Since August, 16-year-old Charlotte Miller of Apache Junction has been hard at work at rehearsals for “Les Misérables School Edition.”
The musical, produced by Mesa’s Places! Productions, will be on stage Dec. 17-20 at East Valley High School, 7420 E. Main St. in Mesa, with a second run planned Jan. 20-22, 2023 at Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St.
Charlotte’s no stranger to the spotlight, but the teenager is quick to say this stage — and this cast — are a notch above the rest.
“‘Les Mis’ is such a fantastic musical and story, and I thought it would be a great experience to be a part of it,” she said. “I walked into Places! with an open mind for any role and it’s been such a pleasure to be in such a wonderful cast with amazing directors and choreographers.”
The musical — one of the most celebrated in theatrical history — focuses on the tumultuous world of Jean Valjean, a former convict who spends a lifetime seeking redemption. Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France and the aftermath of the French Revolution, this timeless story of intertwined destinies reveals the power of compassion and the quiet evil of indifference to human suffering.
All the passion and drama of the original Broadway production are replicated in the student version – especially with a cast like this one. Indeed, despite its weighty themes, Charlotte and her castmates, most of whom are in high school, are pulling it off with a maturity and talent that bely their youth.
“I think audiences will be amazed by the emotion and voices of these young performers,” said Allison Houston, the director and music director of “Les Mis” and founding artistic director for Places! “I hope they will be moved by the message of this powerful piece.”
Tim Mills, the show’s assistant director, is quick to agree.
“This is probably the most talented cast we’ve ever assembled, and we’ve had some very talented casts in the past,” he said. “I think audiences will be deeply moved by our production of ‘Les Mis.’”
Charlotte, who has performed in numerous stage productions in recent years, was thrilled when she was cast in “Les Mis” as a lovely lady, a factory worker and in other ensemble roles.
“My favorite parts of the rehearsal process have definitely been putting together the larger numbers like ‘At the End of the Day’ and ‘Master of the House,’” she said. “It’s so exciting to look back at videos from earlier rehearsals and see how the group has grown in these numbers and how clean they now look.”
Beyond its deep storyline, the musical is challenging in other ways, too. Nearly every word in the two-hour show is sung, every scene is carefully staged and every performer plays an important role in bringing the story together. This attention to detail is evident throughout the production, from the set design and costuming to the character development and carefully designed choreography.
“This was such a fun project,” said the show’s choreographer, Lily Saba. “We really wanted it to look natural so the dances blend in rather than everyone just breaking out in a dance.”
Added Houston, “We have spent a lot of time going back to the source material, the masterpiece that is Victor Hugo’s novel. We’ve discussed the characters in depth, including their stories not in the musical, and have a wonderful dramaturg, Kasey Ray. Many of the details you see in the costumes, props, set and staging are from the book.”
With music by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, “Les Mis” is famous the world over for its score, which includes beloved ballads including “On My Own” and “Bring Him Home” as well as high-impact ensemble numbers like “Do You Hear the People Sing.”
“I think audiences will love how amazing our cast sounds up on stage,” said Charlotte. “With such a variety of ages performing in the show, hearing how advanced some of my castmates’ voices are is so spectacular.”
She can hardly wait until opening night.
“With the size of our cast and how strong we are, it is such a pleasure to listen to,” said Charlotte. “I can’t wait for others to experience what a brilliant show ‘Les Mis’ is.”
The directors also are eager to open the show and wow audiences.
Said Mills, “I’m hoping they will leave the show believing this was the best ‘Les Mis’ production they’ve ever seen.”
Saba, too, is excited to see their work come to fruition.
“I am extremely proud of these kids,” she said. “This show is not easy and deals with some really hard topics, and they are handling it with such grace. I end up in tears every time I hear them sing.”
Tickets for “Les Mis” are $15 and can be purchased at placesproductionsaz.com. The run includes both matinee and evening performances at East Valley High School and at Mesa Arts Center. Discounts are available for teachers, seniors, veterans, first responders and students. Group discounts are also available.
Winner of over 100 international awards and seen by more than 70 million people, “Les Mis” has been performed in more than 40 countries and in 22 languages. “Les Misérables School Edition” is specially adapted and licensed through Music Theatre International and Cameron Mackintosh (Overseas) LTD. It is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International. All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI, mtishows.com.