“Les Miserables in Concert: The 25th Anniversary” (2010)

The story is one we know and very simple: a former convict, Jean Valjean (Alfie Boe), tries to rebuild his life w/ adopted daughter Cosette after the death of her mother, Fantine (Lea Salonga). Valjean is pursued for years by a police inspector, Javert (Norm Lewis). Against the backdrop of student rebellions in Paris, a student named Marius (Nick Jonas) and the grown-up Cosette (Katie Hall) fall in love. The songs are also very memorable, incl. Who Am I? and Bring Him Home (sung by Valjean), I Dreamed a Dream (sung by Fantine), and On My Own (sung by Eponine). In a time when there are protests in cities (around the world) calling for racial equality and justice reform, this story still resonates.

Fans of the musical will notice that Salonga previously played Eponine in Great Performances: Les Misérables in Concert (1995)- the musical’s 10th anniversary. The petite (yet powerful) singer is the first full-blooded Filipina to have won the Olivier (1990), the Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Theatre World Awards (1991) for Best Actress in a Musical for Miss Saigon. In recent years, she was a guest star on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, a comedy w/ musical numbers. Most famously, Salonga was the singing voice of Princess Jasmine in the Disney animated movie Aladdin (1992). Not only is she an amazing singer, she also acts out every moment of her role here!

Samantha Barks (Eponine) played the same role in the 2012 film version. Jenny Galloway previously played Madame Thenardier (a crowd favorite) in 1995 and repeated her role in this production. Ramin Karimloo (Enjolras) went on to play the title role in The Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary Concert a year later opposite Hadley Fraser (Grantaire) as Raoul. Karimloo (who fled Iran w/ his parents when the shah was overthrown in the early ’80s) made his Broadway debut as Valjean in the 2014 revival and earned a Tony nomination for Best Actor in a Musical. Lewis is perhaps best known as Edison, a senator and one of the ex-boyfriend’s of Olivia Pope on the ABC TV series- Scandal. He became the first Black actor to play the phantom in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. Unlike most of the other phantoms, he has a baritone voice (which is rich and very impressive).

At the end of the concert, we see the original 1985 cast, the international tour cast, and the current cast. We hear Colm Wilkinson (considered the best singer to portray Valjean), John Owen-Jones, Simon Bowman, and Boe sing Bring Him Home. There is an appearance by Michael Ball (the original Marius in the London production; a big star in the UK), composers, lyricist, and producer (Cameron Mackintosh). You can rent this show on YouTube; it’s a must-see for fans of the theater (esp. since we’re stuck at home)!

The casting of Nick Jonas, of Jonas Brothers fame, is little more than a casting publicity stunt, and one which almost backfires catastrophically. Quite simply, Jonas is leagues out of his depth, and his voice has not the power nor range to do justice to the role…

So many excellent singers have brought such depth and strength to the character of Jean Valjean and Alfie Boe does an admirable job. His beautiful rendition of “Bring Him Home” really proves he has the chops to handle this role.

Norm Lewis, whose subtle facial expressions and genuine passion commanded the stage/screen, sang Javert with such power and depth that I actually, for the first time, empathized with his character.

No other musical has the power to raise hairs and bring goosebumps throughout, and at the same time bring entire audiences to tears…

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

“Star Trek: DS9” – Season 2, Episodes 1-3

Episode 1: The Homecoming

O’Brien: If they think scrawling a few signs is gonna get rid of us, they got another thing coming.

Sisko: Right now, they’re just trying to show us that we’re vulnerable.

Odo: I wouldn’t be overly concerned, Commander; this section is a low security area.

Sisko: As of now, Constable, there are no low security areas on the station.

Season 2 of the sci-fi series has a bigger budget, we see more sets, and more effective lighting is used. Quark receives a Bajoran earring from a smuggler. She says she received it on Cardassia IV; it needs to be delivered to Bajor (as any Bajoran will recognize it). Quark takes it to Kira; the earring belongs to Li Nalas, considered one of the greatest heroes of the Resistance. Kira asks Sisko for a runabout to rescue him. Bajor is on the verge of civil war; a group called The Circle wants to get rid of all aliens on Bajor. Odo finds their logo graffiti-ed on a wall in the space station. Jake is excited about his first date, though Cmdr. Sisko seems nervous. This teleplay was written by Ira Stephen Behr, who would go on to become showrunner in later seasons.

