspot were mentioned.

Floored said...

LOVED this show - so many delish portland actor-boys! Norby is commanding and tragic as Javert, Drake is adoreable as Marius, and so much amazing talent in the ensemble - Joe Theisan's Granteire was so heartbroken in the barricade scenes - he was so depressed he had me in tears - I just wanted to scoop him up!

Rough edges, sure - orchestra was herky-jerky and WAY TOO LOUD at times, but whoa - what a gorgeous show - set and lighting are breathtaking!!

Douglas Webster had the whole place in the palm of his hand on MANY occasions - most of all during "bring him home" - unbelieveable.

HIGHLY recommended.

Anonymous said...

Of course Daniel Webster stole the show. He's the only real professional in the cast and the show on the road/national tour. The rest of the cast is local actors that are passable. Way to go Daniel!

Anonymous said...

"Passable?" Come on! Leif Norby is a law-and-order theatrical god!

David Loftus said...

You know, it is entirely possible to pay a grand compliment to one performer without unneceeaarily denigrating all the rest. Whether it be manners, attitude, or writing ability, I would think everyone here could manage it with just a little effort.

Daniel Webster said...

Dear anon 06:08. Thank you for your kind praise. I knew that after even two hundred years later my deeds as a new england statesman still deserve praise and recognition. However, having been dead since 1852, I have not toured with Les Mis in quite some time. However, I'm sure there will be many scrambling to provide the correct name (the one in the comment you were responding to, I believe) and probably publicly flog you for your sentiment of this production not hosting any other professionals. And I look forward to it.

-DW

Anonymous said...

...and thank you to Mrs. Webster for that thoughful review.

Anonymous said...

Yes because only national tour performers are good. Did PCS write that entry?

Yes, DOUGLAS Webster was phenomenal - as was the entire cast - I loved every minute!

Cast Member said...

Wow.

Douglas Webster IS a professional - a complete joy to work with and be around, and a performer whose grace and commitment to his craft make him gripping on stage. I'm humbled to share the stage with him.

Having said that, and with all due respect, I think that anon 6:08 might be the most ignorant post I've seen on this blog. The most puzzling, at least. On the surface it seems merely uninformed, but as I re-read it, it seems laced with vitriol - as though it were written by someone with actual disdain for the show, the cast, or the actors of this city.

I know that DOUGLAS would not share your sentiment.

Sincerely,

A Passable Local Actor

Anonymous said...

Just some fact-checking here, from a Bway Rose friend:

1) It's Robert Hunt, not Richard Hunt.

2) It's Douglas Webster, not Daniel Webster.

3) To dismiss the likes of Darius Pierce, Lori Paschal, Leif Norby and Jazmin Gorsline - not to mention the most golden throated ensemble you'll find in town this year - as "local actors that are passable" is not only ignorant, its embarassing to you, Anon 7/2 @ 6:08 pm.

Our fine and thriving theatre town could use without that sort of nastiness and back-biting.

Anonymous said...

Disclaimer: This comment is not meant to create controversey.

Some very fine talent at work here. Webster and Norby create great tension, and Thenardier is fantastic. Great ensemble as well.

After seeing this show, I was struck at how different this version of Les Mis was than the one Staged put on with students earlier this season.

*not saying one is better than the other. Both of the shows are/were fabulous and showcase some of Portland's best theatre talent.

Back to the point: I was surprised at the difference of feeling I had when watching the shows, and when I walked out of the theatre after the shows. Just different.

It's funny how the same show can turn out so differenly in the final results.

Did this thought cross anybody else's mind afterwards?

DMK said...

How did this show make you feel? How did the other make you feel? Was the difference in you? or was it the direction? Do you think you'd feel the same if you saw it again? Just interested- thanks!

Anonymous said...

In what way did you feel different? I will see Broadway rose show next week and am really looking forward to it. I saw the Show by 'Staged' and was hugely impressed. Also seen the original show in London and loved it. I love the music and story of Les Mis and have been lucky enough to have been treated to excellent performances each time I've seen it and felt overwhelmed by the portrayal of the story by 2 very different cast ensembles..ie. pros in London and Students in Staged. I'm fully expecting to have the same experience next week and have the music and story deliver another wonderful theatre experience. We have quite the pot of great actors and theatre in Portland and so many youngsters making their way through. Its great.
~SR

Anonymous said...

There are a few ways I found them "different."

I was absolutely blown away by the production values at BWR. The set is amazing and the pit is phenominal. The cast was also phenominal. I walked away from that production saying "Oh my God! That was awesome and it blew my mind!"

The production values at Staged were few and far between, but that is apparently the goal of the company. I cried 2 times at the Staged version, during Little Fall of Rain, and at the ending.

