Sweeney Todd – The Demon of Fleet Street Provides Murder, Mayhem and Brit Wit at Signature Theatre

 Sweeney Todd – The Demon of Fleet Street Provides Murder, Mayhem and Brit Wit at Signature Theatre

Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Signature Theatre
Jordan Wright
May 26, 2023
Special to The Zebra

Nathaniel Stampley (Sweeney Todd) and Ian McEuen (Pirelli) in Sweeney Todd at Signature Theatre. (Photo/Margot Schulman)

Set in the darkest environs of London we find Sweeney Todd just released from prison and plunged into a life of murder and mayhem, a topic popular with virtuous Victorians and their high-minded devotion to morality and manners. Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street provides us with a singularly depraved and vengeful killer, a man “who would blink and rats would scuttle” as he “served a dark and vengeful god”, underpinned by the intelligent beauty of Stephen Sondheim’s brilliant score with book by Hugh Wheeler.

Columns of screeching steam announce the opening scene as the characters enter from the aisles. We hear the plaintively beautiful operatic voice of the Beggar Woman (Rayanne Gonzalez) as she portends the evils that await and we meet handsome, young Anthony Hope (note the surname) (Paul Scanlan), a sailor who saved Sweeney’s life in a shipwreck and who arrives in London to find Todd and ask for a favor in return.

Katie Mariko Murray (Johanna) and Paul Scanlan (Anthony Hope) in Sweeney Todd at Signature Theatre. (Photo/Christopher Mueller)

Mrs. Lovett (Bryonha Marie), an ambitious and wily widow with a failing meat pie shop and soon to become the lover and murderous accomplice of Sweeney (Nathaniel Stampley), appears in her establishment bemoaning the high price of meat while noting how all the neighbor’s cats have disappeared. They soon strike up an unusual and diabolical alliance and, in a stroke of business genius, Mrs. Lovett (note the surname) provides Todd with a tonsorial parlor above her shop where they gleefully combine the two disparate businesses. “Think of it as thrift,” she chirps ominously.

The musical is a tale of love, loss and revenge merrily served up in all its carnivorous glory with a spot of tea and a stiff upper lip. A grisly horror story dripping with blood and British humor and some of the most notably creative of Sondheim’s music and lyrics. And, not to worry, my pet, it’s also gifts us with an acerbic side-eye and biting gallows humor.

Bryonha Marie (Mrs. Lovett) and Nathaniel Stampley (Sweeney Todd) in Sweeney Todd at Signature Theatre. (Photo/Christopher Mueller)

As for our leads, Marie and Stampley, there could not be a more perfect casting of these two actors who both support and contrast each other. Stampley, portrays a gloomy figure of a man who stalks and broods in tenor splendor and who conveys all the evil in the wider world. He is matched only by the broad expressiveness, charm, and magical vocals of Bryonha Marie. They are superb together.

Scenic Designer Mikiko Suzuki Macadams reflects London’s gritty underbelly with the dark and dirty greys of its 19th century warehouse district complementing Costume Designer Robert Perdziola’s vision of ladies in muted grey dresses – save for our heroine Johanna who is a vision in white linen. Director Sarna Lapine creates a scene of constantly swirling dramatic intrigue and a clever concept to mimic the appearance of blood (of which there is much) using thin, red streamers to palatably capture the mendacity afoot.

Of particular note are performances by Katie Mariko Murray who plays sweet, innocent Johanna, Todd’s long-lost daughter; Harrison Smith as Tobias Ragg, the couple’s wide-eyed hapless assistant; John Leslie Wolfe as the libidinous Judge Turpin who keeps Joanna in an actual birdcage; Christopher Michael Richardson as The Beadle; and Ian McEuen as Pirelli, Todd’s Italian challenger to the title of best barber.

Choreographed by Alison Solomon and conducted by Jon Kabfleisch commanding a 15-piece orchestra for the full-on experience.

Highly recommended.

With an ensemble to include Benjamin Lurye, Jimmy Mavrikes, Bob McDonald, Adelina Mitchell (doubling as Dance Captain), Crystal Mosser, Lawrence Redmond (doubling as Fight Captain), Katherine Riddle, Sarah Anne Sillers and Chani Wereley.

Through July 9th at Signature Theatre in Shirlington Village, 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA 22206. For tickets and information visit www.SigTheatre.org or call the box office at 703 820-9771.

