Sunday, August 01, 2010

Zhailon Levingston, Seth Taylor lead Shreveport Little Theater Academy production of Les Miserables; see final production Sun, Aug 1, at 2 pm

Excellent enunciation, terrific singing and glamorous staging made the Shreveport Little Theater Academy's production of Les Miserables a thrilling experience on Saturday night at Marjorie Lyons Playhouse.

This School Edition of Les Miz was more satisfying than a touted traveling show I'd seen because of the clarity in its storytelling.

Zhailon Levingston, a student at Capt Shreve, and Seth Taylor, a Centenary College student, were masterly in the roles of Javert and Valjean. Singing with terrific range, they brought passion and intelligence to each scene.

Director Jared Watson produced a glamorous evening of historic romance. The lighting by Watson and David White used hue, scrim, smoke and dramatic angles to grand effect.

Laura Beeman's choreography - the chorus going from menacing to humorous to sensual - also enhanced the urbane mood of the show.

Still, the students' voices provided the thrills. Marcie Ratcliff and Lindsey Fileccia were most impressive in their ability to mellifluously command the stage. Fileccia was also canny about blending her powerful vocals in duos and trios.

Ridiculously good relief from teary-eyed stress of the story of Valjean and Cossette was provided by Jonathan Weber and Madeline Hiers as the rogues, Monsieur and Madame Thenardier. Weber was the epitome of unctuous criminal intent. Hiers was a comely accomplice.

The music for this Les Miz was well modulated but anonymous. During the show, the head and expressive hands of SLTA music director Adam Philley were seen protruding from the stage slot that tops the orchestra pit. But he was not conducting the small orchestra that has typically been part of an SLTA show. He was directing a keyboard player, Daniel Ley. And Ley was triggering the musical sounds using a program called OrchExtra.

As an advocate and enthusiast for live music in every aspect of American life, you can imagine my disappointment when I realized that this orchestra was composed of a conductor and one musician.

Still, Shreveport Little Theater Academy continues to be a success in both entertainment and education. Managed by Robert Darrow, the growth of the students is aided by capable adults such as Watson, Beeman, White and numerous others, such as vocal coaches William Parsons and Melissa Wise and acting coach Rachael Magill.

The proof of SLTA's effectiveness is on display in one more performance; see the final show Sunday, August 1, at 2 pm. It is a long show - some 2.5 hours - but I can imagine that your attention will be well focused by the earnest and even thrilling student performances.

Pardon me if I again honor the handsome leads and salute the powerful performances provided by Levingston and Taylor. These fellows could be rock stars. But they've chosen to express themselves in musical theater - and the almost full house at MLP on Saturday night appreciated their direction.

Box office: 424 4439
$22 / $10

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