“Les Miz and Friends!”– Cheap Laffs Worth Their Weight in Gold

By Ernest Kearney  —  We live in a world of tangerine despots, murderous religionists, a generation who places more credibility in lowlifes on the internet than organizations with 45 Pulitzer Prizes among them, Pro-lifers who support the death penalty and a public spoon-fed their opinions by the folks who swore The Lego Movie was anti-business and that death panels were right around the corner.

These, I say, are sad, frightening and dark days.

So when presented with the opportunity of plunging into the salvation of some serious silliness I suggest taking it!

 

And such salvation can be derived from Les Miz And Friends! A Puppet Parody now playing Mainstage at the Hudson Theatre on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood.

In the “re-envisioning” of this beloved musical based on Victor Hugo’s renowned classic, Nathan Makaryk and Geneviève Flati have shown the most respectful humility and sublime scholarly insights.

Naw, I’m yanking your chain, they’ve totally trashed it.

But trashed it with respect and sublimity.

Hugo’s novels have a lot going for them: starving waifs, horses desperate for a glimpse of sunlight before drowning, hearing-impaired lovesick campanological enthusiasts, the downtrodden being relentlessly trodden on…while down.

But they don’t offer the reader much in the way of “lighter moments.”

And Les Misérables (Les Mis to the syllabic challenged) is no exception.  Starvation, sexual abuse, child exploitation, cholera, murderous gangs, brutal police, false imprisonment, betrayal, civil bloodshed, blackmail, executions, unpleasant muggles – oops, scratch the last one, that’s from Harry Potter.

What I’m saying is that Hugo’s 1,500 page novel, among the longest ever penned is packed with every ill, pain, sorrow, unkindness, shame, heartache, injustice, torment, peril, calamity, despair and agony suffered by humanity.

What it doesn’t have is puppets!!!

So four things you need to know:

  • 1) This show is funny.
  • 2) The puppeteers are excellent.
  • 3) When you add Number #1 and Number #2 you get Number #4.
  • 4) This show is God damn funny!

 

Makaryk and Flati who co-wrote and directed are the only ones in the cast who retain puppet personas throughout, while Christopher Robert Smith is the single actor not double cast; though his performance as Javert, the police inspector relentlessly pursuing Jean Valjean morphs into a dual role when the actor playing Javert is tossed for a loop at finding the part of Jean Valjean recast by a cloth headed Zany (Makaryk) who hasn’t read the play.

Or the book.

Or seen the movie.

The rest of the cast slips from puppeteer to actor with appreciable aplomb,

The parody progresses from loving homage of the novel and play to a deconstruction of musical theatre that requires a hockey mask and chainsaw.  Eventually everyone takes to the barricades but the opposing sides of supporters of the July Monarchy and the Republicans have somehow been shoved aside and replaced by the drollic button-eyed, socks and fabric revolutionaries in revolt and vowing never again to let the actors treat them like….eh, puppets.

The entire cast holds up the mad cap pacing that’s needed here and skillfully dishes up heaping servings of silliness to the audience.

Jaycob Hunter is great fun as the rather dim milquetoast Marius beloved of Cosette.  Hailey Tweter gracefully pirouettes from the noble suffering of Fantine to the deer in the headlight suffering of an actress enmeshed in the roaring muddle surrounding her.  As Enjolras, leader of the uprising, Carter Michael seems to be looking forward to his execution.  Kelly Rogers, Kevin Garcia and Gabrielle Jackson strut their stuff and pull their loads equally well.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect to this production is the quality of the cast’s musical chops.

In a farcical free-for-all performed with puppets, one could let the musical elements slide and pretty much get away with it.

To Makaryk and Flati’s credit they’ve taken care in assembling a topnotch cast, no doubt greatly assisted by Casting Director Lindsay Brooks, and then provided them with a raucously fun script.  David Norris as “musical accompaniment, Orchestrator and Arranger” must have three heads because he wears that trio of hats superbly.

So take a break from the doom and gloom surrounding us all and spend an evening fluctuating between tapping your toes and splitting your sides.

 

(Featured Imaged: From Les Miz and Friends! at the Hudson Mainstage Theatre — photo by Ray Long)

 

♦     ♦     ♦

Les Miz And Friends! A Puppet Parody

Runs

Fridays and Saturdays thru May 11

For Tickets and Additional Information

Click HERE

Venue:

Hudson Mainstage Theatre

6539 Santa Monica Blvd

Hollywood, CA  90038

Valet Parking


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Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. After a wild and misspent youth, which lasted well into middle age, Kearney has settled down and is focusing on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. Ernest’s stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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