Prescott Center for the Arts brings alive the mystique and magic of 'Les Miserables'
Spellbinding. Enchanting. Poignant. Enthralling. Magical. Colorful.
All of this and more combine with magnificent music and voices that director
Don Langford said "came from God" for audiences to see in "Les Miserables," which opened Thursday at the Prescott Center for the Arts.
"'Les Miserables' is the most popular and longest running musical in the world, because of its majestic quality, that it is well written and tells a wonderful story," Langford said. "Vocalists want to do it. The piece, itself, invites the talent to come out."
As plans to produce "Les Miserables" began, Langford had conversations with more classically trained vocalists in the community and vocalists from churches to take roles in "Les Mis," along with people normally seen on the PCA stage, he said. This production of "Les Miserables" is an example of "true community theater," he said.
"Les Miserables" is a sung-through musical, based on a novel of the same name written by French poet and novelist Victor Hugo. It takes place in 19th century France, when lead character Jean Valjean is released from 19 years of unjust imprisonment but finds nothing in store for him but mistrust and mistreatment. He struggles for life-long redemption before he attains the peace he had sought for so long.
Linda Sheehan is the play's musical director and said "some of the best voices from Yavapai College" auditioned for the show, and some without training "do their best" in "Les Miserables." "They practiced on their own" and made the play "their life for the past six weeks" to achieve the quality the well-written music demanded, Sheehan said.
"It took real team effort. You have to trust each other through non-stop music" that is not interrupted by dialogue, she said. She credits Liz Riley, orchestra operator, for manning music enhancement system OrchEXTRA non-stop through the production.
The feel of early 19th century France, its people and its facades was in the capable hands of costumer Fran Chadwick and the crew who designed and constructed the set, including scenic artist Noelene Patterson.
The costumes, those of the poor and the prosperous, came from PCA's inventory and from cast members' personal costume closets, Chadwick said.
Her challenge was to dress the cast in garb of the early 1800s. and to do that , she watched five different remakes of "Les Mis" from 1939 forward and a London theater company's musical version of the play to get the best look she could, she said. Some of the more than 30 in the cast were principle characters with static costumes. Others, though, changed roles and costumes.
Chadwick had four weeks to pull all this together and "had a lot of help from others" to get it done.
Patterson, a retired art teacher, stood on 25-foot ladders now and then to create several different scenes on the PCA stage, "incorporating different ideas to make them cohesive," she said. The audience will see her vision of Notre Dame in Paris, bridges on the Seine - which she has actually has seen - and poverty-stricken areas, as well.
The overall impression is one of mystique and magic in a monochromatic color scheme. "I wanted it to look very sad," Patterson said. She researched buildings from France of the time, bridges and "a lot of clouds."
"I wanted to get tumult and a restless look in the sky."
"'Les Miserables' represents a lot of creativity and a lot of hard work," Langford said. "We made the magic happen."