The Crazy Amazing World of the Dearly Departed Rocks the National Theatre in Beetlejuice

The Crazy Amazing World of the Dearly Departed Rocks the National Theatre in Beetlejuice

Beetlejuice – The Musical
Broadway at the National
National Theatre
Jordan Wright
May 17, 2023
Special to The Zebra

(Photo /Matthew Murphy, 2022)

Confession 1.0: I had never seen the 1988 Academy Award-winning Tim Burton movie, Beetlejuice, nor TV series based on it.  Call me a Beetlejuice virgin.

Backstory: After a brief tryout here at the National Theatre in 2018, Beetlejuice headed to Broadway and the famed Winter Garden Theatre in 2019. The show had less than a year’s run before the pandemic hit shutting down all productions in early 2020. Nominated for eight Tony Awards in nearly every category and garnering a win for “Outstanding Set Design”, it proved to be a huge success. Luckily for us it’s back in town and killin’ it on its first national tour. All that goes to say that the audience, some garbed in the black-and-white stripes favored by Beetlejuice, consisted of legions of fans of the quirky-cool story and its rock concert vibe.

Reality: It’s a show about death and the newly dead – in the best possible way, I promise – with an utterly irreverent script, electrifying rock music and hilarious lyrics fronted by a tremendously talented cast of singers and dancers, a blazing rock band and dazzling light show. Be prepared to embrace the far side. Can you love the living dead? They’ll prove you can and will.

(Photo /Matthew Murphy, 2022)

The cast in this show is wonderful. From lead demon, Beetlejuice, played to the hilt and heavy on vaudevillian schtick by veteran improv comedian and rock singer, Justin Collette, to the breathtaking vocals of newcomer Isabella Esler who plays young Lydia, the Goth-garbed daughter grieving the untimely death of her mother. Esler has a stunning powerhouse voice tempered by an adorable sweetness that left me and my plus-one wide-eyed in its wake. Chills and thrills.

Picture a young couple, Barbara (Britney Coleman) and Adam (Will Burton) living in a decaying Victorian house longing for a child yet consumed with their individual hobbies. In an unfortunate incident in the dark of night they accidently electrocute themselves and are banished to the netherworld. Beetlejuice, who is “dying” to return amongst the living, needs someone to say his name three times. He cajoles the couple into haunting their old house, so he can con the new homeowners. To accomplish his nefarious ends, the slippery, double-crossing, gravelly-voiced specter unleashes a crazy amazing world of pandemonium filled with dancing skeletons and singing zombies. Enter Delia (the delightful, scene-stealing Kate Marilley), a guru-loving seductress accompanied by her business-obsessed lover and father of Lydia, Charles (Jesse Sharp), who buy the now-haunted house where Barbara and Adam are merrily ensconced in the attic reading “The Handbook for the Recently Deceased” and preparing to pounce on the unsuspecting trio with ghoulish abandon.

(Photo /Matthew Murphy, 2022)

Truly one of the funniest, most energetic, wonderfully choreographed shows – high praise for the endearingly creepy characters – this reviewer has ever seen. Schtick rules! A huge cast propelled by a kick-ass band and rock star voices send this musical beyond the beyond. If I published all the bios of cast and crew, you would have a star-studded list of some of the best-known Broadway performers and designers, most notably Director Alex Timbers (Moulin Rouge!); Original Score by Eddie Perfect (King Kong); with Book by Scott Brown (Castle Rock) and Anthony King (Robbie); Choreography by Connor Gallagher (The Robber Bridegroom); David Korins (Scenic Designer on Hamilton); Six-time Tony Award-winning Costume Designer William Ivey Long; Tony Award winner Kenneth Posner (Kinky Boots); with Sound Design by Peter Hylenski (Moulin Rouge!); the fabulous projection design of Peter Nigrini (Dear Evan Hansen); Puppet Design by Michael Curry (The Lion King); and Special Effects Design by Jeremy Chernick (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child)… to name but a handful of the extraordinary creative team.

With Abe Goldfarb as Priest/Otho/Census Taker; Danielle Marie Gonzalez as Miss Argentina; Jackera Davis as Girl Scout; and the indelible Kris Roberts as Juno; plus a 13-person ensemble and 11-person orchestra with searing synthesizers.

Drop dead fabulous! Grab your tickets while you can!

(Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2022)

Through May 28th at the National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20004. For tickets and information call the box office at 202 628-6161 or visit www.TheNationalDC.com.  (The show is recommended for 10+ due to mature references and strong language and as the press release says, “a lot of crazy, inappropriate stuff you would expect from a deranged demon.”)

A Love Letter to Audrey Hepburn Premieres as Part of Creative Cauldron’s “Bold New Works” Series

A Love Letter to Audrey Hepburn Premieres as Part of Creative Cauldron’s “Bold New Works” Series

Audrey: The New Musical
Creative Cauldron
Jordan Wright
May 18, 2022
Special To The Zebra

Santiago Alfonzo Mesa and Rebecca Ballinger (Photo by William Gallagher)

Audrey: The New Musical is Danielle E. Moore’s paean to the late stage and screen star. Moore, who wrote the book, music and lyrics, is a young writer and producer whose ambitious project and fondness for Ms. Hepburn gave her the inspiration to create this musical based on the extraordinary life and fascinating relationships of the actress and noted humanitarian. Produced as part of Creative Cauldron’s “Regional Bold New Works” program, the production is directed by Laura Connors Hull who had her hands full putting in place a lot of moving parts from a large cast, tons of choreography by Morgan Arravillaga, and a host of musical numbers (for some unexplained reason unlisted in the program). That there is enough material in Hepburn’s life to form an entire show, of that there is no doubt. Yet the writer’s job of condensing her career while still including the many facets of her wartime experiences in Nazi-occupied Holland, appears monumental.

Front Row: Bianca Lipford, Rebecca Ballinger, Lindsey Jacobsen, Lenny Mendez Back Row: Santiago Alfonzo Meza, Ricky Drummond, Tyler Cramer. (Photo by William Gallagher)

As a young girl living under extraordinarily dangerous conditions Hepburn worked for the Dutch Resistance relaying messages to the opposition, even losing a member of her own noble family to the Nazis, all while studying for a career as a ballerina. Moore splits Audrey’s life in two presenting us with Audrey as the young ballet dancer (Morgan Arrivillaga) alongside her rise to Hollywood stardom and peppering the plot with a compilation of the many familiar faces of the period including her domineering husband, Spanish actor Mel Ferrer (Santiago Alfonzo Meca); William Holden (Ricky Drummond), a serial womanizer; Colette, the celebrated French writer who penned Gigi, Hepburn’s first Broadway show, and who wrote Ondine, one of Hepburn’s earliest film successes. Subsequent stars whirl in and out of her life – Fred Astaire, Marilyn Monroe, Warner Brothers studio head, the bombastic Jack Warner and Edith Head (Bianca Lipford) who as one of the most famed costume designers in Hollywood designed many of Hepburn’s looks for film. Even Givenchy, the Paris fashion designer whose glamorous designs she wore both in an out of her films is featured as is Rex Harrison who starred with her in My Fair Lady which earned her a second Academy Award.

Rebecca Ballinger and Garrett Matthews (Photo by William Gallagher)

There’s a lot of Audrey’s life represented here including the constellation of celebrities she knew, all crammed into this musical about a woman whose career didn’t end on the stage and screen and who was beloved later in life as representative for UNICEF while traveling the globe on humanitarian missions. But the musical does feel like let’s-throw-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-on-the-stage and see what sticks. And that’s the dilemma. What’s important? What’s exciting? What yields the most drama/comedy/pathos/humor? It’s all here, and much of it is interesting. Lots to process. Yet, I’d prefer to see it pared down. Is a bit with Marilyn Monroe really necessary? Do we need to meet all those famous men in Audrey’s life? Too many to reflect on. Why toss in Ella Fitzgerald (Cynthis Davis) who appears in a Paris café for two numbers? What’s the point? There is enough material here for two separate musicals (I was relieved not to witness a reenactment of Audrey’s funeral). It’s a Herculean effort that needs refinement. But, wow! I was mightily impressed with the effort and felt if a more senior production team were involved, this could see a Broadway stage someday. The concept is very clever and the writing and research show that Moore has done her homework on her idol.


All that said, huge kudos to Costume Designer Margie Jervis, who does double duty as Scenic Designer, and whose elegant costumes in the My Fair Lady’s Ascot Races scene were spot on as well as creating the Givenchy (Tyler Cramer) look-alike dresses and a few 1950’s Edith Head designed costumes taken from Audrey’s films. Smaller details were noticeable in the props where period movie cameras and flashbulb-popping handheld cameras used by reporters in trench coats were perfectly retro. And an extra special shout-out to the Stage Manager (Nicholas J. Goodman) who had too many cues to count.

