March 13, 2014

Rowland: Sierra Rep endures magnificently with “Les Miz”

There’s an old formula about creativity: One percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration.

There’s an old formula about creativity: One percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration.

But when it comes to being a local arts organization, the equation needs to make room for an infinite amount of perseverance. For any business to make it 35 years is noteworthy. For a professional theater company to make it 35 years is a legacy.

So Sierra Repertory Theatre deserves our respect, and, of course, continued patronage, for still going strong all these years since its humble beginnings in 1979. And even more impressive is that the company has carried on all these years with three of its original five founders still on board: producing director Dennis Jones; his wife, managing director Sara Jones; and fellow co-founder and resident stage manager Doug Brennan. Fellow co-founders Kathryn and David Kahn left to pursue other interests.

In those 35 years, the theater has sold more than a million tickets, put on close to 8,000 shows and has had more than 100 contracted actors perform for it each year.

The company further enhances its legacy with its 35th anniversary season opener, “Les Misérables.” The sweeping production is a fitting tribute to the company’s inspiration, perspiration and perseverance.

The show is an ambitious undertaking, both in scope and design. A cast of 32 puts on the grand event in an intimate space. A story that has filled the Broadway stage and big screen is difficult to shrink to fit a 200-seat theater. But Sierra Rep manages to keep the show’s grandeur intact even though you seem close enough to reach out and touch the performers.

The talented cast of performers from the Bay Area, New York and closer to home are all strong singers and capable performers. Perpetual favorites like “I Dreamed a Dream” and “On My Own” pack real emotional punch. Cliff McCormick gives the play’s decades-spanning anti-hero Jean Valjean an unexpected rock star edge.

Audiences should leave the theater feeling they’ve experienced the quintessential musical experience: A larger-than-life show that takes them outside of their lives for a few hours, and when the lights come on, they walk out with a song on their lips.

Inspiration, perspiration and perseverance. Congratulations, Sierra Rep. Here’s to another 35 years.

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