I think what I am trying to say is that I felt stunned and wowed at the end of BWR's, and more emotionally moved at the end of Staged. I don't know why, I just was.


But truly great musicals from both companies. Bravo.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to anonomous 7/26 for the dialogue. I too have seen shows more than once and been affected differently by them. It always leaves you wondering why! Thanks also to other bloggers for their comments on BWR Les Mis.........I have tickets for the final weekend and really look forward to seeing it. The buzz has got me buzzing!

J.S. said...

I have a theory about why the same show can effect us so differently.

One of the many miracles of live theater is the sense that the audience is an integral part of the experience. Each of us brings whatever is in our minds and hearts on any given night to the theater with us. Our expectations, hopes, fears, concerns, and the contexts of our lives at that unique moment. For this reason, each audience has its own collective personality -- reflecting the moods, paradigms and wishes all the individual members are immersed in at that spotlighted moment. No two audiences are alike, nor is any individual audience member the same twice.

Not only that, but the performances of great actors seem to have different nuances depending on their perceptions of each audiences' personality, among many other things.

I think the feeling we leave with after a brilliant show is a reflection of the feeling we brought with us, blended with and bounced off of every other ephemeral variable. When I love a show, and a cast, as I do this production and this cast, I keep going back, because I want to know the full range of feelings that the show can impart to me, and the full spectrum of nuances I can help impart to it.

In Broadway Rose's tour de force, one night I am swept away by the innocence and passion of youth, lost and found for the very first time, as in "Little Fall of Rain." Another night, I am moved by the pathos of growing older, and the bittersweet layering of harsh reality over a persistent pulse of hope, as in Fantine's ballad. Another night, I am moved by the need we all have to believe we understand our world and our place in it, and the deep emptiness we feel when we begin to realize that our foundational premise may have been fatally flawed, as in "Javert's Suicide." Different things touch me each time for reasons I can never anticipate when I walk into the theater.

I am so grateful to Broadway Rose for this profound production, and grateful to every cast member for the magic and wonder you bring to your performances each and every night. Thank you for making us feel this story so deeply...your voices and your performances reverberate long after the curtain falls.

Anonymous said...

See everybody?

THIS IS EXACTLY the kind of thing that should be going on here at followspot, not petty bickering and arguing.

Well-though out comments that spark interesting discussion about the performances, and some lively debate!

Good job so far on keeping this discussion FUN to follow.

Anonymous said...

I agree with so much of what has been said. I only wish that this dialogue had occurred for Staged's version of Les Mis. Unfortunately, that discussion centered around contracts, the ability (and ages) of "the kid actors"... I felt much of what was said was a general belittling and dismissal of their effort by the very people these kids were trying to emulate. But, well done, Portland acting community, this time around! I'm anxious to see the show.

Anonymous said...

I concur. A lot of the comments for 'Staged' production was not constructive in any way. Its comments like the ones above that should be posted on these blogs. Criticisms too by all means but no attacks and nasty comments. Well done BWR for a great show. I really am looking forward to it.
~SR

Anonymous said...

Les Mis was sold out- they added a performance Tuesday night, July 15th at 8 p.m. General admission and it seems you can only get the tickets online at their web page. How exciting that this show is doing so well and that the performers, musicians and management have stretched themselves to add one more show. I have a feeling these seats will go fast too- so wanted to let the followspot folks know.

Anonymous said...

Wow. That was a spectacle!

The lights, the sets, the effects! Voices, too! God, how much did that set COST?

Anonymous said...

Spectacle? Yes.
Lights? Yes.
Sets? Yes.
Effects? Yes.
Voices? Wow. Yes.

But "magic" and an emotional connection with the audience? No. And that was such a huge disappointment! With all the talent on that stage, and with such brilliant material, I was disappointed that these actors didn't "move" me. This show has the ability to touch people very deeply, and it didn't. The actors hit their notes, they obviously were committed, but the emotional component was lacking. Truly great theater lingers with people long after the show is over, and this show didn't do that for me. Bummer.

Anonymous said...

Took the words right out of my mouth.

Amazing production values, great voices.

But I didn't leave feeling moved or affected. I wanted to be moved, I wanted to be affected.

Why did this show not move me? Not sure. I'm sad about it. I wish I had been.

Anonymous said...

It is so hard to say. . . we bring with us so much as audience members. Every time I see a show my mood is slightly different - my emotional receptors at different levels of openness. . .

I know I have been to many shows that others found remarkably moving, and I myself felt no connection.

