‘Les Mis’ a student production not to be missed
For the first time in nine years, the Gateway School of Performing Arts will be presenting “Les Misérables School Edition” on the main stage, beginning this weekend through Dec. 9. Tickets are on sale now.
Not only will this be the acting school’s first winter production, but also it is unique in that it is really the first tragedy done by a mostly high-school cast. School director Michael Baker will direct the show, with musical direction by Ho Sun Moon and additional staging by Jessica Norland Baker.
“Les Mis” is a part of the conservatory program, where students are taught the techniques of acting, singing and principles of musical theater. According to Gateway officials, many of the students in the production have eyes on the big stage or the small and big screens of Hollywood. Some past successes include Chloe Himmelman, who recently starred as Adam Sandler’s daughter in the Netflix film, “The Week Of,” Nolan Lyons, who appeared as a young Steve Buscemi in HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” Alexandra Vlachos, who starred as Matilda in “Matilda” on Broadway, and Marty Timlin, who appeared in last year’s “A Christmas Story” and since then has appeared in numerous national commercials.
Though “Les Misérables School Edition” is not the full-sized adult version, it will be presented in the same style as a large-scale Gateway production including full sets, costumes, sound and lighting. Instead of the regular about three-hour run time including intermission, the student edition will run for about two and half hours with intermission, cut and adjusted for mature content by the owners and writers who own the rights for the show.
“The student edition was specially prepared for high-school-age students to be in and watch. It focuses more on the acting in the piece and the history of the time period,” said Baker.
Over 200 Gateway acting school students from across the island auditioned for the show. About 34 of those began rehearsals four nights a week after school in November and plan to open this Saturday, Dec. 1 with seven shows, including a matinee and evening runs throughout the week.
The lead roles will be played by Justino Tesoro as Jean Valjean and Olivia McBride as Cosette. Bellport High School senior Erin Kelly will star as Fantine and the rest of the cast is comprised of mostly high school students, with a few middle school students, including 12-year-old Ray Zerner of East Northport, who will be performing powerfully as Gavroche.
As Fantine, Kelly said her favorite part of the play is her solo song, “I Dreamed a Dream.”
“Not just because it’s my solo song, but because it takes you on an emotional journey,” she said, also mentioning that the best part to watch is the barricade scene. “This show is just so different because all the situations happening are so much bigger than what is going on now, but we can all relate to them.”
This will be her sixth show with the Gateway since joining at age 8. She said “Les Mis” is a refreshing change from the usual shows done by the conservatory. The last production was “Mary Poppins.”
Seniors Will Russell, 17, of Miller Place High School and Andrew McCarty, 18, of Smithtown Christian School, agreed with Kelly that the best part was the barricade scene and also explained just how large-scale of a production this is for the acting school.
“It is definitely the largest production we have ever done,” said McCarty, who will be playing Feuilly. “It’s probably one of the biggest shows you will ever see. The scenes are big, the songs are big and, sure, it’s dark with a live death in it, but there is also so much hope and love.”
“It’s a nice comparison of a harsh world with a peaceful [resolution],” added Russell, who will be playing Javert.
The starring cast also includes Lukas Varacek as Marius, Gabrielle Pegg as Eponine, Sebastian Tauriello as Thenardier, Madison Beehner as Madame Thenardier, and William Brennan as Enjolras. Addison Wasylyshyn, Brynne Ballan, Kailyn Marra and Sage Cotter will share the role of young Cosette in alternating performances.
The ensemble will be Aidan Passaro, Ajia Moaitakis, Albert Peterson, Andrew McCarty, Annalise Ilg, Briana Start, Chloe Bloom, Esme Warmuth, Grace Benedetto, Holly Hessner, Izzy Mangiaracina, Keira Ballan, Leah Bloom, Liv Dechene, Logan Cirone, Michael J. Marziliano, Olivia Cox, Samara DeCastro, Scott Levardsen, Sophia Guarnaschelli and Spencer McAuliffe.
According to Baker, they decided to run the show again to promote the Gateway’s effort to do year-round programming for the community. Usually, the acting school produces about two shows in the summertime, but classes run in four sessions throughout the year. He said he is especially excited to be directing the show.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to keep within the school and really practice what we preach,” he added.
Tickets to the Gateway School of Performing Arts production of “Les Misérables” are available by calling the box office at 631-286-1133 or by visiting TheGateway.org.
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