Entertainment

Prince Rupert arts community bringing Les Miserables to the stage

Actors Heather McRae, Andy Enns and Jeff Saunders going over a scene during a Les Misérables practice on Sunday. Sunday
Actors Heather McRae, Andy Enns and Jeff Saunders going over a scene during a Les Misérables practice on Sunday. Sunday's rehearsal was the first with the orchestra.
— image credit: Martina Perry photo

Audiences will be taken on a rollicking, emotional tale during Les Misérables, Prince Rupert's 2014 community musical production.

"Les Misérables is a sweeping story of redemption, hope, heartbreak and of love, both lost and found," said director Michael Gurney.

"I suspect it will always be a story that resonates with the heart, the mind and the imagination because it's a story about people aspiring to something better."

"You need to bring your Kleenex for this production because it is so powerful and emotional that it just draws you right in. It's got all the elements. Comedy, tragedy and everything else. You will shed a tear," said Crystal Lorette of the Lester Centre of the Arts which is producing the production.

"People can expect an amazing performance from a community that boasts in talent."

Approximately 90 people auditioned for Les Misérables in October after the Lester Centre was given the green light to put on the production. Lorette said she originally looked into putting on the musical a decade ago, but the rights weren't available for community group performances up until last April.

When the music begins on March 27 for opening night, it will be the first time Les Misérables has ever been put on in Prince Rupert.

Based on Victor Hugo's novel, Les Misérables follows the story of Jean Valjean, who will be played by Andy Enns. The musical begins with Jean being released from prison after serving 19 years behind bars for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister and her child.

Jean is out on parole and has become a hardened individual, but an act of generosity transforms his view of the world. He rips up his yellow ticket and begins to change his ways.

"As this transformed man, he begins to live life generously. He adopts a young girl when her mother dies, and becomes a man of importance and leadership in the community," explained Gurney.

A decade after turning his life around, a rebellion threatens to sweep through the streets of Paris lead by students who are tired of the old guard and the rich running the French government.

"Valjean and his daughter are pulled into those events, and he ends up playing an important role in the student's rebellion. We meet a number of the students as well, who can foresee a glorious and utopian end to the cause of over throwing the somewhat despotic French government at that point," said Gurney.

"In the end, some dreams are realized, others are broken. In the end, each character goes through a transformation and has an opportunity to experience grace."

As the production's lead, Enns said he hopes to capture the dynamic role of Jean Valjean through the two decades the musical spans by drawing from his own personal experiences.

"He changes so much in his life, from being a convict to a father figure, all of this happening on the eve of French revolution. It's a challenging role ... I hope I can show him as someone who is maturing and growing as a human being through times where he has to adapt and change," he said.

Enns will be joined by 60 cast members performing in 117 roles, spanning from young to mature actors with and without previous experience.

Gurney said it's a privilege to both direct Les Misérables and work alongside the many Rupertites who are experienced with musicals.

"I've been trying to bring not just my own vision, but a unique Prince Rupert vision to the musical ... I really appreciate the way the cast has been willing to collaborate on the staging and the direction of this production," said Gurney.

Enns said there are a few reasons people should attend Les Misérables: The first being to see an interesting account of French history in the early 1800s, to see friends, family or familiar faces perform and finally because of the outstanding music.

"I'm really impressed with how Les Misérables is going to sound. I would recommend seeing it to anybody, even if they didn't think they were a musical-kind of person," said Enns.

Lorette says Les Misérables' musical numbers are difficult, but the 16 orchestra members lead by musical director Peter Witherly have been doing an outstanding job, along with the production's choreographer Jewel Jerstad who is ensuring the music is presented attractively with dance.

"It's an interesting thing at the end of the musical, after we've had our hearts touched and our laughter elicited, we realize this is what human life is made up of: Tragedy and comedy, grace and forgiveness, and sin, all mixed together. I suspect by the end of the evening, the audience would have had a taste of life in miniature. The rich tapestry of what it means to be a human being compressed into three hours of glorious music," said Gurney.

Performances of Les Misérables will take place at the Lester Centre of the Arts on March 27-29. Tickets are available at the Lester Centre and Cook's Jewellers.

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