The locally known cast did a bang-up job on the small stage, but the star of the show was clearly the delightfully pixie-like Rebecca Ballinger who nailed Audrey’s clipped British accent and snappy repartee. So well-cast, she even had Audrey’s swan neck, feathery qualities and lithe figure.

Through June 4th at Creative Cauldron, 410 South Maple Avenue, Falls Church, VA 22046. For tickets and information call the box office at 703 436-9948 or visit www.CreativeCauldron.org.

A Directorial Triumph and Flawless Cast Reign in Mary Stuart at The Little Theatre of Alexandria

A Directorial Triumph and Flawless Cast Reign in Mary Stuart at The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Mary Stuart
The Little Theatre of Alexandria
Jordan Wright
April 24, 2023
Special to The Zebra

Thomas O’Neill, Maria Ciarrocchi (Photo/Matt Liptak)

Two women, two countries, two rulers, two religions. For Mary Stuart Queen of Scots (Sarah Cusenza), it becomes a fight for her life when she is imprisoned by her cousin Elizabeth I Queen of England (Maria Ciarrocchi). While in her cell Mary has only her faithful nursemaid Hanna Kennedy to confide in, Elizabeth has legions of lords acting as her councilors. That doesn’t prove to be as useful as one might imagine when we see how their self-serving machinations muddy Elizabeth’s resolve.

In 1587 England is in a precarious state since Henry VIII divorced as a Catholic (Heaven forfend!) and converted to Protestantism. Wacky six-time wedded Henry even called his daughter Elizabeth a bastard child, but she wound up with the throne so sticks and stones didn’t throw shade on her after all. As for the never-married “Virgin Queen” Elizabeth, it seems she came away with some wisdom after witnessing the knavish ways of good old dad and decided to keep single. Plagued by the divergent views of her lords, she vacillates on what to do with Mary. Will it be more favorable to her reputation if she is seen to be sympathetic to Mary? Should she let her return unharmed to Scotland or show her the scaffold? If you know your history, you’ll know how that played out.

John Paul Odle, Sarah Cusenza (Photo/Matt Liptak)

Set in the 16th century, the play draws from a Shakespearean style of drama to reflect the bloody history within castle walls. Conspiracy, double dealing, spying, jealousy and murder are all on the table in this riveting political drama by author Peter Oswald. As the conniving Lord Burleigh (John Henderson) tells Elizabeth when a plot to murder her is revealed, “You must kill or be killed.” But whom should Elizabeth trust among the flatterers and sycophants? She has already survived three assassination attempts on her life. Each woman feels trapped. Mary in prison and Elizabeth in obeisance to her countrymen, “O, appalling servitude,” she laments.

Maria Ciarrocchi (Photo/Matt Liptak)

We must remember how very young these women were when they took the throne. Elizabeth was 25 years old. At that time a woman had never reigned in England before. Mary was a mere six days old when her father James V of Scotland died, and she was the only living heir. Although she was brought up in the lap of luxury and culture in France, she returned to Scotland and ascended to the throne at a mere girl of 19. Both women so young and with extraordinary power.

Maria C, Sarah Cusenza, Sally Cusenza, Paul Donahoe (Photo/Matt Liptak)

Since the play centers around Mary, it must have a strong actress, one who will imbue her performance with deep emotion and the gravitas befitting her role as a queen. I was totally taken with the acting brilliance of Sarah Cusenza whose Scottish accent was spot on and who held the stage with tremendous aplomb.

Mary Stuart is a powerful production, and it is flawless. You could hear a pin drop in the audience so fascinating are the story and the character’s interactions. Jaw-dropping period costumes by Juliana Cofrancesco, Abbie Mulberg, Carol Pappas and Robin Worthington coexist with Matt Liptak’s Elizabethan period set design to perfectly frame the pulsating action.

The Little Theatre has surprised this reviewer with yet another excellent production and a directorial triumph by Kathleen Barth who has assembled an impressive cast to manifest her vision.

Highly recommended.

