PSU presses cast, crew to convey themes of oppression, duty, justice and freedom in ‘Les Miserables’ production

October 24th, 2013 by Lynn

    Photo credit: Runaway Cart, Matt Kizer Design SETTING THE SCENE: Matt Kizer said his set-design techniques and staging make use of lighting effects and illusion. “There will be a lot of scrim (pieces of gauze cloth that appear opaque until lit from behind), haze in the air and sculpting of light in three dimensions. We will be painting constantly with both light and digital projections. 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.”

    PLYMOUTH — Officials behind the Plymouth State University production of the stage classic “Les Miserables” this month are pushing actors to pursue the grittiness behind the tale of oppression, duty, justice and freedom.

    “We are not sugar coating it at all,” said Sharon Paquette, a PSU faculty member and director of the weighty musical. “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.”

    Students in PSU’s department of music, theater and dance will present Victor Hugo’s famous story today through Sunday at the Silver Center for the Arts.

    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 a score that includes “I Dreamed a Dream,” “Master of the House” and “On My Own.”

    Stage Challenge

    Paquette said the production, in which all dialogue is sung, has posed a range of challenges, including getting all 37 cast members on stage for ensemble numbers and guiding students through the intricacies of music and stage movement. Paquette teamed with music director and PSU professor Kathleen Arecchi and choreographer Lisa Travis.

    Arecchi says cast members are tasked with singing high-difficulty music through wide vocal ranges while also playing dramatic situations as a variety of characters, all the while dancing and cavorting around the stage.

    Mike Dodge, a senior music major from Northwood, portrays Jean Valjean; Brad Fernald, a senior communication studies major from Hudson, is Inspector Javert; Eben Brown, a senior music education major from Dorchester, is Thenardier; Sam St. Jean, a junior theater arts major from Goffstown, is Enjolras; and Alyssa Dumas, a senior theater arts major from Manchester, is Fantine.

    Shows are 8 p.m. today, 7 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $15-$17. Call 535-2787 or (800) 779-3869 or visit for details.

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