Tag Archives: Bryan Kunstman

Kaneland to perform ‘Les Miserables’

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

‘Les Miserables’
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.
For tickets:
e-mail: KHSTIX@gmail.com
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.

Cast announced for KHS performance of ‘Les Miserables’

KANELAND—Director April Rames has announced the cast for Kaneland High School’s performance of “Les Miserables School Edition.”

“Casting decisions were very tough this year as there are so many talented students,” Rames said.

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.

Performances will be at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 16, and Saturday, March 17, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 18, in the Kaneland High School auditorium.

Choral Director Bryan Kunstman will work with all of the students as they develop their roles.

“They are a fantastic group of performers with wonderful voices. Many of them have earned statewide recognition for their singing, and I have no doubt they will do an outstanding job of bringing this beloved musical to the Kaneland stage,” he said.

Kaneland’s performance of “Les Miserables School Edition” is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI) and is being performed entirely by students.

For information or tickets, e-mail KHSTIX@gmail.com.

‘Beauty and the Beast’ a beauty of a production

by Susan O’Neill
Disney’s musical “Beauty and the Beast” has been Kaneland High School senior Samantha Eichelberger’s favorite show since she was a little girl. By the time she was 3 years old, she knew the words to all the songs. She said she felt a real connection to Belle, the main character in the story, with whom she shared a love of reading.

“I would say, ‘Look, mommy, she likes to read, too,’” she said.

When she got older, she developed an even greater appreciation for the music. So when she was chosen to play Belle in the high school’s production of Beauty and the Beast, she was thrilled.

The students of Kaneland High School performed the musical last Friday, Saturday and Sunday. All three days were well-attended, and Sunday was a sold-out show. In full costume, the cast joined a room full of little boys and girls for a brunch before Sunday’s matinee. Some of the children dressed up like their favorite characters, and posed for souvenir pictures with the actors.

“I love the little kids,” cast member Emily Kenkel said. “They’re so in awe.”

Kenkel, who played Mrs. Potts, was dressed like a tea-pot, with one arm for the handle and the other to pour. She said she had a lot of fun with her role as an inanimate object.

This was Kenkel’s last high school production. She graduates this spring and said she will likely become a music teacher. She said she was happy that her last play was such a huge production.

And a huge production it was. Many of the actors had several costume changes during the performance, some as many as three. There were also a number of set changes, as well.

Everything worked flawlessly. Ilene Carter, the director, said that high school junior and stage manager Scott Dykstra had everything under control.

She said he was very disciplined during the rehearsals and performances. He would not allow any chatter over the seven headsets he had going to give everyone direction.

“It was amazing the way he pulled everything together,” Carter said.

Bradley Staker, who played The Beast, not only played one of the lead roles, but also put a lot of time into helping build the sets. He also assisted with the lights “and all the fun stuff,” he said.

Staker said the role of The Beast fit him, because his friends consider him a big cuddly beast. He said he has been singing since the second grade when he sang a solo in the children’s Christmas concert at his church.

“I’ve been singing ever since,” he said.

He began performing in musicals in high school and is a part of the Madrigals and the boy’s choir. Although he is a junior, he has already decided he will major in music education in college. He wants to teach choral music.

Gaston, also known as Kevin Krasinski, said Beauty and the Beast was a part of his childhood, as well. He said it was nice to reminisce while they rehearsed for the performance.

He said playing Gaston was exciting for him, and he was really able to lose himself in the character. Krasinski is 6’1” tall, and similar to Gaston, he has a large presence.

“I’m like Gaston in that I carry myself in a big manner,” he said. “Gaston has a big personality and he is boastful. They always know he’s in the room.”

Krasinski said he has been acting since he was in eighth grade, when he tried out for a play and ended up with the role of Daddy Warbucks. He said he realized then how much fun it was. He also started singing when he was very young.

When he was in sixth or seventh grade, he started to pursue music more seriously. He joined the Midnight Special, the concert choir and the Madrigals, and began performing in musicals.

The other main cast members are Chloe Bluml as Madame de la Grande Bouche, Brock Feece as Lefou, Joey Kenkel as Maurice, Belle’s father, Kathryn Lanute as Chip, Bryan Renaud as Lumiere, Kendall Renaud as Cogsworth, Jake Rosco as Monsieur D’Arque and Bessie Tockstein as Babette.

Mike Panegouleas is the narrator, James Tockstein is the young prince, Taylor Carlson and Danielle Rose played the enchantress, and the silly girls were played by Emma Anderson, Natalie Sweica and Samantha Vazquez.

In addition to the students who played the leads and other larger parts, Carter said there were many others who helped to make the production a success.

“The chorus members worked just as hard rehearsing,” she said. (The musical number) “Be Our Guests” is 12 minutes long.”

The chorus began rehearsing the music under musical director Bryan Kunstman the week of Jan. 9, and students began work on the sets with technical director Chad Carlson at about the same time. Carter said for the high school orchestra to learn that much music in that short of a time was a tribute to orchestra director Aaron Puckett.

Carter, who teaches theatre at the high school, said they were lucky to have choreographer Paula Frasz work with the cast. Frasz is a professor of dance and choreographer at Northern Illinois University.

Lisa Hodge was in charge of the costumes, and Carter said she made the changes look effortless from the audience. She said parents helped in every capacity.

“We had the right combination of people to make the quality happen,” she said.

Eichelberger said she definitely had fun during this performance and particularly enjoyed coming out on stage in the yellow dress.

“I could hear the kids going, ‘Ooooh,’” she said. “My mom said the little girl behind her said, ‘She’s so pretty.’ I felt like a princess.”