As they entered the theater Tuesday, teachers and students gaped in wonderment at the breathtakingly intricate sets and flipped excitedly through glossy programs. As they left, sniffles, tears and high-praises were ubiquitous. Having had the pleasure of viewing many Milken plays and musicals in my four years at this school, I can say with ease that Les Misérables is the best performance I have seen. Each show has its own personality – Advice for Astronauts was quirky and atypical. Macbeth was dark and sinister. With Les Mis, the Milken Performing Arts department has done a fantastic job of executing an intense tearjerker that successfully captivates the audience through two long acts. Following the interwoven paths of Jean Valjean, Fantine, Cosette, Inspector Javert, and other characters in Pre-Revolutionary France, this musical will steal your heart, one soulful serenade at a time.
Milken’s production of Les Misérables charms the audience with beautiful costumes, jaw-dropping sets, and live background music. Though the teacher preview had some kinks to work out – the occasional stumble, bump, or mistimed microphone sound adjustment – they were incredibly minor. It is nearly impossible to keep your eyes off of star, Ethan Eliafan ‘17, due to his natural performance as Jean Valjean. His soothing baritone and passionate facials successfully engage onlookers. One faculty member commented that they “forgot to breathe” when watching the performance. Equally attention-grabbing is the work of Alexis Ribakoff ‘17 in her role as Mme. Thénardier. Her goofy and sassy outbursts are the focal point of every scene she appears in, and is perfectly complimented by the “Master of the House” Thénardier (played by Stevie Gordon ‘17).
Abby Yadegar ‘21 plays her role of Fantine with grace and maturity, navigating her character through unspeakable tragedies. Incredibly laugh-inducing is the Napoleon-esque hat worn by Inspector Javert, played by Sawyer Kroll ‘17. It is extremely fortunate that the singing of the prisoners was so loud and anguished, because it covered up the giggling of my own immature amusement. Despite the remarkably imposing hat atop his head, Kroll’s expressive eyebrows and dazzling vocals persuade the audience of Javert’s character development. Brandon Ptasnik ‘17 conveys profound commitment to his cause as Enjolras and sprouts a natural man bun… I mean, emanates charisma.
Simi Benisty ‘17 flawlessly executes her character’s backstabbing of Fantine. The similarity to Queen Bee, Regina George, from Mean Girls is uncanny. Her icy, hostile takedown was delivered with a merciless smile and chilled me to my bone. Noah Daniel ‘17 and Hannah Lande ‘18 make crowds swoon as they play lovestruck Marius and Cosette, respectively. Daniel’s singing awes the crowd and as Jonah Cohen ‘17 said best, “Noah is so cute!” Audiences were torn between joy for the two lovers and melancholy for heartbroken Éponine, formerly played by Giselle Etessami ‘17 and now by Megan Larian ‘19. Etessami’s beautiful voice sang anguishly over her permanent spot in the friend-zone, and broke our own hearts. Larian stepped in and filled the role beautifully and naturally while Etessami sits out to rest her voice.
This musical and it’s heart-wrenching plot, so well-executed by our peers, had one or two college counselors wiping aside tears, and English teacher Amy Frangipane, remarking that she was “in no state to drive,” and that she “should call an Uber.” Many hours were poured into preparing for this show, and it was well worth it – mazel tov, mazel tov, mazel tov!