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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Les Miser-rants

Did I mention I’m a theatre nerd? No? Well, I’m a theatre nerd. I learned how to sing by exercising my pipes along to “Phantom of the Opera” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.” I proposed to Wifefish during a curtain call of “Into the Woods”. To date, I’ve been involved in just under 80 shows, either on stage or working tech. I loves me some theatre, and I loves me some musicals.

You can imagine my excitement when Wifefish DVR’d the 25th anniversary Les Miserables. I was stoked…I’ve always loved the show, and I hope one day to portray Javert. His songs are right in my sweet range, a nice baritone.

Watching the show, I was amazed at the quality of the vocalists they’d gathered. The man playing Jean Valjean (Alfie Boe) was simply astonishing, and his voice carries purity both when tender and when pounding out a power note that shakes the rafters.

The ensemble was just amazingly talented, all the way around the board. There were some cuts and omissions, but they were done with an eye to the extras at the end, which were truly phenomenal. This is a fantastic “concert style” production of the show, an absolute treat to hear and see.

And yet, this is a rant. So there must have been something about this masterpiece of musical magic that mauled my mental faculties, yes? Oh, yes.

OK, here’s my problem. Imagine you’re the producer of this event. You have a magical, wonderful cast singing some powerful music derived from a literary masterpiece. You’re celebrating 25 years of the show’s success. You have some of the best talent ever assembled. And for some inexplicable reason, you think it’s a good idea to give the role of Marius to Nick Jonas.

I have one rule of musical theatre. If I see a professional show, I want the players to be at least as good as I am, which believe me doesn’t set the bar very high. Our boy Jonas does not fit the bill. If you’re a Jonas fan, just click the red X now, because the Dangerboy rant train is comin’ on down the track.

Nick sucked. There was not a single person on the stage who could not have done a better job in the role, and I’m including the little girl who sang as young Cosette. Jonas has a thin, nasally pop voice. It stuck out like a sore dick. In duets he was completely overwhelmed, more over his head than if he’d been in the Trieste. He was perfectly suited for a community theatre production of the show, but no more than that.

The show has a history of bringing pop stars to the stage, including Debbie Gibson and Cyndi Lauper. They, however, had talent. Jonas spends his time gazing at the ceiling as if the lyrics were printed there, a look of perpetual constipation on his face.

I completely facepalmed, though, when the cameras caught him mouthing Valjean’s words along with him. I have taught high schoolers who knew better. It was appalling.

Riker and Picard reenacting the reaction of Wifefish and I.

Nick was unable to sustain any notes whatsoever, and strained to hit with any power at all, singing with little to no diaphragm. Empty Chairs was exceptionally poignant, given that his vocals on it emptied the chairs in my living room as we went for drinks.

Ordinarily, I cannot watch Eponine’s death without shedding tears. Unfortunately, with Jonas singing it, I was too distracted to have any kind of emotional attachment. I wanted to see it spiced up, perhaps with an emu death squad.

Eponine takes cover as the Emus rectify a hideous casting decision.

Still, I bash the performance, and not the singer. (To be fair, every time he hit a falsetto note, it was quite lovely.) I sincerely hope that Jonas understands how pitifully overwhelmed he was and honors the opportunity to stand in a cast with true greatness. We can be pulled up by those better than us, but only when we recognize that they are, and attempt to emulate, or at least honor, what it is that they exemplify.

I can recall a similar time in my life, when I was drumming with Micky Hart, Giovanni Hidalgo, Leon Mobley, and some other absolutely amazing drummers in the biggest drum circle I’ve ever participated in. I was a Lilliputian amongst a tribe of Gullivers. I may never drum as well as I did that day, letting those giants pull me along on their rhythms.

Sadly, though, I can’t help but feel ripped off watching young Nick learn the lesson. He was cast for his name, I think, so the DVD could have a "big name" on the back. Hence the irk. I wanted to have a product I could enjoy and buy the Blu-ray, and instead I need to pop in the CD’s of the “Complete Symphonic” version of years ago to cleanse my mental palate.

Maybe one day I’ll attain that dream role, and get to play Javert. And on that day, maybe someone will rant about how much I stink up the joint. But I swear by all that is musical, if I don’t outperform Nick I will summon the emu death squad myself. At least the curtain call would be memorable!


  1. I agree. And I want an emu death squad for a number of people. :)

  2. Les Mis--ah--absolute perfection. But for shame... they couldn't find a bigger name for this role?! True dat--one can be pulled up by those better, but not in a 25th anniversary production. One ought to be in complete command for that. I think next time you should try out. Would love to hear that baritone. Hey - how about an MP3 sampling? ;)

  3. No. NO. They did NOT ruin one of my all-time mega favorite musicals with NICK JONAS. He should have played Little Cosette instead.

  4. I watched the concert as well, and I'm in TOTAL agreement! Nick Jonas sucked. I know they cast him for his name, but really?!?!? Seriously?!?!? Ugh!

    Ray Gambrel


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