If you haven't had the opportunity to see Contra Costa Musical Theatre's production of "Les Miserables," call Walnut Creek's Lesher Center immediately and try to buy a ticket. The company has added additional seats to accommodate the many patrons hoping to view this stunning theatrical endeavor.

Based on Victor Hugo's novel, the story takes place in the early 19th century, when Jean Valjean, a French peasant, is released from prison after serving 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. An act of human kindness, something very lacking at the time, sends Valjean on a quest to transform his life and help others. The policeman Javert, however, believes Valjean is an unreformed criminal and obsesses with putting him back in jail.

Beautifully directed by Scott Denison and with a dynamite cast, this production soars with gorgeous vocals, fine acting and a very strong ensemble. I have never heard Noel Anthony (Valjean) in finer voice, and Nicole Helfer (Fantine) is superb. I have had the pleasure of working with Helfer and watching her develop her voice into the fine instrument it is today. Catherine Bartomeo (Cosette) adds her incredible opera-trained voice to the mix along with the compelling Jade Shojaee (Eponine) and the impressive Jerry Lee (Javert).


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Kelly Tighe has once again used his considerable creative talents to design a multi-media set capable of depicting the larger-than-life locales. With Marcia Maderia's evocative lighting, Tighe brings the streets of Paris alive with a high-tech combination of solid scenery, projections and more. Thanks to the expertise of Elizabeth Martin, those streets include characters dressed in a multitude of period costumes.

Call 925-943-SHOW or go to www.lesherartscenter.org.

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    On a sad note, Diablo Theatre Company (DTC) has announced a suspension in producing shows. The company will be dark for the 2014-2015 season while they regroup financially. DTC recently closed its 54th season with "Guys and Dolls."

    According to board president Sherry Caraballo Dortman, the costs of producing main stage shows at the Lesher Center have escalated beyond DTC's resources. "We are taking a year off to retool and evaluate options. We hope to produce a main stage again in 2015-16."

    In the meantime, the company will continue its youth program STARS 2000, which will present "Thoroughly Modern Millie" July 25-Aug. 3 at Diablo Valley College's Performing Arts Center in Pleasant Hill. A production of "Peter Pan, Jr" is planned for Aug. 2 at the Village Theatre in Danville.

    DTC will also launch a "Back to the Main Stage" fundraiser in hopes of producing large-scale musicals again. To make a donation or for more information, go to www.diablotheatre.org.

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    The American Conservatory Theatre presents a provocative look at sensuality, the roles of men and women and more in its titillating production of "Venus in Fur." The two-person play focuses on the audition of a young actress for a director/playwright who has adapted Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's novel about sexual domination into a play.

    Writer David Ives' carefully crafted work adds a playful, humorous quality to a very sexy game of cat and mouse. Although the ending feels forced and weakens the piece, the actors are worth the price of admission. Well directed by Casey Stangle, Brenda Meaney (Vanda) shows her considerable versatility as she goes from wacky, unprepared actress to a very intelligent, domineering presence, while Henry Clarke (Thomas) finds himself on a slippery slope as the lines between fantasy and reality begin to blur.

    "Venus in Fur" continues through April 13. Call 415-749-2228 or go to www.act-sf.org.

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    Last chance to see Onstage Repertory Theatre's "Weekend Comedy" at the Martinez Campbell Theatre, 636 Ward St. in Martinez. While I haven't seen the show myself, I've heard that actors Wayne McRice, Claudia Gallup, Ryan Terry and Mya Brynn Guitron are a riot. Call 925-518-3277 for reservations.

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    Danielle Feinber, Pixar Animation Studios' director of photography for lighting, will give insights on April 5 into how some of Pixar's famous scenes were made. Her presentation will be hosted by the Roundhill Country Club, 3169 Roundhill Road in Alamo.

    Presented by the Danville-Alamo-Walnut Creek Branch of AAUW, the presentation is open to the public. A continental breakfast begins at 9:30 am. The fee is $20. Credit card or PayPal reservations can be made at http://daw-ca.aauw.net/pixar. For more information, call 925-939-2383.

    Contact Sally Hogarty at sallyhogarty@gmail.com