MARQUETTE - The realities and struggles of France in the early 1800s might seem far removed from the lives of high school students in 2011, however the struggles of revolution, rich vs. poor and right and wrong will be played out by Marquette Senior High School students in the school's production of "Les Miserables."
Opening Thursday at 7 p.m., the show also runs Friday and Saturday at Kaufman Auditorium.
"It's a study of class and a study of what's right, what's wrong," said director Marty Martello. "This story, 100 years from now, 200 years from now, 300 years from now, will still resonate."
Telling a story right and wrong, and how each is perceived, against the backdrop of an 1800s student revolution in Paris, Marquette Senior High School students are getting ready to stage a production of the musical “Les Miserables” at Kaufman Auditorium, starting Thursday. Here, students rehearse a scene in which main character Jean Valjean, played by Kyle Harman, 17, far right, is put on parole from a chain gang. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
Jill Vermeulen, 16, playing the part of Fantine in Les Miserables, rehearses a number from the show. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
Paroled after 19 years of hard labor, Jean Valjean, played by Kyle Harman, 17, left, is dogged by Inspector Javert, played by David Gilbert, 17, who is unable to accept that a convict can also be a good man. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
The story, based on the novel of the same name by Victor Hugo, follows the story of a man named Jean Valjean. After stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister and her family, he is condemned to five years of hard labor. One failed escape attempt pushes that sentence to 19 years. Finally out on parole, Valjean skips parole and later resurfaces as a wealthy factory owner, having turned his life around.
He continues to be followed, however, by the unyielding Inspector Javert, who is unable to see anything beyond his own interpretation of right and wrong. Both men then find themselves wrapped up in a student-led revolution as the struggle between rich and poor holds consequences for both.
"Javert is a character who is troubled with himself," said David Gilbert, 17, who plays the character in the MSHS production. "His whole life he's been taught there's only good and bad and people can never change.
"Near the end of the play, he's overwhelmed with how Valjean has changed."
As Javert's opposite in the play, Valjean's goodness is obvious to everyone except his antagonist.
"Jean Valjean is really the character - it sounds cheesy - that I want to be," said 17-year-old Kyle Harman, who portrays Valjean. "He's selfless, in a way."
Particularly, Harman said he was inspired by the character's connection to God and his drive to live up to his morals despite his past as a convict.
With only a handful of spoken dialogue, the show could be considered more of an opera than a musical, and holds a number of challenges for the student cast, orchestra and director, Martello said.
"I think the community will be blown away by the level of talent that's on stage," he said.
The cast incorporates more than 60 student actors, including both high school and some middle school actors filling in some of the children's parts. Students also make up the crew backstage and the orchestra.
Although they are putting on the school version of the musical, which cleans up some of the language, students said participating in the show is a challenge they are glad to take part in.
"This has probably been one of the most challenging things I've ever done musically, but also one of the most fulfilling," Harman said.
Martello said the production was lobbied for heavily by the students at MSHS after numbers from the show were included in a choral concert last year. With casting of the show taking place in the beginning of September, the cast and crew has been hard at work throughout the past few months rehearsing and perfecting the performance.
"All of these kids have put in so much time and effort and they're also very talented," Harman said of his fellow castmates. "Everyone on stage and in the pit (orchestra) has talents that are seldom seen in a high school setting."
"It shows all the older folks that even if we are kids, we all have talent," he said.
The performance runs at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Kaufman Auditorium. Tickets are available at Northern Michigan University E-Z Ticket Outlets. Tickets cost $12 for adults and $6 for students and seniors.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is jboyle@miningjournal. net.