Sometimes it's worth twisting an old saying into a new one — such as "If at first you DO succeed, try, try again to do it even better" — especially to describe a theatrical triumph at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. The Rep took on Les Miserables again, and have again done themselves proud, after first presenting the show in its 2008-09 season.
And while the Rep always does good work, this show may be the best, biggest and brightest production they have ever done.
The legendary musical opened Friday night to a packed house whose members showed their appreciation for what they were seeing in the adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, with music by Schonberg and Herbert Kretzmer. The play tells the tale of rehabilitated petty thief Jean Valjean (Douglas Webster) being relentlessly pursued by the holier-than-thou Inspector Javert (Christopher Carl) as the French Revolution unfolds around them.
So many great voices and so much else that's great is going on around them on another classic Mike Nichols set design, with equal talent on display from Rafael Colon Castanera's costume design. The commanding, soaring voices of Webster and Carl have to be heard to be believed, as the two men weave in and out of each other's lives in dramatic fashion.
And amongst the women characters, it's hard to pick between the amazing voices of Fantine (Danielle Erin Rhodes), Cosette (Karenssa LeGear)and Eponine (Mary Little), but the show is almost stolen at times whenever the Thenardiers appear in all their goofy glory. Madame Thenardier (Terey Summers) and her husband (Michael Sample) are equally hilarious as the innkeepers who scrounge to make a dishonest living.
The Rep's producing artistic director, Robert Hupp, directed the play in his usual seamless fashion, but deserves extra plaudits for somehow keeping 31 actors from running into one another. Mark Binns, though never seen, contributes mightily by directing an 11-piece orchestra who are as flawless as the cast and choreographer Robert Kolby Harper, lighting designer Yael Lubetzky and wig designer Robert Pickens.
The show continues through April. 6, with performances at 8 p.m. nightly Fridays and Saturdays, and at 7 p.m. Sundays, Wednesdays and Thursdays plus matinees at 2 p.m. Sundays at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Sixth and Main streets, Little Rock. Seating is reserved and tickets range from $45 to $60. For more information, call (501) 378-0405 or see the Web site www.therep.org