Based on French poet and playwright Victor Hugo’s novel, the musical version of “Les Misérables” debuted on the Great White Way in 1987 and is the fourth longest-running Broadway show in history.
Millions of people have fallen in love with the story of Jean Valjean, who is released from prison after having served 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. He breaks his parole in hopes of starting a new life, but is relentlessly pursued by police inspector Javert, who refuses to believe Valjean can change his ways. 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 Marius, who has captured the heart of Valjean’s adopted daughter, Cosette.
Last year’s blockbuster film adaptation starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway, introduced Hugo’s epic story to a whole new audience.
Barter hopes to do the same with its production, which features a cast of 26 actors and a six-piece, on-stage musical ensemble who will perform all the show’s iconic songs, including “I Dreamed a Dream,” “On My Own” and “One Day More.”
“We want to make you forget every other production of ‘Les Mis’ you’ve ever seen,” said Richard Rose, the show’s director and Barter’s producing artistic director. “At Barter, we tell stories better than anyone. In rehearsals, we are getting to the heart of this story, which is essentially about love. The main characters discovers that ‘to love another person is to see the face of God.’ What is more important than love and compassion?”
This past Sunday, the show’s musical ensemble — featuring two keyboards, a trombone, trumpet, French horn and percussion, all under the baton of musical director Lee Harris — united with the cast for the first time before the entire production moved onto the main stage for technical rehearsal week.
Dale F. Jordan designed the show’s elaborate set, inspired by a piece of French sculpture marking the grave of Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Baudin, a young student who died during the French Revolution.
The centerpiece of his creation is a giant head, measuring more than 16 feet long, 10 feet deep and 7 feet tall, and weighing between 1,200 and 1,500 pounds. Barter’s technical director, Mitchell L. Critel, and his team constructed the head out of steel, wood and two semi-truck loads of Styrofoam.
Amanda Aldridge, Barter’s resident costume designer and choreographer, teamed up with costume shop manager Adrienne Webber and her team to outfit the cast in period attire.
The cast includes Pat McRoberts as Jean Valjean; Rick McVey as Inspector Javert; Hannah Ingram as Fantine; Holly Williams as Cosette; Michael Poisson and Erin Parker as Monsieur and Madame Thenardier; Stephen Scott Wormley as Marius; Abbey C. Elliott as Eponine; and Justin Tyler Lewis as Enjolras. Virginia Pillion, Ginny Osborne and Haley Keene will alternate in the role of Young Cosette. Keene and Osborne will also share the role of Young Eponine. Caedmon Oakes and Cooper Woodard will alternate as Gavroche.
Ensemble members are David Alford, Parris Cromer, Nick Koesters, Alex Pearlman, Wendy Piper, Andrew Slane, Paris Bradstreet, Bob Payne, Kristy Bissell, Emily Grove, Micah Hein and Zacchaeus Kimbrell.
The orchestra features Lee Harris and Steve Sensenig on keyboard; Jerry Greene on percussion; Roxanne Haskill (until July 28) and Mary Dave Blackwell (beginning July 31) on French horn; Shane Ladd on trumpet and Joseph Winstead on trombone.
Performances will continue on Barter’s Main Stage through Aug. 11.
Tickets are $37, $41, $44. Pay What You Can Day is Sunday, June 2 at the 3 p.m. performance; reservations will not be accepted. Barter is also offering $10 Tuesdays for all college students, faculty and staff.
For tickets or more information, call (276) 628-3991 or visit www.bartertheatre.com.
Fans can find more behind-the-scenes information at barterdoeslesmis.blogspot.com.