For what it's worth, I was profoundly moved by this show - I felt "right there" with this cast, and was only distracted by annoyances from other audience members and a slightly ill-prepared orchestra. Other than that, they had me all the way and I found the show to be phenomenal and quite inspiring.

Carrie said...

I'm not sure I completely understand Peanutduck's statement, "lack of theatrical magic." Could you please clarify? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

The group of lucky people who saw the show with me last Saturday night would all agree 100% with Anon 7-15 12:06am. Two of our group left with tears streaming down their faces, and one other was very proud of holding back his tears. We are still talking about the experience days later!

The magic was there for us, and based on the comments I heard in the lobby, it appeared to be there for many of the hundreds of others in the audience. I am also sad that one or two didn't feel it with the rest. This cast reached through the misty light and touched each of our souls in my small group. What an amazing and touching experience! Really wonderful -- how theater should be done!

Morgan said...

WOW! BRTC has outdone themselves. I have seen this production in New York and this show is just as good. The talent of all the performers was amazing. Not once did I look on stage and see any individual pull my eye. Everyone was doing something - being a part of the moment. The actors obviously put themselves into the moment. The leads and ensemble worked together for a blend, thus not a show where the leads stood out. Well, maybe Leif Norby - but seriously this cast of outstanding talent is to be applauded loudly - EXCELLENT JOB! And did I hear right? This cast gets along - Job well done to Rob Hunt and for the cast he put together.

peanutduck said...

Carrie - In brief, I was always aware that I was watching a production of Les Miz. I just couldn't enter the world, feel the pathos of Fantine or Eponine's broken heart.

In not-so-brief:
Theatre is magical - it more than the sum of its parts (words, actors, directors, sets, lighting, sound, etc.). Even if all these elements are top-notch, if that spark, connection, magic, je ne sais quoi, isn't there, in the end, the production is a bunch of people on stage. (And that's not why we go to the theatre.)

Hope this helps. When I first read the question what came to mind was the fact that, even though I have my grandmother's mac 'n cheese recipe, it never turns out like hers. I have the ingredients but lack her special something.

This far exceeds 50 words and probably excessively clarified.

Beth said...

I saw the show last week, and was incredibly impressed.

The men of the show, from Valjean and Javert to the chorus, were phenomenal. I was not as impressed with the women, unfortunately (with the exception of Jazmine Gorsline - girl can SING, and she's cute as a button.)

The other female leads were fine, but next to the outstanding men, seemed a little over their heads, and not nearly as vocally strong.

Especially impressive were Douglas Webster, Leif Norby, James Drake and the cute little muffin that played Gavroche - I wanted to put him in my pocket and take him home with me!

Great work from Broadway Rose!

Anonymous said...

Saw this show last night and WOW!!!! Broadway Rose set a new high standard for themselves. The entire cast was remarkable. I don't like to use it this forum to voice a complaint but felt that if BRTC is reading then please take note that the pit does not get the high praise your performers do. Very dissappointed in some of the sound coming from the pit and felt that some numbers were rushed and others too slow. I know this music. I feel the music director did a poor job. Maybe not his genre of music (I don't know) but what a shame. Bravo! to the cast for going with what they got. Keep up the good work BRTC - Look forward to your next two shows.

Anonymous said...

I saw the show last night. I was absolutely amazed at the investment of the cast -- particularly since the entire show is conducted at the same tempo -- SLOW! The show is, perhaps, 30 minutes longer than it should be, since the conductor moves the show (or doesn't LET it move!) at the same feeling and tempo throughout. It must be so frustrating to be in a production with such good singers and players, saddled with no musicianship from the pit. Bravo to this cast for making it work on their own terms. I can only imagine how great the show would have been if the score, which is THROUGH-COMPOSED, would have had some heart from the man with the baton... I'd like my 30 minutes back, however...

Anonymous said...

DITTO!! There were times when the performers - or rather the perfromances - seemed to be BEGGING for more freedom, more musicality. No such luck. Lots of flapping of arms does not a sensitive show make. How about some tenderness or connection with the amazing artists on the stage who clearly "get it"? I have one friend in the pit and I know they are at their wits' end.

Having said all that, the show is a wonder - stupefying despite the aforementioned difficulties. Stellar cast, top to bottom - sparkling technical aspects and vocals that ranged from shutter-rattling to thread-the-needle.

WOW.

Anonymous said...

The problem with having the highest of hopes for a production is that it has a lot to live up to.
It is a small miracle that they pulled this off. The question is, is pulling it off the same as doing it well?

Somehow, despite the massive cast, the multitude of costumes, the turntable set and the sold out houses, the show is almost entirely inert emotionally.
The recent teen production at WTC had more heart by far.

