Originally Published: November 18, 2008 9:27 p.m.
The Prescott High School Fine Arts Department presents an ambitious undertaking. "Les Miserables," the musical based on the 1862 novel of the same name by Victor Hugo and scored by French composer Claude-Michel Schonberg, shows at the Ruth Street Theater 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Two-and-a-half hour stage productions with completely sung dialogue is not typical high school musical fare - "most colleges don't even try to perform this," said Caroline Marolf, who plays the character Fantine.
Technically, it is an opera, but one could consider it opera-lite, since the uninitiated can pretty much follow this.
The show program includes a detailed plot synopsis of both acts.
This ensemble, starring many of the school's award-winning seniors in the lead roles, pulls it off quite convincingly.
The show, set in the early 1800s shortly after Napoleon's defeat, features a 40-person chorus of freshman through senior-year students.
The production's technical aspects boast a professional polish with lavish costumes and creative stage design.
Though the quality of the sound in the theater varies in parts, most of the vocal performances meld well with the tracked score, and some of the more seasoned performers are true standouts, while the chorus numbers consistently shine.
Billy Scott Reed gives an impressive performance as the central character, Jean Valjean, an ex-con jailed for 19 years for trying to steal bread; he assumes a new identity as a factory owner and town mayor.
Complementing Reed's performance is Ethan Posey as police officer Javert, Valjean's nemesis who spends the story hunting for Valjean and spying on his revolutionary sympathizers.
Other standouts include Marolf as Fantine, a factory worker forced into prostitution for money for her illegitimate child.
Charlotte Shipley gives a spirited performance as the older Cosette, Fantine's daughter, rescued by Valjean from the grips of indentured servitude under the petty bourgeois Thénardiers, played with a nice comic edge by Nicole St. Germain and Isaac Benson-White.
Willa Cowan puts some spunk into the character of Gavroche, a street urchin thrust into defending the barricade, and Jacob Clark does a nice a job as Marius, the student turned revolutionary who falls in love with Cosette.
Louisa Nelson and Mathew Kiesling direct, with Jennifer and Matthew Kiesling providing vocal and musical direction.
Several students in the cast provide extra assistance on makeup and choreography.
All around, this "Les Mis" is a great piece of local theater.
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