Drama stuns with unprecedented performance

Sarah Markiewicz, Contributing Writer

Often I fear that the Diamond Bar High School drama department will not have enough of a crowd or support for its ambitious shows. I was proved wrong after hearing the praise for this year’s spring musical, “Les Misérables,” which debuted on last week. While the drama department often succeeds with comedic routines, it seems that it has found its niche with this more serious piece.

While there may be students who are very familiar with “Les Misérables,” due to the popular 2012 movie, the rest of us have very little prior knowledge about it. Still, audience members need to only take a look at the summary provided in the pamphlet distributed at the show, or listen to the emotion in the actors’ voices to keep up with the moving sequence of events.

“Les Misérables” tells the story of a French revolution, which bursts from a time when convicts like protagonist Jean Valjean, played by Riley Mawhorter, and women like the desperate mother Fantine, played beautifully by Amanda Revilla, were treated no better than livestock.

The plot takes a striking turn when the citizens of France conspire for a revolt against government incumbents, and revolutionary Marius Pontmercy, played by Jaden Campbell, and Fantine’s daughter Cosette, played by Mary Thomas, begin a romance through it all.

Mawhorter, whose voice bordered on angelic, was more than capable of holding a versatile role such as Valjean’s. He transitions from being a hardened criminal to an altruistic leader with a shady past. Revilla also gave one of the best performances in the show, moving me to tears with her performance of “I Dreamed a Dream.”

While actors like Campbell and Thomas also fit naturally into their leading roles, the large ensemble of cast members, whether they were the main antagonists or extras, always kept the scenes alluring and surprising. I was surprised to see middle and elementary school actors involved, and even more so to find that some projected their voices as clearly as the older cast members.

Much credit should also be given to the school orchestra. Unlike in past shows such as “Into the Woods,” where they would take breaks throughout the show, the orchestra played for practically the entire duration of the musical. Being an opera, “Les Misérables” tells its story through music. One downside to the thrill of the orchestra was that it sometimes rose over the voices of the actors, which almost made it seem l that the actors were really singing in the “native” French language.

Drama has usually impressed audiences with sets designed by the students, and this year was no exception. Although the set pieces were relatively simple, the scene and the props kept in touch with conveying the story, leaving the job of transporting the audience to 19th century France to the actors. For this show, they also brought in smoke and lighting effects, which were put to good use for the dramatic battle scenes.

If you haven’t read or watched “Les Mis” before, your curiosity will be heightened after this DBHS must-see musical. Throughout the show, it was impossible not to keep up with the supportive and admiring vibe of the almost full house around me. Drama may have just begun a revolution. The play continues April 28-30 at 7 p.m.