The theater at University High School has been buzzing with French peasants in recent weeks – French peasants with remarkable singing voices.
A year after producing “Beauty and the Beast,” the school’s drama department is trying to top that show with “Les Misérables.”
“It’s my favorite play,” said director Briane Green. She said she has been planning the play for about two years. Auditions were held in June and all-day rehearsals began in August. Most of the principal actors were able to rehearse without their books at the beginning of September.
Green said she has always felt drawn to the story and the music of the play, based on the novel by Victor Hugo. The themes of the power of love and learning why people fight have always hit home for her. She said it is wonderful to see it unfold on the University stage.
“Our goal is always to top our last show,” she said.
This year’s musical boasts more than 50 students in the production, from U-Hi and its feeder schools, 10 crew members, and a professional orchestra.
They’ve also completed some construction in the theater to add to the performance.
“The stage revolves,” said George Green, assistant director, who also is the executive artistic director of the Lake City Playhouse in Coeur d’Alene. Construction was completed over the summer. George Green said there are 125 castors supporting the device which can turn 4,000 pounds and is similar to those on Broadway stages.
It cost $5,000 to build, and was financed from ticket sales of previous plays.
“Les Misérables” is an ambitious play for the students as all speaking roles are really singing roles.
“Everybody has to be able to sing,” Briane Green said. This year choir director Matt Johnson has come in to work with the students and conduct the orchestra. Carolyn Jess is the musical director.
Cast members have been going above and beyond for this play. Briane Green said many of the principal cast members have been working with private vocal coaches. They are also juggling schoolwork and plays outside of school. Briane Green said one member of the ensemble, Mathias Oliver, performed in the recent production of “The Producers,” at Spokane Civic Theatre.
While many of her students from previous years have graduated and moved on, Briane Green said she is still getting a lot of new talent for her plays. This year there are just a few seniors, so the program has room to grow in coming years.
“They just keep coming,” she said.
She also relies heavily on parent support. She said many parents take a look at their student’s rehearsal and performance times before scheduling any trips. She said there were about 10 active volunteers, but notes with the busy schedule their students have, everyone contributes.
“All parents are volunteers,” she said.
Along with a large cast, there are more than 600 pieces of costuming, most of which come from theater groups around the area.
“It’s our most expensive show we’ve ever done,” she said.