With Sally Cusenza as Hanna Kennedy; John Paul Odle as Mortimer; Kirk Lambert as Amias; John Henderson as William Cecil, Lord Burleigh; John Barclay Burns as Count Aubespine and Melvil; Richard Fiske as Count Bellievre and Kent; Paul Donahoe as George Talbot; Stuart Fischer as Dungeon Drury and William Davison; Thomas O’Neill as Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester; Lee Swanson as Officer and Sheriff; Sam Beeson as O’Kelly and Page.

Dramaturg, Griffin Voltmann; Lighting Design by Matthew Cheney; Sound Design by Janice Rivera; Makeup and Hair Design by Robin Maline and Lanae Sterrett; Dialect Coach Hilary Adams.

Through May 13th at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. For tickets and information visit www.TheLittleTheatre.com or call the box office at 703 683-0496.

A Splendiferous Aladdin Wows Audiences at the National Theatre

A Splendiferous Aladdin Wows Audiences at the National Theatre

Broadway at the National
National Theatre
Jordan Wright
April 20, 2023
Special to The Zebra

Marcus M. Martin (Genie) and Company (Photo/Deenvan Meer)

For those in love with fantasy and adventure with a whole heap of razmatazz, Disney’s Aladdin sits at the at the pinnacle of Broadway extravaganzas. There hasn’t been a production with more glitter, more sequins, more light-reflecting crystal beads, bolts of diaphanous chiffon and soaring feathered turbans (what’s the plural of fez?) since the Ziegfeld’s Follies! The pyrotechnics and flashy projections alone make this a must-see. It’s all glitz and glamour set in an exotic imaginary city somewhere in Arabia.

Everything you might expect from a showstopper is all here in eye-popping splendor thanks to multiple Tony Award-winning Set Designer Bob Crowley. Moorish minarets loom over sword-wielding royal guardsmen and whirling dervishes as the handsome ne-er-do-well Aladdin (Adi Roy) encounters Princess Jasmine (Senzel Ahmady). Jasmine is determined to choose her own husband (She’s a liberated woman!) and experience life outside the stifling walls of the castle. To that end she has fled the overly protective arms of her father the Sultan (Sorab Wadia) and found her way to the marketplace among the commoners. Jasmine is one smart cookie and fiercely independent taking no guff from the evil Grand Vizier, Jafar (Anand Nagraj) and his comic minion, Iago (Aaron Choi).

Adi Roy as Aladdin (Photo/Deenvan Meer)

Aladdin and his pals Babkak (Jake Letts), Omar (Ben Chavez) and Kassim (Colt Prattes) live a life of petty thievery while Jasmine is trapped in a gilded cage. Nothing is easy in the kingdom of Agraba, but there’s a lot that’s hilarious. As Genie (played gloriously by Marcus M. Martin) explains in his in his usual wry tone, “Everyone here has zero body fat…” except for Genie who is a full-figured, jive-talking bundle of high-stepping, street-smart exuberance who can nail a medley of Disney show tunes as readily as he can grant three wishes.

There’s drama and frolic and frolicsome drama as Aladdin finds himself in the aurelian ‘Cave of Wonders’ having been sent by the wicked Jafar to fetch the Genie’s golden lamp. Predictably it’s a set up as Jafar plans to do away with our hero and keep the lamp for his nefarious machinations.

Jake Letts, Ben Chavez, and Roy Colt Prattes (Photo/Deenvan Meer)

But wait! Did I mention the magic carpet? Where would we be without a magic carpet to highlight Aladdin and Jasmine’s amorous vows to wed despite all odds? Traveling through the starry sky the pair soar above the stage in a flight of fantasy and wonder professing their love with one of the musical’s most memorable numbers “A Whole New World”.

A splendiferous production! Highly recommended. Bring your kids. Bring all the kids in the neighborhood!

Music by Alan Menken; Lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin; Book by Chad Beguelin; Directed and Choreographed by Casey Nicholaw; Costume Designs by Gregg Barnes; Lighting Design by Natasha Katz; Music Director/Conductor James Dodgson; Orchestrations by Danny Troob; Sound Design by Ken Travis.

Senzel Ahmady as Jasmine and Company (Photo/DeenvanMeer)

Through April 30th at the National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20004. For tickets and information visit www.TheNationalDC.com or call the box office at 202 628-6161.