Sisko: I saw you, in front of the crowd on the promenade. They look at you, and they see strength, and honor, and decency. They look at you and they see the best in themselves.

Li Nalas: But it’s all based on a lie.

Sisko: No – it’s based on a legend. And legends are as powerful as any truth.

The scenes in the labor camp were shot in Soledad Canyon, north of LA. It was refreshing to be outdoors (off the station) for a while. The Cardassians said all political prisoners had been released; Gul Dukat apologizes (which is unexpected). Li Nalas (guest star Richard Beymer- Tony in West Side Story) says he became a hero by accident in a fine scene w/ Sisko. Frank Langella’s (Minister Jaro Essa) performances are uncredited (he did the show for his children, not exposure or money.) At the end of this ep, Minister Jaro declares Li Nalas the liaison officer, leaving Kira’s status uncertain.

I liked the frenemy scenes between Odo and Quark, which were a trademark of Behr’s writing. Beymer portrayed the reluctant hero well. I was very impressed w/ Langella (who even has a different posture when playing the politician to the crowd)! Kira and O’Brien made a good team during the rescue.

Episode 2: The Circle

Odo: [incensed] Major, you’ve been breaking one too many for fourteen and a half years! Cardassian rules, Bajoran rules, Federation rules, they’re all meaningless to you. Because you have a personal code, that’s always mattered more. And I’m sorry to say, you’re in slim company.

Major Kira: [softly] I’ll miss you too, Odo.

Jaro explains the reason for Li Nalas on DS9 is unrest on Bajor. Kira goes to have a rest at the monastery, as suggested by Vedek Bareil. She sees one of the Orbs of Prophecy. Sisko wants to get Kira back as his second in command. He sees Krim (Stephen Macht), the leader of the Bajoran military forces. The Circle is planning to overthrow the provisional government; if all non-Bajorans are expelled, they lose Federation protection. Quark tells Odo he knows who is supplying weapons to The Circle. We get a Game of Thrones-type scene (before the HBO show aired) w/ Minster Jaro and Vedek Winn.

Minister Jaro [to Winn]: We’re a match made by the Prophets.

I always thought it was too bad that the casting director didn’t get a better actor to play Bareil. I hadn’t seen this arc of eps before, but saw him over the course of the series. I know Bareil and Kira are supposed to be attracted to each other, but they lack chemistry. There is good (evil) chemistry between Fletcher and Langella; their plotting scene was great! The goodbye scene in Kira’s quarters was well-done (w/ both serious and light moments).

Episode 3: The Siege

Nog: Has there ever been one of your kind and one of my kind who were better friends?

Jake Sisko: Never.

Nog: And if our fathers couldn’t break us up, no stupid coup d’é… coup… coup-coup d’é…

Jake Sisko: Coup d’état. It’s French.

Nog: And no stupid French thing will either!

The Federation must evacuate the station, but Sisko has no intentions of leaving. He’s come to care about what happens to the Bajorans. Sisko, O’Brien, Bashir, Odo, and a few others will try to delay the the takeover as long as possible, until the truth re: who is supplying weapons can be revealed. Kira will take evidence to the Chamber of Ministers, but all the runabouts are in use for the evacuation. Li Nalas thinks there might be raiders intact on the Lunar V base; Kira and Dax set off to find out.

This conclusion was written by Michael Piller, co-creator of the series. Awww, poor Keiko and Molly- O’Brien chose his job over family. Quark gets tricked by his brother Rom (which is quite rare, but good to see). Kira and Dax have some light/fun moments, even while facing danger. Also, look out for Steven Weber (who was then starring in Wings). Hmmm, maybe he was a fan of ST universe also?

[1] This was an excellent episode in terms of building up a sense of DS9 as being more then a space station – a home for these people and they fight to protect it and the potential future it represents for the Federation and Bajor.

