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August 30, 2013

Stagecrafters presents ‘Les Miserables’ for first time

By Robert Guttersohn
C & G Staff Writer

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Stagecrafters presents ‘Les Miserables’ for first time
From left, Randi Hamilton, of Ferndale, playing Fantine; Joshua Allor, of Mount Clemens, playing Jean Valjean; Bethany Rydzewski, of Livonia, playing Cosette; Brad Ellison, of Southfield, playing Marius; and Kryssy Becker, of Auburn Hills, playing Eponine, portray a scene from “Les Miserables.”
Emilie McClelland and her brother, Brad Ellison, pose in their costumes Aug. 27 from the upcoming “Les Misérables,” which premieres Sept. 6.
 

ROYAL OAK — In one corner of the Baldwin Theatre, half a dozen actors group near a piano.

As the player strikes keys, the actors practice a song.

In the dressing rooms, actors don ragged clothes and cover their faces in dirt.

Near the stage, musicians look over sheets of music. Sharp outbursts of horns and other instruments fill the auditorium as they warm up. Lamplight on their music stands reveals the play the volunteer actors, directors and musicians will attempt to tackle for the first time: “Les Misérables.”

Until recently, the award-winning show had yet to be tackled on the amateur level. The rights to do so weren’t made available to purchase until the end of last year, and community theaters weren’t allowed to put on a show until June.

Since then, community theaters nationwide have been putting on the nearly three-hour show adapted from Victor Hugo’s mid-19th century novel. Starting Sept. 6, it will be Stagecrafters’ turn, and following the notoriety of the Broadway play and the success of the 2012 film, it has director Rodel Salazar excited for the challenge.

“The pressure I am putting onto myself is that people know the show,” he said before an Aug. 27 rehearsal. “Anyone who has never seen a production of it will compare it to the movie. And anyone who has seen the musical, they’ll compare it to the version they’ve seen.”

When Salazar, 36, first met with Stagecrafters’ board in December to be interviewed for the directing role, he had a good understanding of both the play and the historical context behind the uprising that “Les Misérables” depicts. He has been a fan of “Les Misérables” since seeing it in New York in 1995, and he is studying for his master’s in French. In one of his papers, he was asked to explain the representation of women in 19th century France. His subject was Fantine — a woman who, in the play, works to secretly take care of her out-of-wedlock child.

With that in mind, he wants members of the audience to appreciate not only the play production but also the message that Victor Hugo intended to send when he first penned the book: to speak out and to fight for what you believe in.

“I’d hope you’d come out of the theater and say, ‘Wow, that’s why I want to go see another show,’” Salazar said.

To help convey that message, he says he has been gifted with a very talented cast. One of them is a returning actor who took a nine-year hiatus from Stagecrafters.  

Brad Ellison, 31, returned specifically to play the role of Marius — a revolutionary and the love interest to Cosette.

“It’s just one of those roles that vocally is challenging,” Ellison said. “I’ve just always wanted to be a part of the show.”

His sister, Emilie McClelland, 37, introduced him to the play when they were children. Back then, they’d sing along to the soundtrack. Now, they are both playing roles in “Les Misérables” on stage.

Emilie, who returned to Stagecrafters last year after an 11-year absence, will be part of the play’s ensemble cast.

“I think what people will really compare us to is the stage performance that has been on tour for many years,” Ellison said.

And he’s OK with that, despite the nightmares he’s had of forgetting his lines and his costume.

Emilie is also ready for the challenge, saying from the leads to the supporting roles, everyone mixes well.

“The talent is amazing, and the personalities are amazing,” she said.

Advance tickets for performances cost $20 on Thursdays and $22 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets may be purchased online at www.stagecrafters.org or by phone at (248) 541-6430.


‘Les Misérables’ showtimes

• Sept. 6, 8 p..m.
• Sept. 7, 8 p.m. 
• Sept. 8, 2 p.m. 
• Sept. 12, 8 p.m.
• Sept. 13, 8 p.m.
• Sept. 14, 8 p.m. 
• Sept. 15, 2 p.m.
• Sept. 19, 8 p.m.
• Sept. 20, 8 p.m.
• Sept. 21, 8 p.m.
• Sept. 22, 2 p.m.
• Sept. 26, 8 p.m.
• Sept. 27, 8 p.m.
• Sept. 28, 8 p.m.
• Sept. 29, 2 p.m.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Robert Guttersohn at rguttersohn@candgnews.com or at (586)218-5006.