‘Les Mis in Concert’ at Riverside Theatre captured essence of Victor Hugo’s story

On Sunday night, Riverside Theatre presented ‘Les Mis in Concert,’ a production that captured the essence of Victor Hugo’s timeless story.


Lillie Hawker

Jessica Pray Patel sings “I Dreamed a Dream” during a performance of “Les Mis in Concert” at the Riverside Theatre on Oct. 9, 2022.

Stella Shipman, Arts Reporter

The Riverside Theatre seats filled with people conversing quietly before the varied production of “Les Miserables” on Sunday night. As attendees stepped off of the elevator and entered the space, they were greeted with a handout of programs written in curly French script, as well as stickers and miniature French flags.

The Oct. 9 concert began with a call to order by event organizer Anna Barker. She encouraged the audience to their feet to sing the French national anthem, a rendition during which everyone waved their flags high in unison. Afterward, the audience took their seats and actor Tim Budd recited the first of four passages from Victor Hugo’s original “Les Miserables” text. 

Budd read about the beautiful grisette Fantine in all of her glory, his effusive voice wrapping the audience up in nineteenth-century France. The glowing image of Fantine leapt off of the page and radiated out over the audience. 

This image only evolved as soprano Jessica Pray Patel took to the stage to sing “I Dreamed a Dream,” Fantine’s iconic theme. The audience was completely enraptured by her performance from the first note — her smooth vibrato rippled throughout the space, while her chest and head voices shifted back and forth seamlessly. 

Her performance was followed by another passage reading, this time about “Les Miserables” protagonist Jean Valjean. The text described his conflicted state of mind as he pondered the decision to turn himself in to the police to save an innocent man, or maintain his secret identity. 

Performer Thaddeus Ennen sang “Who Am I?” in a deep and full baritone voice. His performance embodied Jean Valjean’s doubts and confusion about what to do. Ennen’s broad range allowed him to make the most of every note and lyric, his enveloping voice bouncing off of the theater’s red brick walls. 

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His song was followed by “Castle on a Cloud” by Patel. She leaned against the piano as she sang the sweet lyrics with a child-like fascination, the same way a young, innocent Cosette would have. 

Throughout the concert, pianist Daniel Kleinknecht accompanied Ennen and Patel effortlessly. He shifted his playing to follow their pace, and vice versa. They all worked like a well-oiled machine. For those lengths of time that Kleinknecht played solo, he filled the space with gentle music melodies. 

Budd then read a passage about Marius, the man Cosette loves — Marius was wounded at the barricade and rescued by Jean Valjean so that he could be reunited with Cosette. Budd brought the audience into the action of this scene, right into the heat of battle. 

Ennen sang “Bring Him Home” to represent Jean Valjean’s pleading to God for Marius to live. His rendition was incredibly soothing and comforting, despite the sadness the song evoked. 

Ennen and Patel sang together for “In My Life” and “A Heart Full of Love,” switching between characters. They complemented each other well and their voices blended in climactic harmonies, echoing around the room. Both soared gracefully on the highest notes of the piece, earning awestruck applause. 

The final passage of the concert placed Javert in the moments before his suicide. Ennen captured this emotional event with Javert’s song, “Stars.” He sang with a powerful conviction. Javert’s desperation as he stared into his own abyss shined through Ennen.

Patel played the starstruck lover of Eponine for “On My Own” and “A Little Fall of Rain,” which proved to be the most tear-jerking song of the concert. The fading piano notes as Patel failed to finish her phase, representing Eponine’s passing, left me with chills. 

“Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” sung by Ennen, was the final haunting song before the concert’s conclusion. It felt like a tribute to every piece before, a friendly yet heartbroken goodbye.

As the audience sang along with “Do You Hear the People Sing?”, they proudly raised their flags. Attendees left the concert as honorary members of the French Revolution, and participants in what will hopefully become a Riverside tradition.