[2] I like this side of Sisko and he is much more assertive and interesting in part three!

[3] The action scenes in this episode were pretty good and there were a few fun scenes too…

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews


“Star Trek: DS9”: Season 1, Episode 18 (“Duet”)

Major Kira: This is my job.

Marritza: Persecuting Cardassians goes far beyond your job, Major; it’s your passion.

The teleplay was written by Peter Allan Fields; he also wrote the TNG eps “The Inner Light”, “Cost of Living”, and “Half a Life.” He wrote “The Forsaken” on DS9. This is ranked as one of the best eps of the entire series (by media critics, sci-fi writers, and fans). Aamin Marritza (veteran character actor Harris Yulin), a Cardassian suffering from Kalla-Nohra, turns to DS9 (and Dr. Bashir) for medical attention. Major Kira (Nana Visitor) goes into the infirmary and immediately recognizes the disease. He could only have contracted it after an accident in the labor camp (Gallitepp) on Bajor during the occupation. Kira helped liberate that camp, so she knows of the atrocities its commander (Gul Darhe’el) committed. Kira is determined to convict Marritza for war crimes; Cmdr. Sisko (Avery Brooks), Odo (Rene Auberjonois), and Bashir (Alexander Siddig) investigate further. The Cardassian first denies having the disease, then claims he was merely a filing clerk at Gallitepp. Sisko faces a tough decision, as the Bajorans wants him convicted, while the Cardassians want him released.

Major Kira: If your lies are gonna be this transparent, it’s gonna be a very short interrogation.

Marritza: Well, in that case I’ll try to make my lies more opaque.

The intent of the ep (as many viewers will have already guessed) was to establish the Cardassian Occupation of Bajor as a metaphor for the German atrocities under the Nazi regime. The ep marks the first mention of the Shakaar resistance cell (of which Kira was a member). We also get to see Gul Dukat (Marc Alaimo) again; he plays a very important role in later seasons. What if this Cardassian is a lowly file clerk? Does he deserve to be persecuted (as if he were a powerful commander)? Early in the story, Kira tells Lt. Dax (Terry Farrell) that she considers all Cardassians (who participated in the occupation of her planet) to be guilty. As Kira and Marritza character engage in a “war of words,” we get strong commentary on the intricacies of war and the roles that are played by both sides.

[1] It is a beautifully written, performed, composed and produced episode.

[2] The central issue is the guilt of the coward: something that we all fear, despise, and yet sympathize with.

[3] The end result of the drama is just as surprising to the viewer as it is to the on-screen characters.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

“Star Trek: DS9”: Season 1, Episode 14 (“Progress”)

Mullibok: You’re halfway pretty.
Kira: Does that mean I can come in?

The teleplay was written by Peter Allan Fields; he also wrote the (much-loved/highly-rated) TNG eps “The Inner Light”, “Cost of Living”, and “Half a Life.” The Federation is helping the Bajorans to tap the core of one of its moons; this will provide energy for many homes (and make the moon uninhabitable). All 47 known inhabitants have been evacuated, but Lt. Dax (Terry Farrell) still detects three life signs. Major Kira (Nana Visitor) beams down to investigate and meets an elderly farmer named Mullibok (Brian Keith) and his two helpers (who are mute due to torture by Cardassians). Mullibok invites her to dinner, tells some tall tales, and explains that he has no intention of leaving. This place has been his home for 40 yrs; he built it up w/ his own hands. Although he’s cranky and stubborn, Kira starts to grow fond of the man. Meanwhile, Nog (Aron Eisenberg) overhears his uncle Quark (Armin Shimerman) punishing his father for buying 5,000 wrappings of yamok sauce (loved by Cardassians, but despised by most others). Secretly, Nog and Jake (Cirroc Lofton) try to sell the stuff for bars of latinum.

Mullibok: You know, you look real good even from this angle. But you know something? You walk like a carnivorous rastipod.

Kira: [unnerved] Now look…! [looks annoyed, but then starts smirking] You’re trying to make me mad!

Mullibok: How am I doing?

Kira: Not well enough to get rid of me.

