'Les Miserables' to be staged by Fairfield Teen troupe
A cast of 48 young performers will bring the French Revolution to the main stage at Fairfield Warde High School with performances beginning this week of one of the most popular and enduring musicals in the world.
It marks the second time the summer theater program will mount "Les Miserables." The first was in 2003.
"It's one of those all-age stories. It appeals to all generations," said Carole Jean Frawley, Fairfield Teen Theatre's musical director and producer for the last 27 years.
Frawley said she selects the musicals to suit the talent of the performers she expects to participate in a given year. "This year we had a strong crop of males with strong, classic voices," Frawley said. The show's music is complex and vocally demanding, and the performers, male and female, are able to handle the roles, she said.
"It's considered an opera. There are very few speaking lines," said Max Rein, 18, of Fairfield, who plays Marius. Rein saw the 2003 production because his sister Sarah was in the cast. "I honestly thought it was unbelievable. When I saw they were doing it again this year I had to audition," said Rein, who has been involved in the Fairfield Teen Theatre group for six years.
Frawley said Les Miserables offers solo singing opportunities for many of the ensemble performers so even those who are not cast in leading and secondary roles have their moments in the spotlight.
"They really feel involved," she said.
"It's a good show. It draws a lot of kids. It has a great dramatic quality about it," said Bill Stansfield, the founder of the Fairfield Teen Theatre and the director of many of its productions.
Kayla Shimizu, 17, of Fairfield, who plays Eponine, is a first-time Fairfield Teen Theatre performer. She said she was drawn to the show by its beautiful music and complex characters.
Usually, the performers are high school and college age. This year, there is also a 9-year-old in the cast. Aleysha Henry, of Fairfield, plays young Cosette, while Victoria Peri, 19, of Fairfield, portrays the older Cosette.
"This is actually my first show. It's just a lot of fun and I love to sing," Aleysha said.
"Every song is more beautiful than the next and you never get tired of them. They're classics," said Peri, who saw many of the Fairfield Teen Theatre productions when she was growing up, including the 2003 production of "Les Miserable." "That was my favorite one," she said.
Frawley said the Fairfield Teen Theatre has seen its share of budding stars. Javier Colon, the Stratford native who recently won "The Voice" television talent contest, played the role of Jim in the theater group's production of Big River in 1994.
Stansfield said the summer theater program offers teenagers a variety of theatrical experiences.
"They're not only going to be acting and singing. They're moving sets and doing the business end selling ads and raising money."
Stansfield said the fund-raising is necessary because musicals like "Les Miserables' are a major undertaking.
The town's Parks and Recreation Commission contributes a percentage of the funding "and we have to raise the rest," he said.
"We've never been self-
sufficient," Frawley said. This year the theater group is attempting to raise 90 percent of its production costs through ticket sales, ad revenue, corporate sponsorships and an arts proposal on the website www.kickstarter.com.
They are performing a student version of the Broadway musical, which is edited from the original, "but it doesn't change the context. Unless somebody really knows the show they won't notice the difference. It flows as smoothly as the original," Stansfield said.
Because of anticipated interest, Frawley said a Sunday matinee has been added to the final weekend this year.
Opening night for "Les Miserables, School Edition" at Fairfield Warde High School is Friday, Aug. 5, and performances continue at 8 p.m. Aug.6, 12 and 13, and at 2 p.m. Aug. 7 and 14. For reserved seats, call 203-372-9464; tickets are also available at the door. Cost is $12 for adults and $10 for students and senior citizens.