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'Les Miserables' back, perhaps for the last time

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Robin Hunt felt blessed to get the opportunity to direct “Les Miserables” in its regional community theatre premiere three years ago at Eastlight Theatre in East Peoria. It was one of the first produced on a community theatre in the country after the popular Broadway musical was made available.

Now, Hunt is directing it for one of the last times the show will be done anywhere in community theatre, at least for several years, because the rights are being pulled by Musical Theatre International on June 30.

It opens Friday at 7:30 p.m. for a seven-show run at the Byron Moore Auditorium in East Peoria High School and Hunt said she again feels blessed for the opportunity.

“I felt so incredibly lucky to be the first to direct it in the area and to be asked to do it again was amazing. I immediately accepted. It is just such a tremendous show. The music is fabulous, the story of grace and redemption is priceless. And I am blessed to once again get to work on such a beautiful piece of literature and theatre experience,” Hunt said.

“Les Miserables” is the story of struggle for survival and redemption during the French Revolution in the early 19th century that was immortalized by the Victor Hugo novel and the musical that is back on Broadway, which is why community theatres no longer can get the rights to produce it.

That is why Eastlight Theatre decided to do it again, only three years after it produced the show in June 2012.

“Les Miserables” features a cast of veteran performers, including Jason Morris as Valjean. He portrayed Javert here three years ago.

Javert is being performed by John Huerta, who portrayed the same role two seasons ago at Peoria Players Theatre. “I asked John about doing the same role and he said he wanted to because he wanted to continue digging even deeper into the character,” Hunt said.

Mary Rose Williams portrays Cosette, Vicky Snyder is Eponine and Carmen McCarthy is Fantine. Bryan Blanks and Katy Ailshie portray Thenardier and Madam Thenardier, respectively, while Madalyn Schmitt is Little Cosette and Claire Hawks portrays Little Eponine.

Other key roles are Marius, portrayed by Deric Kimler, Enjolras, portrayed by Daniel Maughan, Combeferre, played by Gregory Schamberger and Grantaie, played by Stephen Peterson.

Sean Degenhart, who directed the music for “Mary Poppins” when Hunt directed it last fall at Eastlight, directs the music for this show. Hunt did the choreography. The set was designed by built by Eastlight technical director Steve Cordle, whom Hunt described as “a genius with lights and sets.”

“It’s a wonderful cast and they are doing such a fabulous job,” she said.

Tickets for “Les Miserables” are $19 and can be purchased on-line at www.eastlighttheatre.com or by calling 699-7469.

Show times are 7:30 p.m. on June 19, 20, 24, 25, 26 and 27 and 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 21.

The musical centers mostly on Jean Valjean, who is released from 19 years of unjust imprisonment, “but finds nothing in store for him but mistrust and mistreatment. He breaks his parole in hopes of starting a new life, initiating a life-long struggle for redemption as he is relentlessly pursued by police inspector Javert, who refuses to believe Valjean can change his ways,” states the Eastlight website.

“Finally, during the Paris student uprising of 1832, Javert must confront his ideals after Valjean spares his life and saves that of the student revolutionary who has captured the heart of Valjean's adopted daughter. His world-view shattered, Javert commits suicide, and Valjean at last attains the peace he has sought for so long,” it says.

“Les Miserables” is one of the most popular musicals ever written.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).