Mullibok: Damn!

This is a moral dilemma story, which we find commonly in the ST universe. Some viewers recognized the plot from Wild River– a classic movie directed by Elia Kazan- about the Tennnesee Valley Authority and one woman’s refusal to leave her family farm. Time is spent building a bond between Kira and Mullibok. She goes through a lot of emotional turmoil, as she represents the government, but admires this man’s fighting spirit. Kira can’t forget her past in the Bajoran Resistance; some viewers commented that perhaps this man reminds her of someone from those days. There is a fine scene between Kira and Cmdr. Sisko (Avery Brooks) which shows us more of his leadership style. When Mullibok is injured, fighting w/ two security guards, Sisko gives Kira time to look after him.

Sisko: [referring to Kira] I’m going to tell Minister Toran that she’s remained temporarily on Jerrado, at your request.

Bashir: But sir – that isn’t true.

Sisko: Make it true, Doctor. Now, please.

Bashir: [officially] Commander, I’d advise that Major Kira remain on Jerrado for humanitarian reasons… [under his breath] How long?

Sisko: The next day or two.

Bashir: …for the next day or two, sir.

Sisko: Thank you, Doctor. I’ll consider that request. Dismissed.

“Star Trek: DS9”: Season 1, Episode 12 (“Battle Lines”)

Kai Opaka (Camille Saviola), the spiritual leader of the Bajorans (who we met in the pilot), suddenly decides to visit DS9. She doesn’t say so, but Sisko can tell that she’s drawn toward the wormhole. Cmdr. Sisko (Avery Brooks), Dr. Bashir (Alexander Siddig), and Major Kira (Nana Visitor) take a runabout to show her the wormhole and pass through it to the Gamma Quadrant. They receive a distress call, but can’t tell where it’s coming from. Sisko wants to return to the space staion, but Opaka says she doesn’t get out much, so they explore further. They are led to a mysterious satellite network, which releases an energy burst, disabling the runabout. They crash land on a moon where Opaka dies almost instantly! While Kira weeps and sings a mourning song, a group of angry-looking humanoids (the Ennis) approach carrying weapons (cardboard blades w/ balls and old tool handles taped together). The leader, Shel-la (Jonathan Banks), explains that his people been placed here as prisoners, after a long war w/ the Nol-Ennis. They can’t die, but must live to fight (and die) repeatedly.

Bashir: What’s going on?

Sisko: Talks about a ceasefire.

Bashir: No kidding! How’d you arrange that?

Sisko: I told them we’d transport them off this moon.

Bashir: Isn’t that a bit like assisting a jailbreak?

Sisko: I don’t need you to interpret the Prime Directive for me, Doctor.

This is a well-done ep w/ some fine acting; its basic premise of two groups locked in a generations-old fight- w/ Starfleet attempting to make peace- has been done many times in the ST universe. This ep was one of the first to state exactly what the United Federation of Planets is; Sisko explains: “it is made up of over a hundred planets who have allied themselves for mutual scientific, cultural and defensive benefits. The mission that my people and I are on is to explore the galaxy.” Bashir repairs the medical scanner on the runabout, then discovers that the nanotechnology (which keeps people alive) only works at this location. The young doctor also saves Sisko’s life during a brutal fight between the Ennis and Nol.

Kai Opaka: Don’t deny the violence inside of you, Kira. Only when you accept it can you move beyond it.

Kira: I’ve known nothing but violence since I was a child.

Kai Opaka: In the eyes of the Prophets, we’re all children.

Kira: I’m afraid the Prophets won’t forgive me.

Kai Opaka: They’re just waiting for you to forgive yourself.

Kai Opaka (who comes alive) decides that it’s her pagh (“destiny”) to help these warring people “heal.” Kai Opaka is an interesting character; she feels that The Prophets (or wormhole aliens) meant for her to come to this place. The Bajorans had to fight (incl. resulting to acts of terrorism) to survive the long, brutal Cardassian occupation of their planet. They’re a deeply spiritual race and seem to be of a pacifist nature. Kai Opaka and Kira have a strong scene together, as do Sisko and Bashir.