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'Les Miserables' set to open at Eastlight

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The struggle for survival and redemption during the French Revolution in the early 19th century and immortalized by the novel and musical "Les Miserables" is finally available in its complete form to community theatres.

And Eastlight Theatre in East Peoria has it.

(Photo by Jenny Parkhurst) Revolutionaries prepare for confrontation during a recent dress rehearsal of "Les Miserables," the musical that opens Friday at Eastlight theatre in East Peoria."Les Miserables," directed by Robin Hunt and featuring a cast of veteran performers, opens Friday night, June 22, at 7:30 p.m. at Byron Moore Auditorium at East Peoria High School. The show continues at 7:30 p.m. on June 23, 27, 28, 29 and 30 and at 2 p.m. Sunday June 24. Tickets are $19 and can be purchased on-line at www.eastlighttheatre.com or by calling 699-7469.

"We have waited a very long time to have this opportunity at the community theatre level and we are thrilled to get to do it," Hunt said. "I have been given the biggest honor and privilege I can imagine to get to direct such a wonderful musical and such an outstanding cast whose dedication to the show has been nothing short of amazing. I continue to pinch myself every day. What a wonderful undertaking."

The musical is based on the novel by Victor Hugo and 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.

Hunt said the music "is so captivating people will be leaving the theatre singing it. But the story, too, is so incredible because there are so many different layers to the emotions they go through."

The play has its sad moments but has "a very uplifting ending, and even though the story takes place in the 1800s the theme is one that is timeless," she said.(Photo by Jenny Parkhurst) Roger Roemer, who portrays Jean Valjean in Eastlight Theatre's production of "Les Miserables," sings during a recent dress rehearsal.

Roger Roemer, who wowed Peoria audiences with his portrayal of Miguel de Cervantes in "The Man of La Mancha" at Peoria Players, portrays Jean Valjean. Jason Morris returns to the local stage after a hiatus of several years to play Javert.

Others in the cast of 52 include Jarod Hazzard, Adam Sitton, Curt Rowden, Babr Couri, Bruce Colligan, Rebecca Meyer, Stephanie Myre and Mary Kate Smith.

The music director and orchestra conductor is Mitch Colgan, who Hunt said has done much more than just conduct the music written by Claude-Michel Schonberg, with lyrics by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel.

"Mitch has done a fabulous job helping the cast to not only learn the music, but to feel the music, to capture the passion of the words," she said.

Hunt also praised the technical work and set of Steve Cordle, Eastlight's technical director. "He has once again put together a technically wonderful set," she said.  

"Les Miserables" has been captivating audiences for more than 25 years and is believed by some to be the most popular musical ever written. The complete adult version did not become available for community and regional theatres to stage until this year. A junior version has been available for a few years ago and was performed at Corn Stock Theatre two summers ago.

Eastlight originally intended to do the junior version in the fall for its Youthlight show with Hunt directing until it got the opportunity to stage the adult version in its regional premiere.

Hunt still will direct the Youthlight show, which now will be "Aida," scheduled to open Sept. 7. She then will direct another regional premiere, that of the musical "Next to Normal" at Corn Stock Theatre's Winter Playhouse in November. She also is theatre director at Dunlap High School.

Paul Gordon is editor of The Peorian. He can be reached at 692-7880 or editor@thepeorian.com

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).