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Published: Thursday, 6/19/2008

'Les Miz' ends season at Valentine

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Last year at this time, Dale Vivirito, the artistic director of the Valentine Theatre, had plans to produce Annie Get Your Gun at the end of the 2007-08 season.

Then came the Thanksgiving explosion in the basement of the Valentine and the shuttering of the theater until early April, leaving the Valentine without a season finale.

"We should have been building sets and casting the show in January through March, and that wasn't possible," Vivirito said. When the Valentine did reopen, it was in time for St. John's Jesuit High School to present its spring show, Les Miserables, the musical by Claude-Michel Schnberg and Alain Boublil, based on the novel by Victor Hugo. It revolves around the policeman Javert's obsessive pursuit of the escaped criminal Jean Valjean from the early 1800s until the student riots in Paris in the 1830s.

"I saw Les Miz (the show's affectionate nickname) and was really taken with the production," Vivirito said. "They just made it move and sing, and it occurred to me that at the time Les Miz takes place, the revolutionaries in France would have been the age of these kids."

He talked to director Damian Rogers, who is also on the board of the Valentine, and they decided to bring Les Miserables back as the Valentine's finale, figuring that a lot of people in the community didn't go to the St. John's performances because they weren't related to anyone in the show.

"So this solved a problem we were having, but it also provides the community with an opportunity to see a really good version of one of the finest shows of the 20th century," Vivirito said. It opened on Broadway in 1987, winning eight Tony Awards and running for more than 6,600 performances through 2003. A revival in 2006 ran for more than 460 performances.

The production is called the "school version," which means that some judicious cuts were made to tighten the plot and reduce the running time, which on Broadway came in at more than three hours. Vivirito believes the cuts help the show, giving it a better pace and more immediacy.

Rogers again directs, and the cast of more than 60 is headed by Jay Ellis as Valjean, Sean Coyle as Javert, Kellie Kulka as Fantine, Jarrod Goad as Marius, Amanda Geisel as Cosette, and Lisa Maxon as Eponine.

Luke Rosen is the vocal director, Tim Durham is the scenic and lighting designer, Michael Lang is the choreographer, and Jason Yost conducts the pit orchestra.

"Les Miserables" will be presented at 8 p.m. today-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday in the Valentine Theatre, 400 North Superior St. Tickets are $15, $23, and $27, with rush seating ($15 a seat) available one hour prior to curtain time. Information: 419-242-2787.

The Williams County Community Theatre is presenting Little Women: The Musical as a special addition to its schedule.

Opening tomorrow in Montpelier, Ohio, the production is based on the Louisa May Alcott novel about a New England woman trying to maintain a happy home for her four daughters while her husband serves as a chaplain for the Union Army during the Civil War. Money in the March household may be scarce, but love and security are abundant.

Playing Marmee March is Lora Knight, a WCCT veteran. Her daughters are the serious Meg (Evangeline Rupp), the tomboy and would-be author Jo (Crystal Bowers), frail and innocent Beth (Megan Ward), and the romantic Amy (Abby McKelvey).

Also in the cast are Lila Wittig as Aunt March, Ethan Roberts as Laurie, David Swanson as Mr. Laurence, Kyle Dillard as John Brook, C. Alin Cass as Professor Bhaer (he also doubles as musical director), Jan Delaney as Mrs. Kirk, Ashlee Dietsch as Sally Gardiner, and Deyli Stantz as Annie Moffat.

Playing characters in Jo's imagination are Elizabeth Overberg, Jamy Shaffer, Ethan Roberts, Courtney Handy, and Courtney Montagu.

Brent Blalock of Fort Wayne directs and celebrates his quarter-century of directing community theater.

"Little Women: The Musical" is scheduled at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays through June 29 in the playhouse at 501 South East Ave., Montpelier. Tickets are $13. "Little Women" is not part of a package, but season-ticket holders can get half-price tickets by showing their season ticket. Information: 888-569-9228.

Kudos to the Black Swamp Players. Its production of Witness for the Prosecution was awarded several honors at the Ohio Community Theater Association regional competition Sunday in Lima, and an excerpt from it was selected to go to the state competition in Columbus in August.

The Bowling Green-based troupe won merit awards for costumes and acting (Tod Butler, Leroy Morgan, and Jim Barnes), and awards of excellence for directing (Kathy Barnes), set design (Dennis East), acting (Kate Hoover and Lane Hakel), and ensemble performance.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at:

ncherry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6130.



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