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Symphony, Barter bring ‘Les Mis’ to town

Leigh Ann Laube • Jul 20, 2013 at 5:43 PM

After successfully collaborating two years ago on “Cabaret,” Barter Theatre and Symphony of the Mountains will join forces again, this time bringing “Les Misérables” to Kingsport for two performances in August.

In an announcement on Tuesday afternoon, Cornelia Laemmli Orth , who serves as SOTM’s music director, conductor and chief operating officer, described “Les Mis” as “an enormous, beautiful, epic musical, which happens to be my favorite.”

“It’s the greatest musical theater piece of all time,” said Richard Rose, Barter’s producing artistic director.

“Les Mis” opened at Barter Theatre in May. For this collaboration, which will be held at 7:30 p.m., Aug. 16-17, at the Toy F. Reid Employee Center at Eastman Chemical Co., Wilcox Drive, the staging will be simplified to accommodate the larger orchestra, with just enough production elements — like props and costumes — to tell the story clearly. Audiences who want to see Barter’s fully staged production should make reservations before it closes on Aug. 11.

Barter does not have room to host a full orchestra, and productions at the main stage feature a six-piece orchestra in the pit. The Kingsport performances will emphasize the music and the orchestra, Rose said.

“With the Symphony of the Mountains, the emphasis here is obviously on the music and it’s more of a concert hall than a theater,” he said. “We’re bringing the props and costumes, but not the set. It won’t take anything away, but it changes the emphasis. Each evening will be unique unto itself. This music is some of the most beautiful music on Earth.”

“Les Mis” is set in early 19th-century France and opens with Jean Valjean (Pat McRoberts) serving 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread to save his sister’s starving child. When he breaks parole, prison guard Javert (Rick McVey) vows to pursue him. Eventually, Valjean turns from a life of crime to one of grace and forgiveness.

All songs will be included in the Barter/SOTM production, including “I Dreamed a Dream,” “On My Own,” “Who Am I?” and “One Day More.”

For Orth and the SOTM, “Les Mis” is a chance to do something different.

“It’s as close to an opera as it gets,” she said. “It’s all through music. ... It’s very powerful music. This is something different and also to get to work with Barter-caliber actors is amazing.”

Barter and the symphony will host two events associated with the production — a cocktail reception at the Toy F. Reid Center following the Aug. 16 performance, and a dinner with key “Les Mis” cast members and musicians beginning with cocktails at 4:30 p.m., Aug. 17, at MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center.

“See both. See it here and see it at Barter,” Rose said. “It will be an enhanced experience that will be memorable.”

Tickets for the performances are $40 for each night. Tickets for the cocktail reception on Aug. 16 are $15. Tickets for the dinner prior to the Aug. 17 performance are $40.

It’s turning out to be a busy summer for the Symphony of the Mountains.

SOTM will offer a free outdoor concert at 8:15 p.m., July 27, at the Lake at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise in Virginia.

“This year’s concert will take a ride through the roots of Appalachia.” said Orth. “It’s the perfect chance to introduce the whole family to the symphony for free and in a relaxed and fun setting.”

The concert will feature a range of musical offerings from patriotic fare to Celtic favorites, including “Danny Boy,” “The Patriot” and “Amazing Grace.

Special guests will be internationally recognized tenor Randall Outland and award-winning bagpiper Gordon Warburton.

“This concert will feed the soul of our region,” Orth said.

The public is invited to bring blankets, lawn chairs and a picnic to enjoy during the show. Boxed meals will be available through Pro-Art the evening of the event and may be pre-ordered by calling (276) 376-4520.

In addition, the symphony will christen the Allandale Amphitheatre at Allandale Mansion in Kingsport during “Music at the Mansion,” a full-length, pops/light classical concert set for 6 p.m., July 28.

The symphony will perform a number of patriotic songs, including “The National Anthem,” “The Armed Forces Salute,” “The Patriot” and “Stars and Stripes Forever.” The repertoire will also include “In These Mountains,” “Pops Hoe-Down” and “Amazing Grace.”

Outland and Warburton will be guest soloists, along with Kingsport Mayor Dennis Phillips.

Patrons are invited to bring folding chairs or blankets to sit on, as well as a picnic dinner. It’s expected that the venue can accommodate an audience of at least 2,000. The ribbing cutting will be held rain or shine. In the event of rain, the concert will be moved to Robinson Middle School.

Tickets to “Music at the Mansion” are available online through Vendini, at the symphony office or at the amphitheater on the day of the event. Tickets are $20 for adults, $5 for children and students and $15 for adults 55 and older.

For more information, call the Symphony of the Mountains office at 392-8426 or visit www.SymphonyOfTheMountains.org.

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