The cast and directors of “Les Miserables” have spent most of 2014 working on a local production of the beloved, Tony-winning musical drama based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel about the French revolution.
The Sept. 12 opening means “Les Miz” won’t hit the Tower Theatre stage for two more months, yet tickets are already selling fast. Past Septembers and Marquee Series productions — in which local theater groups bring plays to the Tower’s historic stage — have seen sold-out performances of “The Producers” and “Spamalot,” Given the rapid pace of ticket sales of the six currently scheduled performances, “Les Miz,” produced by Shore Thing Productions, is shaping up to be just as popular.
“We are at about 65 percent capacity right now,” said Ray Solley, executive director of the Tower Theatre Foundation. With about 1,000 tickets left, there’s the possibility of “Les Miz” becoming another sell-out production.
Solley said there is a possibility of adding a show or two.
“We’re looking into adding another show, but that would not happen for another four weeks. And that may not happen,” Solley said.
In other words, don’t sit on your ticket purchase if you think you want to catch this sung-through musical.
An array of local theater and music veterans are involved in readying “Les Miz” for the stage. Mike Nowak and Brad Ruder, the two behind the annual Bend Follies, are director and assistant director.
Michael Gesme of Central Oregon Symphony is conductor, leading the more than 20 musicians who make up the show’s live orchestra.
OperaBend’s Nancy Engebretson and Jason Stein are serving as vocal and musical director, respectively. Michelle Mejaski of Gotta Dance Studio and Co. is choreographer.
Shore Things Productions, which presented an all-female concert version of “1776” at the Tower in 2012, is helmed by David Simpson, who gave a memorable performance as Max Bialystock in “The Producers.”
Typically, Simpson said, casts of musicals will have about three months to rehearse. For “Les Miz” rehearsals began in January.
It isn’t just audiences that find the show special. When auditions were held in November, more than 160 local actors auditioned — a record for local theater, according to Simpson.
“I don’t think anyone in this town has ever had that many people,” he said. “The quality of the people — which was wonderful, because that’s exactly what I was looking for, we were all looking for it — was there, because of the people.”
In addition to serving as music director, tenor Stein won the lead role of Jean Valjean.
“The figure of Jean Valjean in the story is kind of a father figure anyway, and being a person who’s overseeing the music direction of the show, it’s kind of nice,” said Simpson. “I had talked to somebody who had actually done the same thing with ‘Les Miz’ in another production, who’d been involved as a director as well as played Jean Valjean. He said it’s great for a cast because there’s this crossover between what you are with the cast in the show and outside the show.”
The cast of 35 ranges in age from 8 to 65-plus.
James Knox stars as Javert, Mollie Tennant as Fantine and Shantae Enoch as Cossette. Don Delach and Karen Sipes are Monsieur and Madame Thenardier.
Simpson knows expectations are high for the show.
“Everybody knows ‘Les Miz.’ They either know the movie or they know the show,” he said. “People are going to come having expectations. We hope we meet those expectations.
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