“Les Miserables” – Phoenix Theatre and “”The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” – Stray Cat Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ April 28, 2014


Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

It was a busy theater weekend with three very different shows opening.  I will review two today, Phoenix Theatre’s brilliant revival of “Les Miserables” and Stray Cat Theatre’s impressive production of “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity,” a draggy comedy about wrestling.

The “Les Miserables” production brought back many of the excellent things about the company’s 2009 staging.  It’s an epic musical and the smaller production provides the show’s requisite grandeur while emphasizing the tender emotional core of the touching show.  It’s set during the early 19th century French Revolution when common people successfully battled the stuffy aristocracy and its jaded view of what society should be.

Robert Hupp’s moving but simplified production is staged here in conjunction with his Arkansas Repertory Theatre.  The original Broadway staging involved revolving turntables, a huge cast, and enough scenery to dwarf most musicals but the many relationships between the myriad of characters got lost in the spectacle.  PT’s production presents enough of the necessary scope, but allows the Victor Hugo characters to explore their reasons for being.  It also permits the leading characters’ romantic interests to be beautifully explored and touchingly exposed.

The sweepingly beautiful score adds soaring opulence to the story.  The superlative cast includes Christopher Behmke’s moving Marius, Douglas Webster’s thoughtful Jean Valjean, and James Zannelli’s evil Javert, the naysayer who introduces havoc and corruption at every turn.  Terey Summers and Michael Sample contribute comic delight as the Thenardiers while Jenny Hintze is touchingly sincere as the tragic Eponine.

Alan Ruch’s orchestra plays the score with commanding relish and the physical production with a rich succession of elaborate period costumes and swiftly changing sets creates a rich atmosphere.  Phoenix Theatre’s impressive “Les Miserables” continues through May 25.  For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: A

Stray Cat Theatre
Tempe, AZ

Stray Cat’s “Chad Deity” is set in the bland and uninteresting world of professional wrestling where fighter Mace Guerra loses consistently to charismatic champ Chad Deity.  It explores what fighters do to practice their craft but it isn’t a very involving or gripping play.  If you happen to be into this unique world, the show may be for you but for theatergoers without a fighting bent, it’s unbearably dull.  Like most Stray Cat productions, the acting and direction are superlative but so what if the play doesn’t entice audiences into the world it explores.  “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” continues through May 17.  For tickets, call the Stray Cat Theatre box office at 480-227-1766 or order tickets online at www.straycattheatre.org.

Grade: D