The Grand Theatre is celebrating 20 years of High School Projects with the opening of Les Misérables, which includes a cast of 47, plus 17 crew members and three student musicians. And this year, the ensemble shines, raising the roof and filling the house with the rich anthems that make Les Mis memorable.
Les Mis is the epic story of convict Jean Valjean (Dean Holbrough) who serves his time for a minor crime and becomes mayor under a new name. Although he is aided by a kindly Bishop (Peter Nye), he is hunted by Inspector Javert (Preston Cooper-Winder) for breaking parole. When a worker in Valjean’s factory, Fantine (Keirsten Overton), dies leaving young Cosette (Amber Sellars) an orphan, Valjean raises her as his own. He retrieves her from the conniving innkeepers M. Thénardier (Christopher Pitre-McBride) and Mme. Thénardier (Colleen Moodie) and their daughter young Eponine (Olivia Farquar).
Eventually Cosette (Claire Latosinsky) falls in love with the student Marius (Justin Eddy), but sadly Eponine (Isabella Majewska) loves him, too. Marius joins the students rebels under the leadership of Enjolras (Jared Brown) with little Gavroche (Marcy Gallant) is their young spy. Eponine and all the rebel students but Marius, who is saved by Valjean, die in the battle. The story concludes with the marriage of Marius and Cosette, surrounded by the spirits of all those they have loved.
The entire cast deserves praise for their handling of the rich score. Harmonies are excellent and the voices magnificent, making it difficult to believe that they are students whose vocal ranges may not have fully matured yet. The rousing anthems One Day More and Do you Hear the People Sing? are beautiful and powerful. In particular, Drink with Me shows the scope of male voices in this production. Another favourite is Master of the House which features the Thenardiers as comic relief. Pitre-McBride and Moodie display the humour perfectly, with the ensemble backing them in drunken fun.
Marius’ song Empty Chairs at Empty Tables is well presented by Eddy, and Overton gives a moving rendition of Fantine’s I Dreamed a Dream. As well, credit goes to Majewska for Eponine’s heart wrenching On My Own.
The opening night audience, filled with proud parents and family, was very appreciative of the production. Especially poignant was a warm send-off for former Artistic Director Susan Ferley who directed this production of Les Mis. Ferley has been at the helm for 15 High School Projects, and was honoured by the current cast plus a myriad of grateful alumni who joined the cast on stage at the end of the show. Ferley was thanked by two notable alumni, Doug Price and Ben Sanders, as she heads to the UK to study.
Twice a year the professionals at the Grand audition high school students across the area, and select the most promising for a big musical production or a play. We trust this 20 year tradition will continue at the Grand under new Artistic Director Dennis Garnhum.