FHS takes on the challenges of presenting ‘Les Miserables’

FHS takes on the challenges of presenting 'Les Miserables'

Photo: Abby Lybrook

Fairmont senior Ananda Harris berates fellow performer junior Caroline Grogan during a rehearsal of “Les Miserables.”

By Dakota Miller, Entertainment Editor

Each and every year, Fairmont High School produces a musical in the spring to highlight the acting, musical and singing talents of Fairmont students. This year from April 25 to 28, the students will have their work cut out for them as they perform one of the most famous musicals in history, Les Miserables.

Set with the backdrop of the post-French Revolution era in the early 1800s, Les Miserables focuses on the lives of a few French citizens in the years leading into the June Rebellion, an uprising of students in 1832.

Les Miserables has stood the test of time as one of the most powerful operatic musicals in the history of Broadway and international musical theater. This year, Fairmont Choirs Director Brody McDonald hopes to recreate the experiences the world has witnessed right in Fairmont’s auditorium.

Les Mis is one of the greatest musicals of all time,” said McDonald. “I’ve always wanted to do it but wanted to make sure we had the right cast. This year, we have a phenomenal group of students to bring this story to life.”

Because of the size of the production of Les Miserables, many schools don’t have the resources to perform it, but McDonald believes that Fairmont’s Music Department offers a wealth of student talent that makes the performance of Les Miserables possible.

That still doesn’t mean it isn’t going to be a challenge, though, as McDonald points out. “It’s proving to be the most challenging show we’ve ever done, logistically,” he said. “There are an amazing number of parts to cast, and the action never stops. It’s really an opera in musical theater style.”

While McDonald directs the production, Fairmont students perform the important roles of the actors and actresses of Les Mis, as well as perform in the pit orchestra for the performance. Fairmont uses a live orchestra, directed by Kettering Music Coordinator Michael Berning, to add to the musical quality of the performance.

Eric Pennington, a Fairmont junior and violin player in the pit orchestra, feels the pit is one of the biggest pieces in making Fairmont’s musicals what they are. “I feel like the live orchestra adds a certain layer of depth and ambience to the performance,” he said. “It’s a lot better coming from real instruments rather than a recording.”

A musical, of course, would also be nothing without the actors and actresses who bring the characters to life on the stage. Fairmont junior A.J. Breslin has a lead role as Jean Vanjean, an ex-criminal determined to make himself virtuous once more. Breslin decided to be a part of this musical for two main reasons. “Les Mis is one of the greatest musicals of all time, and all the characters are so challenging to get into,” he said.

This daunting challenge of getting into the Jean Vanjean role provides only excitement for Breslin, who sees it as a chance to grow as an actor. “I’m so excited to see everyone shape their characters,” he said. “It really leads to the most important part of the show – all of us being close friends to be able to pull this off.”

Lead actress and Fairmont senior Anna Crabill agrees. “It’s a complete honor to be performing Les Mis this year,” she said. “I can’t even fathom what it will be like on opening night. Very rarely do students my age ever get to perform a musical as colossal as this.”

Pennington also affirms this ideal. “Being in a musical like Les Mis is such an amazing experience,” he said. “It’s such a huge musical. Especially with a real orchestra, it makes it seem so real and alive.”

Crabill says another big draw to performing in Les Mis is the emotion inherent in the story.  “This is one of the most emotional musicals I’ve ever seen. Everyone involved has to put in so much to understand how the people at the time were feeling,” she said. “That helps us to convey that emotion directly to the audience.”

Crabill feels that McDonald’s direction is an incredible inspiration to her. “He teaches me something new each and every day. With a little tough love, he’s turned me into the singer I am today,” she said. “I’m incredibly thankful for him.”

Breslin, too, is a big fan of director McDonald. “He’s an incredible person and director who has immensely improved my singing and acting.”

Although the show is demanding, McDonald believes the students of Fairmont will be able to put on a great performance. “There’s no question our students will do well. FHS is full of talent and our cast is hard-working to boot,” he said. “I guarantee this will be an epic performance.”

Les Mis will be performed between April 25 and April 28.  Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for students, with group discounts available, and are now on sale in the Fairmont Music Office. Tickets may also be ordered by calling Music Department secretary Melinda Taylor at 499-2697, or by going online to www.ketteringmusic.org.