A Resounding Mais Oui! for the Beloved Les Miserables at The Kennedy Center

A Resounding Mais Oui! for the Beloved Les Miserables at The Kennedy Center

Les Miserables
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Jordan Wright
April 16, 2022
Special to The Zebra

Nick Cartell as Jean Valjean (Photo/Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade)

The year was 1985 when Les Miserables hit London’s West End. It wowed critics then – Patti Lupone won the Laurence Olivier Award (Britain’s equivalent of an Oscar) for “Best Actress in a Musical” in her role as Fantine – and the musical was further nominated for two awards for “Best Actor in a Musical” (Colm Armstrong for Jean Valjean and Alun Armstrong for Thénardier). Through all its reincarnations, the operatic sing-through, based on the novel by Victor Hugo and backdropped by the French Revolution, still fills theaters around the world.

The spirit of this musical is as relevant as if Hugo had just set pen to paper. Let’s reflect on Louis XVI’s Ancien Régime’s agenda, shall we? Alienate the lower classes through starvation, then ignore science and reason. Keep monarchical rule in place amid mass resistance and cut taxes on the privileged nobles thus keeping the peasants and rising middle class at bay. Hmmm. Sound familiar? Didn’t work out so well for old Louis who was guillotined for his Draconian policies. Ah, well, he did help us out financially during the American Revolution.

“One Day More” from (Photo/Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade)

At its very soul is the heartbreaking love story of the abandoned prostitute Fantine (Haley Dortch) and the reformed thief Valjean (Nick Cartell) and Valjean’s death bed promise to adopt Fantine’s daughter Cosette (Cora Jane Messer as Cosette as a child and Addie Morales as Cosette all grown up). The story fans out with the heartwarming love story of the innocent Cosette and the idealistic Marius (Gregory Lee Rodriguez) with the tragic Éponine (Christine Heesun Hwang) and her unrequited love for her compatriot Marius. Set amid the glory and desperation of a revolution led by Enjolras (Devin Archer) that arose from social and economic inequality, there hasn’t been a story with as much 18th century history, nor as much inspirational music, till Hamilton arrived on the scene. And you know how that’s turned out.

Bawdier, rougher and lustier than I remember when I last saw it six years ago, this national touring company staging with its three-story sets has the fiery intensity of both the battle and escape scenes greatly realized with projections by Finn Ross and Fifty-Nine Productions who have drawn inspiration from the apocryphal paintings of Victor Hugo. And as grim as the story may be, the drama of Valjean’s misery is lightened up decidedly by the characters of Madame Thénardier (Christina Rose Hall) and her husband Thénardier (Matt Crowle) a hilariously dastardly duo who are the innkeepers of the iniquitous Au Sergent de Waterloo in Montfermeil where Cosette is raised in the cruelest of indentured servitude. Yet always chasing his past, Valjean repeatedly comes up against Javert (Preston Truman Boyd) who is determined to arrest him for his past crimes.

“Fall of Rain” – Christine Heesun Hwang as Éponine and Gregory Lee Rodriguez as Marius (Photo/Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade)

Whether you’ve seen it once or a dozen times, as I suspect many in the enthusiastic opening night audience had, Co-directors Laurence Connor and James Powell give us an awe-inducing production so magnificently staged, so brilliantly performed and so powerfully sung. Kudos too, for the evocative golden-hued scenes by Lighting Designer Paule Constable who conjures up street scenes reminiscent of Dutch artist Petrus van Schendel’s firelit paintings. Edge-of-your-seat new orchestrations by Christopher JahnkeStephen Metcalfe and Stephen Brooker are gloriously conducted by Music Director Jay Crowder’s Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra along with the show’s Traveling Orchestra led by Brian Eads.

On the night I saw it the magnificent voice of Nick Cartell received a well-deserved standing ovation and rousing cheers for his performance of Jean Valjean. I clung on his every note. Let me die right here! On his solos “Who Am I” and “Bring Him Home” wanting to run up to the stage and thank him personally. Also Gregory Lee Rodriguez’s tremendous solo “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables” which is a powerful ballad about survivor’s guilt. In an eyebrow-raising surprise, the audience stayed through all the bows and not one person fled before the lights went up. A rare sight in today’s theaters.

Absolutely brilliant in every way. Highly recommended!!!

“Red and Black” – Devin Archer as Enjolras and company

Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; Lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer; Original French Text by Alain Boubil and Jean-Marc Natel; Costumes by Andreane Neofitou.

Through April 29th at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F Street, NW, Washington, DC 20566. For tickets and information call the box office at 202 467-4600 or visit www.Kennedy-Center.org.