Photo: Cast members rehearse the “Innkeeper’s Song” from the Les Miserables School Edition. Directed by April Rames, performances will be Friday through Sunday, March 16, 17 and 18 in the Kaneland High School Auditorium. Photo Courtesy of April Rames
Performances are Friday, March 16 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, March 17, at 7 p.m.
and Sunday, March 18, at 2 p.m.
Kaneland High School Auditorium
46W326 Keslinger Road, Maple Park.
or visit www.kaneland.org/d302
by Lynn Meredith
KANELAND—Kaneland High School’s top-notch vocalists will get a chance to strut their stuff on March 16, 17 and 18 when the auditorium fills with the familiar sounds of the musical “Les Miserables.” A cast of 48 singers, orchestra of 15 musicians and tech crew of six will present the musical under the dramatic direction of April Rames, the vocal direction of Bryan Kunstman, the conducting of Aaron Puckett and the choreography of Paula Franz.
“We announced the show last May, and since then the students have been very excited,” Rames said. “We had a very strong turnout this year. It’s the first year we had to not cast some people. Usually we are looking for people.”
With 60 students vying for the singing roles, the competition was tough, but directors Kunstman and Rames knew they had a talented group of vocalists from which to choose. With a musical as challenging as “Les Mis” they needed to make sure they had the talent this all-sung musical would need. Even though the cast is evenly split between men’s and women’s roles, the show requires more male leads than usual and a strong male chorus.
“We don’t pre-cast, but we have to ask ourselves if we have enough men, if we have enough strong male singers,” Rames said. “We have six to seven large male roles, a strong male chorus of revolutionaries and a lot of featured solos who are not leads.”
Tucker DeBolt has been cast in the role of the redeemed petty thief Jean Valjean. The relentless Inspector Javert will be played by Eric Eichelberger. Maggie Wallace will take the stage as the tragic Fantine, while Anna Novotny acts as her daughter Cosette.
Inn keeper and thief Thenardier is played by Brian Edwards, with Kathryn Lanute as his unscrupulous wife Madame Thenardier and Jordyn Withey as their daughter Eponine. Jake Rosko and Alec Kovach have been cast as student revolutionaries Marius and Enjolras. Nearly 40 other students will also be on stage in various supporting roles and the chorus.
While this version is similar to the original productions in London and on Broadway, it is called the “School Edition.” The original production ran three hours, and the school edition runs two hours. The story is the same, but there may be fewer verses or featured solos. Nevertheless, the Kaneland vocalists are measuring up to the demands of the musical.
“The students are familiar with the show, so it’s come fairly easily to learn. There are some adaptations in vocal ranges, rhythms and emotional demands, but it’s not been that much of a stretch for the talented singers to glam onto,” Kunstman said. “We are blessed to have very talented students.”
Most of the students are in choir or have a love of singing. The musical is not quite an operetta, said Kunstman. It’s close to opera, but not in style. There is no spoken dialogue in the show. Instead, it features recitatives and arias with flourishes of runs and lines.
“It has musical theatre songs but borrows tools from opera,” Kunstman explained.
Like the original productions, Kaneland’s version will stick to a minimalist style in its sets and props. It won’t, however, have the signature revolving stage of the original set design because it would be cost prohibitive. Instead, Rames has had to be creative in making set changes while the action continues. With over 40 singers on stage at a time, she has had to plot out ahead of time the areas of the stage where everyone will be in a given scene.
“We are going to change the scene quietly on one part of the stage while someone is (acting) down stage, for example,” Rames said. “There are not a ton of props—guns and letters. We’ll use pantamine (of other props) to get the idea across.”
The set will have two small painted backdrops, platforms and suggestions of a garden or a city street by key set pieces. All Dressed Up, in Batavia, will provide many of the costumes, along with some from the theatre department’s own stock and some pulled together with the help of parent volunteers.
The cast is rehearsing five days a week putting music, action and choreographed movement together. The directors note that rehearsals have been running smoothly and that ticket sales are ahead of previous years. The appeal of a show that is familiar makes it enticing for students to become involved in and audiences to come to see, Kunstman said.
“It’s one of my favorite shows. The students are working very hard to make it a success,” he said.