Maybe it's because when we watch teenagers playing adults, we accept that they are merely aping adult behavior and we grant them that.  But when adults try to act as though they have worked on a chain gang, sold their bodies for money, or have shot at someone with the intent to kill, and they fall short in convincing us, it is somewhat painful to watch.

First and foremost in the long list of shortcomings is the set.  Or maybe that should be the setting.  The proscenium is simply too dainty to support this expansive story.
The set never opens up the story --- just the opposite --- it always feels cramped, diminutive and miniature.  What results is a feeling of watching Les Miz "lite".

The opening number should pack a punch, but it is simply not loud enough vocally to reach across the footlights.

The orchestra (which numbers 11) is plenty loud, but it still sounds thin in spots.
The cast which numbers 31 is vocally impressive, but it would have served the show well to take 6 of those paychecks and put them in the pit.

Javert's first hat is too tall and his boots are too short.  They don't even meet his breeches.
His hat is something out of Alice in Wonderland. It upstages him.
Norby is in superb voice, however he seems at sea dramatically and emotionally and appears alternately indifferent and tired.  We must fear Javert and this is simply not the case here.
Oddly, he sings "Stars" to the audience, complete with expository gestures.  It is one of the most famous contemplations ever composed and suddenly it is a cabaret number.
His voice cannot be faulted, but his director let him down.

Jean Valjean does a workman like job and reaches the only real depth in the cast with his rendering of "Bring Him Home"

The orchestra pit is lit on each end by spill from the musician's lights and these two spots frequently pull the eye away from the action.

Darius (rhymes with hilarious) Pierce is quite simply a comic genius.
Though he had a gravely throat the night I attended, he could do this role on Broadway.

Former WW theater critic Steven Marc Beaudoin is a member of the ensemble.
What is that old saying? Don't crap where you eat?
Well Steven distinguishes himself by being totally indistinguishable from paint drying.
He minces about and pretends to do an imitation of a person imitating an actor.

The spot lights drifted often --- perhaps it is time to start paying those interns....

And perhaps Broadway Rose has set its sights too high.  Though please don't set them as low as Singing in the Rain again.
Bring back the golden era of Jekyll and Hyde, Chicago and 42nd Street please.

Good news: the turntable works.  (as did the one in last year's The Ghosts of Celilo -- seems only the biggest budgeted theater in town --- PCS --- can charge more than anyone else and then have the turntable fail -- multiple times --- during the the run of Cabaret.

James Langston Drake -- with his mop of curls -- resembles John C. Reilly.

Joe Theissen is solid in his various roles and is a real stand out among the crowd.
Wade Willis is always reliable and Jeff Schroeder as the Bishop was outstanding.

Is it Broadway? No.
Do they charge $100? No.

Is $22 too much to pay for a solid production that does not reach any emotional heights whatsoever?

Yes, it is.

And 3+ hours is far too much to invest in a show so devoid of delights.


As one who loves this material, I found it impossible to love this production.

Anonymous said...

I read followspot because I have a friend in the theater community who showed it to me last year. I never knew about it before that, and would never have looked for it, because I'm not a performer, nor a member of the "theater community" in any respect.

When I read the posts here, it seems they are exclusively from the theater community -- people whose point of view can appear tainted by their over-familiarity with certain works and with backstage elements of production in general.

I know someone who's in Les Mis, and I have many acquaintances who have bought tickets and seen the show. I know my acquaintances have seen it only because I mention having seen it myself and knowing someone in it, then others tell me they have too, and rave about their magical experiences with it.

Recently, I also received an e-mail from one acquaintance who I told I have a friend in the show. I have never received another e-mail from this person, but he sat down to write me because he hoped I could pass his feelings along to my friend for sharing.

I thought it might be nice to post his remarks on followspot, because I'm certain he's never heard of this site, and he's never known anyone directly involved in the theater community. So, he may have a less jaded, less clinical, yet still meaningful point of view.

Deleting the greeting, here is what he wrote:
"Both my wife and I were blown away with the Broadway Rose production of Les Mis. We have been to lots of theater productions, including a couple of New York Broadway plays, lots of Broadway touring productions at Keller Auditorium and a handful of local theater company plays. We both agreed that this was the best stage play we have ever seen, not even counting that it was in competition with major stage productions.

We found ourselves shedding lots of tears, both of sadness and of joy. The actors were wonderful, the lyrics powerful and completely understandable, the music thrilling and the staging amazing. Please ask [name omitted] to give those involved with this wonderful show our deepest thanks and most heartfelt congratulations!"

I post this e-mail not only to pass along his thanks as requested, but also to balance some of the detached critiques and analyses made here on followspot with a spontaneous remark by a random person who is a true representative of the public that all productions are seeking to draw in, and to please.

