Presented by Department of Music, Theatre, and Dance Oct. 24–27
PLYMOUTH — Students in the Department of Music, Theatre, and Dance at Plymouth State University will present a musical theatre version of Victor Hugo’s famous story “Les Miserables,” Oct. 24–27 in the Hanaway Theatre at the Silver Center for the Arts.
The Tony Award-winning musical is the ultimate romantic story of oppression, justice, freedom, duty and longing. The Broadway production of “Les Miserables” premiered in 1987, and remains the fourth longest-running Broadway show of all time.
After spending years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread, Jean Valjean is released and discovers that despite his best attempts to live a good life, it is impossible to leave his past behind. No one will hire the former convict. Against a backdrop of the revolution brewing in France, Valjean finds himself pursued by his former jailor, Inspector Javert. Honor, love and humanity are celebrated in the heart-wrenching finale of this mega-musical with a popular score of beautiful melodies and stirring anthems that includes “I Dreamed a Dream,” “Master of the House” and “On My Own.”
PSU faculty member Sharon Paquette is directing the production, which she says poses a range of challenges, from meeting patrons’ preconceived expectations for this familiar show, to getting all 37 cast members on stage for ensemble numbers, to guiding students as they learn the intricacies of blending the music and stage movement. The show is sung all the way through—there is no spoken dialog.
Paquette says that along with music director Professor Kathleen Arecchi and choreographer Lisa Travis, she is pushing the actors to find the grittiness of the story. “We are not sugar coating it at all. Each day, we realize how many of the themes in the play and novel are still plaguing our country, and we work with the students to think about that and include those thoughts process in their creation process,” Paquette commented.
She says the students are working diligently, have wonderful ideas and are courageous. “It’s their passion,” Paquette says.
Arecchi says cast members have tackled the challenge of singing high difficulty music through wide vocal ranges while also playing dramatic situations as a variety of characters, and dancing and cavorting around the stage at the same time. She notes challenges for fulltime students committed
to this major musical, “of coordinating singing, acting, dancing, even just walking, and bringing all of the elements into alignment within each individual.”
But Arecchi says, “I already hear tantalizing bits of extremely fine singing from these students, some of whom are preparing for professional careers as performing artists, some in music/opera and others in theatre and musical theatre.”
Modern set design techniques and staging will make use of lighting and illusion.
Set and lighting designer Matt Kizer says, “There will be a lot of scrim [a piece of gauze cloth that appears opaque until lit from behind, used as a screen or backdrop] use in this show, haze in the air, and sculpting of light in three dimensions. We will be painting constantly with both light and digital projections.”
At the same time, Kizer says, “We have chosen to include a lot of traditional, signature elements in this show. By including them, we get to visit the way this show was originally staged.”
Kizer concludes, “We need to make a deep emotional impact on the audience, with powerful visuals, but do it in a way that is like memory, or dreaming.”
Costumes also revisit former productions according to costume designer Danee Grillo. She says, “My concept for this show was to take the costume elements that I loved from both the Broadway show and the movie versions of Les Miserables, and mix them with historically accurate information from my own research. I’ve compromised by keeping some of the more ubiquitous pieces—for instance, the shape of Javert’s Napoleonic military coat, and the gilt braid on Enrolras’ vest—and using my own designs for the rest.”
Principal players in the cast include: Mike Dodge, a senior music major from Northwood as Jean Valjean; Brad Fernald, a senior communication studies major from Hudson as Inspector Javert; Eben Brown, a senior music education major from Dorchester as Thenardier; and Sam St. Jean, a junior theatre arts major from Goffstown as Enjolras. Also Alyssa Dumas, a senior theatre arts major from Manchester as Fantine; Georgia Noonan, a sophomore music education major from Raymond as Cosette; Olivia Opal, a sophomore theatre arts major from Hampden, Mass., as Eponine and Danielle Aucoin, a junior theatre arts major from Hudson, Mass., as Mme. Thenardier. Nineteen other students depict multiple ensemble roles.
Area children in the cast are Ainsley Towers of Thornton as Gavroche, Mackenzie Jolli of Bridgewater as Young Cosette and Kayla Sassan of Meredith as Young Eponine.
Performances are Oct. 24 and 26 at 8 p.m., Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 26 and 27 at 2 p.m.
Tickets for “Les Miserables” are $21 for adults, $17 for seniors and $15 for youth at the Silver Center Box Office, 535-2787 or (800) 779-3869. Tickets are also available online at silver.plymouth.edu.
Information about the Department of Music, Theatre, and Dance is online at www.plymouth.edu/mtd.
General information about events at Plymouth State University is online at ThisWeek@PSU, http://thisweek.blogs.plymouth.edu.