Enter the world of early 1800’s France with Conway High School tonight as its Theatre Department performs the opening night of Les Miserables.
Showtimes are tonight and Friday at 7 p.m.; Saturday at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.; and Sunday at 3 p.m. General admission tickets are $8 in advance and $12 at the door, and can be purchased by calling the school at (843) 488-0662.
The story, written originally by Victor Hugo in the 19th Century, takes place in France during the time before the rebellion and follows the story of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his tale of redemption. The story has also been adapted for film, stage and television.
Katie Smith, director of Conway High School’s production of Les Miserables, is also the drama and theatre teacher at CHS. She realizes Les Miserables was a big undertaking for high school students, but she said she wanted to give the students a show that “was at the same caliber as their talent.”
“It is truly a masterpiece of a show and the students have worked very hard to rise to the occasion. I also wanted my students to understand the power of hope. We live in an often very scary world, but with hope and the passion to do the right thing, change can happen,” Smith said. “At its core, Les Mis is a story of redemption and love, mercy and judgment, justice and injustices. All of these are tough lessons for students to learn, but this musical helps tell those stories in an artistic way.”
Smith directs the production alongside Jacelyn Spearman, CHS chorus director and music director for Les Miserables.
“The kids have most definitely risen to the occasion. These kids in Conway and our Fine Arts program, they are some of the best we have in the district. I would say the state,” Spearman said. “They are so incredibly talented -- one of the best kept secrets that’s about to explode. The kids here have a talent, and being able to accomplish a huge task both vocally and dramatically with something like Les Mis is wonderful.”
The principal cast features senior Hunter Collins as Javert, senior Caleb Elia as Valjean, senior Savannah Turner as Cosette, sophomore Cecily Hennigan as Fantine, senior Chase Harrington as Marius and senior Olivia Harrelson as Eponine. The understudy cast consists of senior Madison Atwater, sophomore Desaray Hopkins and senior Christopher Gerald.
Hunter Collins, who plays Javert, the town inspector and prison guard where Valjean was imprisoned, said he saw both the musical and the movie, and wanted to be a part of the show.
“My favorite part is being part of a big family that will always welcome me no matter what. Making new friends…I love to sing, and I get to do what I love every day,” Collins said. “I think everyone should try it. If you like music and you feel you are talented, you should try it.”
One of the most excited cast members is Savannah Turner, who plays Cosette.
“I did go into this wanting this role specifically because I am in love with this show,” Turner said. “I’ve read the book 18 million times, I’m so excited about doing this show.”
Caleb Elia, who portrays Jean Valjean, touched on the themes of the play.
“I read the book by Victor Hugo before, and I always related to Valjean. I thought I could have a connection to him,” Elia said. “The overarching themes and the music itself that are displayed by Jean Valjean are faith, love and hope, and being able to show that is very important to me and to everyone in the show.”
Smith said it has been a pleasure to watch the students grow as actors and singers during the production.
“These students amaze me. The lead roles in this show are quite complex, but the ensemble roles are equally challenging. My students have been able to fully develop even the smallest of characters to the point of greatness,” Smith said. “I am so excited for the audience to see the small little moments that happen, as well as the grand moments. I am very proud of how they have handled this large show, and we could not have done it without their hard work.”