Is is better to get praise from someone who's seen a dozen productions of the same show and laments that now that they've memorized every word, note, sound cue, and prior cast list, the magic is gone? Or is better to receive praise from someone who reaches out to theater as a hopeful observer only, to excape from his every day world and give him some of the pleasure and growth that makes life worth living?

Not being a theater person, I can't answer that question. But as an audience member, and a person who feels my life is enriched immeasurably when I am touched by theater, I hope the opinions of those of us who are not jaded by saturation mean something to the performers who touch our souls.

I will add my personal awe and thanks to every single member of the cast and crew of this production. I hope touching my heart, and the hearts of thousands of others this summer, is not eclipsed by the remarks you read here from those who sometimes seem to take inexplicable pride in both being unimpressed, and in telling everyone else that they are.

Anonymous said...

What an interesting -- and thoughtful -- comment.

I share many of your reactions, opinions except the conclusion ...

Even with the production's general lack of emotional depth, it was SOOoooo worth the time and money ...

Did it blow me away? Not completely. Was I fully engaged and entertained? Absolutely.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Are we twins? I was planning to post some of the EXACT same things as you!

Unfortunately, this show was not emotionally moving. I did not feel anything, which is too bad. I was rooting for them.

I'm guessing that the reason for the pit's shortcomings was lack of time. I'd guess that they practiced with the cast for 1.5 weeks, tops.

I did not feel like I was "there" for a minute, which is too bad. I was 100% aware that I was sitting in a theatre watching a production of Les Miserables. I was not transported.

I personally hate it when members of a cast just sing the songs plain. In real life, you don't talk in rythem and rhyme perfectly. So why would you sing a song in 100% perfect rythem and NOT do it like a monologue? Many lead roles in the cast did not take one single liberty with the music to make the material their own. Therefore, I didn't buy that the actors were the characters.

Great sets, great voices, great material.

I walked out of the theater the exact same person that I was before. I was dissapointed. I've seen this production before, and was moved to tears MULTIPLE times. I did not feel any tears at all.

Great acting performances from Enjolras and Thenardier.

Sorry. I WANTED to be transported and personally affected.

Anonymous said...

A thoughtful and mostly well-reasoned review. . . However, I agree with almost none of it. All of the reasons I disagree have been enumerated on this thread, so I won't reiterate.

That being said, kudos for well-supported arguments and the right to have an opinion!

You are spot-on about the heart of the youth cast and the suspension of disbelief that they were afforded - you drew that distinction with aplomb. . . . and that is precisely what people mean when they say that the youth cast must be (and is, no matter what people say) evaluated and received with a completely different lens than this performance. Yes, the stakes and the expectations are much higher. Whether this show meets those or not is a matter of debate.

One question... the comparison of Drake to Reilly. I personally didn't see it, but...what's your point?

Ben Waterhouse said...

Latest anonimo: While I find your comments entirely mysterious, I'll respond to just one. Although Stephen wrote a few reviews for Willamette Week over the year and a half he freelanced for us, he was never the theater critic. That's me. Stephen was our classical music critic, and a damn good one.

A question: Why did you go if you were determined to hate the show?

Anonymous said...

James Drake is dreamy. He not only has a voice that won't quit, he's got a sweet spirit that shines through his character. You can see why all the girls in the show fall for him!

How can so many people say that a show had a great cast, great voices, and great sets, but somehow they just didn't like it anyway? Such comments seem to say more about the person writing than they do about the show. If someone is intent on mentally measuring the length of a character's pants, they probably missed the immense emotion that was evident from the knees up.

It seems disingenuous to say: "I wanted to like it," list all the outstanding characteristics, then end with "but it didn't move me." The very grudging way in which so many outstanding elements must be acknowledged speaks volumes.

Anonymous said...

on the contrary my friend of 8:59a.m.
there is no need to be defensive.
the show started with 100 points and then went downhill. i was but an observer.
the issue of the boots damaging the show is a valid one.
attention to detail is of paramount importance in the theatre.
the fact that the antagonist's boots were ill fitting and poorly chosen (and just the same as some that other characters wore) meant to me that not enough care was taken in choosing them.
this then became the symptom for many of the other ingedients in the production.
careless.
not enough attention to detail.
it fell short.

i am sorry i hurt your feelings though.
peace.

