Livonia High School brings “Les Misérables” to the stage to highlight their strong cast of seniors.
Jean Valjean, a French peasant in early 19th-century France, is released in 1815 after serving 19 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread for his sister’s starving child. After breaking his parole, Valjean is inspired by an act of mercy and the story of “Les Misérables” goes on to show how this one act changes the rest of Valjean’s life as him and others are swept into the revolutionary period in France.
Bringing “Les Misérables” to the stage is not an easy task but one that Jesse VanEpps, the show’s director, said that this group of students was more than prepared for.
“We have a process every year where obviously we’re looking to fit the talent that we have. But really, for us, we have a big push on providing an experience across their four years. And so, we’ve done some pretty light stuff the last couple of years and we wanted to make sure we sent this group of seniors, in particular, off with something a little bit more, not only challenging, but serious,” said VanEpps. “One of the things, I’ve talked to them about is our program we’re really proud of our program and where it’s come. And we talked about the fact that it’s one thing for a program to be able to do a show well and another thing to prove that you can do a good show well. That’s been our that’s been our rallying cry for this one.”
VanEpps said that with the support of their cast and crew, and the abundance of parent volunteers, they were able to evoke the story as it is done on Broadway, equipped with a spinning turntable on stage.
“We’ve never done anything like it before in a show I’ve been in. It’s been a challenge, but definitely worth it. It gives such a cool effect to our scenes,” said senior Amara Evans, who plays Cosette.
Some of the cast members admitted to difficulty balancing on the turntable and admitted that it was something they needed to get used to interacting with on stage.
“There were a couple of times, the turntable started moving and my heels were just on it, and so I completely just almost wiped out,” said Maryn Gammon with a laugh. Gammon is a senior who is playing Eponine.
“Like you wouldn’t think that it would make such like an impact, but it just gives it like those cool affects, it just adds so much to the show,” said Gammon.
VanEpps said that with a larger group of seniors, he wanted to give them an experience, different than the last few shows which had been different due to COVID.
Many of the seniors looked back upon their years in Livonia’s drama club with a fond memory, reflecting on how they’ve grown and the community that they have built.
Evans said that it feels bittersweet to be participating in her last production at Livonia but that everyone has worked hard this year to make it special and fun.
“Together we have just become so much more supportive and encouraging of each other. I feel like that’s just what makes this program so special, it’s just everyone is rooting for each other and wants each other to do the best that they can,” said Evans.
Gammon said that the program works because of expectations that they have for one another. She said that they teach each other and give each other advice and encouragement that creates a great environment.
Michael Neckers, senior who is taking on the role of Jean Valjean, said that the seniors, many of whom he’d been working with for seven years are his friends on stage but also in the classroom.
“They care about me and I care about them. We look out for each other,” said Neckers.
Cami Rode, who plays Madame Thenardier, the innkeeper’s wife said that she has enjoyed her comedic role alongside Kallen Miller, a sophomore playing, Monsieur Thenardier. Rode said that before staring alongside Miller, she didn’t know him and got to see how funny he is.
“It’s a totally different group of people than I hang out with in my everyday life at school. You just interact with so many different people, like you go to get your prop and you make a new friend,” said Rode with a laugh.
Nancy Parker, one of the group’s longtime volunteers, has been working in Livonia’s costume department since 1987 and was a guidance counselor at Livonia when she first started. She has seen her kids and even her grandkids through the program.
Parker loves watching the kids blossom and come out of their shells together
“There is a deep camaraderie there that they develop,” said Parker with a smile.
“I love everything about the way we do things around here, but I love it because the students love it just as much,” said VanEpps.
For the first time Livonia’s High School is offering ASL interpreters for the show on Friday, March 17.
“Les Misérables” is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 16 to 18 at the Livonia Middle/High School’s Franklin Auditorium, 2 Bulldog Blvd., Livonia. Tickets, which cost $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and students, and are available online at https://www.showtix4u.com/event-details/70459. Tickets will also be available at the door until they are sold out.
A QUICK LOOK
WHAT: “Les Miserables”
WHERE: Franklin Auditorium at Livonia Middle/High School, 2 Bulldog Blvd., Livonia.
WHEN: 7 p.m. March 16 to 18. ASL interpreters will be available for the March 17 show..
TICKETS: $12 for adults, $10 for students and seniors. Available online at https://www.showtix4u.com/event-details/70459. Tickets will also be available at the door until they are sold out.