Tuesday, December 16, 2008

But I am le’ WOWed

Performance: Les Miserables
Theater: Signature Theater (4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA)
Metro: Pentagon (yellow and blue lines) and then a bus. Directions here.
Genre: The world’s favorite musical
Cost: from $30 or you can Usher. I am working on finding more deals
Dates: Extended thrugh February 22
Site: here
Rating: 5 “Starving Artists” (out of 5)

The problem with theater, especially musical theater, is that sometimes the audience can feel disconnected from the action. Theater is powerful because we, the audience, get to witness real people, having real emotion but the construct of the proscenium often separates us from those people. I saw a show last night that did not have that problem. Signature Theatre’s production of Les Misérables puts you on the Barricade.

Signature got special permission to do a production of Les Mis that is very different from the traditional staging. In fact, as I understand it, their agreement required that they omit certain iconic elements in order to ensure that this production was unique. Even thought it has a full cast and a large pit orchestra, the whole thing takes places in a black box theater that seats what I estimate to be about 100 people. Seats are set up on three full sides of the thrust so that the people find themselves no more than 5 rows from the action (or in the wrap-around balcony which is low and only a few rows deep). While the original production is often said to be powerful, this production is best described as intense, perhaps because you so intimately share the experience with the characters.

The performances in the show are, without exception, brilliant, though Helen Hayes nominee Felicia Curry stands out at Eponine. Her performance was wrenching. The visuals are also quite rousing. The use of black, white, and grey for the costumes and set make the very few hints of red stand out in a striking way. All told, this show is a must see. It is fresh take for fans of the show and it is a powerful experience for those who are new to it.

Discounts: I know that Signature is not the cheapest theater in town, by far. I can tell you this. I had a man on the inside who helped me to get tickets (he was, great in the show, btw). He has promised to keep me posted when deals become available and I’ll pass the information along. In the meantime, there are obstructed view seats for $30 and they are barely obstructed. Signature also does discount nights for students during previews, but we have missed it. Finally, I hear that it is a great place to usher and I will do my best of find more information. You can also call signature and follow the instructions to speak to the volunteer coordinator. (571) 527-1860. I’ll keep you posted when I hear about deals.

p.s. for those of you who didn't get the reference in the title.


  1. i love Les Mis. i had seen it on Broadway, so i was excited to see it when it came here to the National. it was just ok. but seeing Les Mis in a more intimate setting sounds really, really cool

  2. f.B,
    I've seen Les Mis before on stage as well and grew up listening to the soundtrack (to the point that I can sing along to all of the songs). This production is definitely worth checking out. I've never seen this show (or any musical that i can recall off-hand) acted so brilliantly. Felicia Curry (Eponine) was actually crying durin "A little fall of rain." The emotion is raw. It's fabulous.


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