Anonymous said...

i know exactly how you feel.
those of you who keep writing to defend this show.
it's your baby. you will do anything to protect its honor.
it is a part of you. to you it is special and magical.
i have advice i hope will offer you some comfort.
first off:
with very few exceptions, the people who post on this site are one of two types.
they are cast or company members or friends and family of the production.
these comments are worthless.
then there are those who have motives that are less than honorable.
these are petty and spiteful posts. they wish to hurt and to punish.
these are equally worthless.
about one in 25 posts, i would guess, are from a party who has no ax to grind, no dog in the hunt, as it were.
they do not hate nor love anyone involved with the show.
they are neutral.
these posts are invaluable.
now, having said that, they may still hurt your feelings and send you to your keyboard with a mission, and a finely tuned, expertly buttressed argument, with exhibits A,B and C.
(like letters of praise from "someone")
but don't waste your time.
the only questions you need ask yourself are these:
did my friends and family like it?
do the audiences like it?
am i doing a good job?
will the theatre survive to produce again?
will they hire me again.
that's it.
if you don't want to suffer through all the bullshit on this site, then for pete's sake don't read it!
at least not until after you close.
in fact if you wait a few weeks, you will see that the words have little effect on you after the fact.
you will have moved on.
you may even find yourself agreeing with the posts (the one in 25 "real" ones anyway).
you may find that the truth is there and that it is not so bad.
constructive observations are hard to stomach in the heat of battle. but after the smoke has cleared, you may even find that you will learn something from that "dispassionate" pair of eyes.
the earnest and honest poster only wants to help, afterall.
so that theatre in portland might get better and better.

Anonymous said...

maybe if there were something going on behind leif's eyes, folks would not be looking at his boots.

followspot said...

Moderating this thread has become increasingly difficult as a number of comments are quite mean-spirited and thus are not posted. Please keep this in mind when posting.

Anonymous said...

this is not meant to be a personal attack but I have seen Leif Norby perform quite a bit and I just don't get what all the stir is about. His voice is not that strong as a singer but I do think he has some strenghts as an actor though that are special but certainly not at a "theatre god" status. I would like to see his work up against really strong Union actors outside of Portland. I think this would give us all a better perspective on what constitutes a theatre god. Just my thoughts..hope I'm not castrated online for communicating them.

Anonymous said...

This was an amazing show. One of the best ones I've seen in Portland. Leif Norby is incredible.

Anonymous said...

i agree that leif is certainly an overrated performer, a heck of a nice guy and that there is nothing wrong with a certain amount of admiration.
but just like over the top criticism, over the top praise really serves no one's best interests.

AndyLee said...

Not meant as castration but.....Maybe you can suggest that followspot open a page about Leif.
I believe this one is for comments on Les Mis.
Which, by the way I thought was BRTC most ambitious project to date.
Great singing and production values except the sound (Hallberg needs to be replaced I've seen several shows at different venues that he did a botch job on this year) and the orchestra was sloooooooooooow.
Loved that the company were all local. Big A+
Thank you BRTC
AL

Joe Theissen said...

Hi Everyone-

I just wanted to take a moment to weigh in - I think that I have developed some skills and talents that may be of use to the world in a really awesome way.

Just so you know, I am an expert in all forms of theatre and I have a magic potion that I take which makes all things subjective become 100% objective. It's kind of rad.

I have seen approximately 8 gajillion shows, mostly incredbly better-than-your-type shows, including some edgy-way-cooler-than-you shows and a lot of higher-deeper-poeticker-transformationaler shows. Also some Broadway shows at the Keller.

When I see shows, I am able to view them with no biases or preconceived notions whatsoever. I do this through the practice of meditation and acupuncture, coupled with my own blend of herbal tea. This unbiased lens that I'm able to create (patent pending) makes me capable of assessing any form of theatre with the clearest and most informed mind in all the land, and makes me the definitive and ultimate authority on what is good theatre and what is bad.

When I watch an actor perform, I rid myself of the knowledge of all past performances, reviews, publicity, shoe-size, ethnic background, or any other information that may affect my feelings about the performance. This is what makes my opinions so superior to everyone else's. Even if someone totally pissed me off in the past - I totally don't factor that in.

I have also read all the plays there are, so my intellectualish side is super developed as well, and I can put things in a context that no one else can.

Finally, I know simply EVERYONE (except anyone in the plays - I have no friends in any plays - that helps.) So yeah - I know EVERYONE - especially the directors. This means that I have a special awareness of their intentions and the reasoning behind everything they do. Luckily, I am able to forget all of this information when I see the shows, which is why I'm so great and awesome as a critiquer and teller of what has artistic integrity.

So, yeah - I thought Les Mis was good.

Signed,
Joe

P.S. I was not in the cast or anything, and I don't know anyone in the cast r anything. Promise.

Anonymous said...

Joe Theissen that was great! It's so great to know that not everyone has lost they're theatrical minds here in PDX and that JT is exposed for what he is..a wolf in sheeps clothing.

