Les Miserables (Not That One) at Mesa's New Silver Star Playhouse
The setup: There's a lot of backstory here. Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre went out of business last year, and a venerable, family-friendly Salt Lake City (well, Murray) company, Desert Star Playhouse, took over the cavernous space at Brown and Higley roads to launch a metro Phoenix branch of their silly, fast-casual-dining-optional live stage and screen parodies: Legally Brunette, My Big Fat Utah Wedding (the longest-running play in the state's history), Kicking the Hobbit: Bored of the Rings -- you get the idea. Silver Star Playhouse's inaugural production, A Christmas Carol Part 2: A Dickens of a Christmas, opened in November 2012.
courtesy of Silver Star Playhouse Not the Mesa cast of Les Miserables
Les Miserables, described as "a revolutionary comedy," is the local troupe's second show, and
it runs another week and a half it's been extended through Saturday, March 2. Butch Cassidy & the SunBurnt Kid takes the stage Thursday, March 14.
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Most of the show titles make the spoofy aspect obvious, and so I was curious about why Les Miserables lacks only an accent mark to precisely match Victor Hugo's novel, the worldwide musical spectacular, and the recent film of the play. When I looked at the Utah company's site, I was further confused, because the show was originally called Less Miserable(s?), with a super-cute logotype that even non-proofreaders (and, theoretically, Arizonans) could understand.
Then a little bird told me that a PR person, in a somewhat industry-rare fit of meticulous orthography, "fixed" the title, and the "error" was discovered too late to change it. You know what? Now that the movie has opened, I think it's just as well. Though the first title might have gone cheerfully over most people's heads, Silver Star's audience base probably isn't going to think they're seeing the Lay Miz, and sometime in the last week, Desert Star's site has updated their show's title to match.
The execution: So here's the deal -- forget everything you might have known about Broadway Palm. (Except re: the gift shop. The gift shop is still terrific, and I'm dead serious.) The main room is cozier and more casual, the food service is optional and sit-down, rather than a buffet, and there's a second brief intermission after the featured production ends (enabling servers to drop off checks without being too disruptive), followed by an "olio" -- a 20-minute-ish splash of musical production numbers that showcase the performers' singing and dancing more than Les Miserables does, to be honest.
The olio is allegedly peppered with comedy and sketches between songs and resembles a TV variety show. Like Jackie Gleason or Carol Burnett? Like Lawrence Welk, my date opined. Not that there's anything wrong with that. The non-musical stuff was not funny, but the actor wearing a plush cow hat to portray a single ferocious steer and frighten a couple of actress/horses while another guy sang "Ghost Riders in the Sky" quite well was actually pretty darn good, even though (or perhaps because) it was all a bit surreal.