Just kids.

I think not.

It might be the "school edition," but the cast of "Les Miserables" that opened Friday night at the Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts was master's degree quality.

Tears rolled down cheeks. Fists clenched over heads. The crowd cheered the French revolutionaries. They cried when Eponine died. It was everything a good soap opera should be, but isn't.

The true standout was R.A. Long junior Danny Vogel as Jean Valjean, the lead character who is redeemed after spending nearly 20 years in prison for stealing bread to feed his sister's starving family. He returns to society, establishes a factory and even becomes mayor.

The "skinny" Vogel, overpowers the audience with his deep and intense baritone voice that controlled his scenes like a stern father. His falsetto was impeccable. Frankly, I would have thought he was 60, if I didn't know better.

Valjean is a hard part to play — vocally and dramatically. The only flaw I saw was his tendency to look at the floor. That's dramatic — sometimes. It can also be distracting.

The story continues.

One of Valjean's employees, Fantine, is fired and ends up a prostitute and ill with consumption. Valjean, feeling guilty, tries to help, then when she dies he promises to care for her daughter, Cossette. Bad guy innkeeper Thenardier forces Cossette into hard labor, but Valjean buys her freedom and gives her a comfortable life.

Young Cossette, played by Natasha Kreitzer, the poster-child for the production, sings well.

But the adult Cossette, Laura Ouellette, is like a fine wine, deep with color and taste, but not foreboding. She and Marius, the French Revolutionary loved by two women, play off each other well.

Marius, played by Cole Ecola, whose tenor voice is outstanding, did look a bit young for the part.

But from the balcony, it probably did not show.

Eponine, played by Brittany Dreier, takes a person's arteries and tugs the heart out of the body. Her dramatic portrayal of the unloved, but passionate girl magnetized the audience.

Javier, played by Alan Peery, was eerie. He looked old and mean — which is what he was supposed to be. His strong voice and presence resonated authority.

But one of my favorites was Enjolras, played by Dan Wheelon. He was the leader.

And he was cast well — he dominated many parts of the show. He leads the revolutionaries to fight and die. Too bad he didn't have a hankering for Eponine.

This is a demanding and widely popular musical that could receive a lot of criticism from "Les Miserables" fans. But I don't have any.

Jesse Merz, Longview Stageworks artistic director was almost speechless at the intermission.

"I've never been so proud in my career," he beamed in the lobby waiting for the second half.

OK, a few voices cracked and there was a flat moment or two.

But not many. Couldn't count them on one hand.

I was so mesmerized I forgot to take many notes.

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