Anonymous said...

this show was about a 6.
if you want a 10, see it on broadway.
and anyone who writes about theatre on here and claims that it is good, and who has never seen a b'way show in nyc, is full of blue sky.
if a 6 is the best you have ever seen, how would you know it was only a 6?
to you it's a 10 and god bless.

Ben Waterhouse said...

Joe Theissen is hilarious (and absolutely correct). The few gripes in my review aside, I loved this show. Keep up the excellent work, everyone.

Anonymous said...

About the pit...a famous music teacher once said to a famous musician...you are only as good as your accompaniment. Otherwise interpreted as...if the orchestra is too slow or fast, too loud and under-rehearsed, this will affect the overall quality of the performance. No matter how good your voices are, no matter how emotionally connected the actors are to their characters/intentions/etc...the instrumentalists can break the deal! Even for the non-musically trained ear. This is the difference between an A-rated show (Broadway, London,etc.) and a local show, such as in Portland. Perhaps it is up to the director to demand a higher quality of orchestral accompaniment. This also applies to proper "period" clothing, needing to be in proportion to an actors body size. I, too, was niggly in my seat with "the boots", trite as it may read.

Anonymous said...

It really is an interesting read going through these posts. I went to see the show with my husband and friends last week and I enjoyed it. I'm not convinced my friends really did but its less of 'Their thing' than ours. I thought the set was great and didn't really notice the costumes not being quite right. I did however find that although many of the cast had good voices, not a whole lot of emotion came through. Some did use some artistic license and spoke rather than sing at some parts but it just didn't work for me. I was also surprised at the casting of young Cossette. She seemed to old for the part. I know there were 2 girls playing the role but I'm not sure which one played the night I was there. She also seemed rather nervous as she wasn't always in tune.

I have seen Les Mis in London and also 'Staged' production earlier this year. I agree that people did have different 'lenses' while watching the youth production but even so I found the experience from their production much more moving.I also recently discovered that the cast won an ensemble award and the kid playing Gavroche won youth performer award!

It would be great if we could all be as unbiased as Joe Theissen but alas he is unique. Overall a great show though and quite a feat to take it on.
SR

Anonymous said...

James Drake..shame on you. Performers in show's shouldn't be posting about they're own show. Your better than that. And yes if a show is being produced and performed on B'Way in NYC it's going to be 10x's better than anything in portland and you know that too. I love you man but your off base on this one.

Anonymous said...

I have to say I find this entire situation a bit ironic. Throughout the Staged! Les Mis run, authors on this post were telling the kids to "take their medicine", "learn to accept criticism", "it's all part of the business", etc. Perhaps the cast members in Broadway Rose's show should do the same. There are too many authors on this thread stating the same opinion about a lack of emotional connection for it not to have some validity. Perhaps, just maybe perhaps, cast members, here's some truth to it, and you should follow the advice you gave so freely?

Ben Waterhouse said...

Hold on a sec—why shouldn't James Drake respond to criticism of his show, as long as he signs his name? That's far more useful, in my mind, than all this anonymous bashing coming from who knows how many people (my guess is two). People see no problem with giving me grief when I critique their work, and I think that's their right. Give the man a chance.

As for emotional connection—I found this show more emotionally effective (on opening night) than any musical I've seen in this town since I moved here in 2002, despite the iffy orchestra. And I'm glad no one took the artistic liberty of "talking through their parts." That's annoying. The show is written with a complete score, and should be sung as such.

You have trouble relating to the material? Who can blame you? It's about an obscure uprising 19th Century France—not exactly the stuff of epics.

Anonymous said...

another way to say it is:
just because this is the best experince you've ever had doing a show, does not mean it is the best experience the audience has had watching a show.
you need to be ok with that.

Cheryl S. said...

The previous anon was right.

On one side you have:
- BRTC cast members who are defensive of their project and not in any way objective
- loved ones said BRTC cast members
- a smattering of people who truly like the show

On the other side you have
- STAGED cast members & possibly production staff who were stung by comments on their show and are loaded for bear to smack down this one in retaliation
- loved ones of said STAGED cast members
a smattering of people who truly didn't like the show

This thread is unfortunate, and is a reminder of precisely how much credence any of us ought to be lending this blog. At its best, Followspot is a vibrant forum. At its worst, it is a den of egomaniacs given anonymity to hurl pretend roses and pretend thorns at one another. It is a place where insecure people in search of public validation are able to delude themselves into believing that they can sway consensus by inventing a public reaction that doesn't truly exist.

