Sardis secondary’s theatre department is tackling one of its most challenging pieces yet: Les Misérables.
“It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a long time and have been afraid to do,” says director Alison Guy. “We love this show.”
She and musical director, Kevin Biegel, said until now the show had been too big and too demanding.
“We’ve both wanted to do it for a long time and Kevin said ‘let’s take the risk, let’s give it a shot,’” she says.
With the new configuration of having Grade 9s at the high school, they have more talent at the school that they can draw from.
Les Misérables was such a huge undertaking for them, the teachers asked something of the kids before summer: to learn the script and the music.
“It was amazing how many got on board, and from Day 1 (when they returned in September) they just did it,” says Biegel.
The musical is something unlike they’ve ever done at Sardis.
“It’s the first time we’re doing an operetta,” says Biegel. “It’s all music from start to finish. There’s no dialogue.”
“That’s the challenge,” he adds. “It’s moving right after the applause — boom — we’re into another song, another character piece. I have to be right on my toes.”
“This is really challenging music for young musicians,” agrees Guy.
Kris Werner is the executive producer of the show. It’s his second year teaching at Sardis after transferring from Robert Bateman secondary in Abbotsford.
“I love that it has a lot of opportunity for different kids to be featured,” says Werner. “It’s a diverse show. It’s a beautiful show and it has an amazing story of compassion and redemption and forgiveness.”
“Redemption is a huge metaphor throughout,” says Guy. “It’s that sort of repeating metaphor.”
The cast for Les Misérables totals 36, including a handful of kids from Sardis and Vedder elementaries, plus some middle schools.
The live orchestra is made up of 15 students.
“We have beginner players within the orchestra and what we had to do is extend out into the community and ask for players to help us out.”
That call-out has resulted in six professional musical mentors working alongside the student musicians.
A dozen students make up the crew and an additional 40 kids built the set, which was designed by technical director and teacher Manfred Braun. The set crew used different textures when building the set to give a feeling of old France.
“We really had a view for how we wanted it to appear. It’s post-French revolution, post-Napoleon,” says Guy. “Basically the poor people are still fed up because they got rid of the kings only to get another kind of terror. They’re still starving.”
Sardis secondary’s production of Les Misérables is the “school edition” version, but it’s still a mature show. There are scenes with adult nuances and mild coarse language.
And it’s a long show — nearly three hours with intermission.
Les Misérables runs Tuesday, Dec. 4 to Saturday, Dec. 8 at Sardis secondary with nightly performances at 7 p.m. There’s also a matinee Saturday, Dec. 8 at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $15 general admission (7 p.m. shows), $10 matinee (2 p.m. show). Tickets available at Sardis secondary (45460 Stevenson Rd.), or by calling 604-858-9424.