I know for a fact that there are posts here from l of the above mentioned groups. It's one thing to post anonymously because you know your true opinions are controversial. It is quite another thing to post anonymously to try to make someone else look bad, or to try to create the impression that your opinion is shared by the genera public.

I urge all those with such strong biases to delete their posts, good or bad. Go ahead, do it. You know who you are. BRTC cast member trying to talk up the show? You know who you are. Delete it. STAGED cast member still angry about your perceived mistreatment on your thread? You know who you are. Delete it.

Have some honor, people. This thread makes me sad. I know that we all have the instinct to protect and defend ourselves, and we in this industry have especially fragile egos.

I've always supported anonymous posting, but this is ridiculous - it lowers the level of the whole blog.

Please do it - if your biases are that strong, you have no business posting, so delete.

Cheryl said...

anon 8:29

It's interesting that you equate the authors of the earlier STAGED thread to the cast members of the BRTC show. That seems like misplaced frustration. They were not necessarily the ones who posted the "take your medicine" sentiments, so why do you draw such a direct connection back to them? And where is your frustration coming from? Are you connected to the STAGED production, or just a miraculous hero with an amazing memory swooping in on their behalf?

This is the kind of bitchiness I was describing. Get over it, kids - or should I say get above it.

Anonymous said...

Well, let me begin by saying that I'm not affiliated with either cast in any way, but have seen both shows.

The truth is: the shows are TOO DIFFERENT to be truly compared.

The one put on by Staged was very personal and emotional. It lacked any real production assets.

The one put on by Broadway Rose was an epic opera. All the production assets were exceptional, but it lacked a soul.

One was young professionals under 21, one was all adults (minus the little kids).

They both had ok pits.

Truth is, they are both very unique pieces. Really, the only thing in common is the score and characters.

Both were phenominal in some areas, and lacked in others.

If you want to cry at Les Mis, I think you missed your chance. If you want to be wowed by what a regional theatre can do with the best voices and production assets in town, it's still running at BWR.

One final thing: after the comments about the thread on the other Les Mis, I went back and read the whole thing. If you take away that posts about taking critisicm like a pro and "suck it up," 95% of the comments were true raves about the emotional depth and heart of the show, and how moving and beautiful it was. So, the show was great, but the kids WERE immature in posting and defendng their show.

Both solid shows...can't we just be happy that 2 totally different companies put on 2 totally different shows and succeded in 2 totally different ways?

Anonymous said...

Closed last Sunday
move on folks move on
nothing more to see here

Anonymous said...

So many experienced theater-goers and actors and reviewers on here say that the show didn't reach emotional heights, the orchestra was bad, the female vocals weren't good, etc.

Me and my friend (both 13) went to see the show last July. We are both experienced actresses (for our age -- we work at the local children's theater). Neither of us could find a single thing to complain about after the show. It completely blew us away. We had never seen Les Miserables before, so maybe it was just the shock of the story and music, not necessarily Broadway Rose's execution. But most peopel who go to see plays aren't critiquers like you guys commenting are!

So, from the opinion of a more main-stream audience member, this musical was probably the most moving, brilliant play I have ever seen. Maybe I'm weird, but I can't even imagine how someone could have walked away from that theater without being blown out of their mind. Almost a year later, I still think of that production often. I hope that someday I will become as talented as some of the actors and actresses I saw that night in July!

Anonymous said...

good for you!
now let me add to that a bit.
you are hardly "mainstream" as you say.
there are not a lot of 13 yr olds at most theatres.
second:
in the world of theatre criticism, there is a long-standing debate as to which of two things is preferable in a reviewer:
A) that he knows no more about theatre than the average person, so that he sees exactly what the average person sees or
B) that he knows everything there is to know about theatre so that he can inform and educate the audience.

no one has ever come up with a "winner" to that question, but i can say this about your response to the show.
first of all: GREAT
you were inspired and you will pursue theatre!
that is the single greatest thing that could happen.

second: if this production blew your mind, then the b'way version would probably have killed you dead.
it was so superior in every imaginable way.
if the tigard production was a 10 in your mind, then i have seen a 20
Even the roadshow that has come thru twice to pdx was a 20.
when and if you see a b'way show, your life will change forever.

you may never get the first impression of this one out of your mind, nor should you -- it clearly had a great effect on you.
but when you see a better version you won't believe your eyes.
again i say
good for you!!!
keep going to theatre.

Anonymous said...

I liked the teen show better.

Anonymous said...

well the teen show had more heart to be sure.
we tend to give young performers a large dose of willing suspension of disbelief because we know they are only imitating adult behavior.
but young casts are often better than adult ones for the simple reason that it is important to them--the commit fully.
and they seem ego-less.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to Broadway Rose on your Drammy wins for this show Well deserved.