The Marin Youth Performers (MYP) have tackled some big-name Broadway classics over the last couple years, most recently and . But none has been bigger than the show they debut tonight, Les Misérables.
The third-longest running show in Broadway history, "Les Mis," as it's widely known, is a sweeping musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel of the French revolution – not necessarily the kind of material that screams “musical theater.”
But the score by Claude-Michel Schönberg and libretto by Herbert Kretzmer have produced some of the most widely-known musical numbers of the past three decades, including show-stoppers like On My Own, I Dreamed a Dream, and Do You Hear the People Sing?
Describing it as “a very unique show that’s musically-driven, much like an opera,” Marin Youth Performers' Program Director Adam Saville calls Les Misérables one of the most ambitious productions his program has ever undertaken.
Two program veterans are at the helm: director Steven Hess last directed The Sound of Music for MYP, and Musical Director Nora Thomas also serves as year-round Instrumental Internship Director and conductor for the theater. They selected a cast of 41 singers and actors from across the Bay Area (including Palo Alto, San Francisco, Oakland, and all parts of Marin) from a field of 105 hopefuls.
With weighty subject matter and a demanding score (the production is all-sung), Saville acknowledges the challenges this production presented.
“The scope and scale of the production are huge, vast,” he said. "But this cast is exceptional, from the principles to every member of the ensemble."
Saville is proud to point out that director Hess drew heavily upon Hugo's original text, spending months re-reading the 1,000-plus page novel in order to reach the heart of the story. It helps tremendously that most of the performers, even if they’ve never seen a live production of Les Mis, at least are familiar with the score.
“A lot of kids know this story so well because of the musical,” Saville said. “It’s amazing that the show is 26 years old and yet they all know these songs.”
Indeed, songs from Les Mis feature regularly on American Idol auditions and one was recently included in an episode of Glee, a testament to the musical’s multi-generational appeal.
Not that the show is necessarily appropriate for the entire family: Saville recommends the production for kids seven and older, in part because of its two hour and twenty minute running time, and also because of mature themes and language.
Young thespians interested in auditioning for MYP's next show, the decidedly more lighthearted Singin' in the Rain, should attend a pre-audition meeting on Tuesday, March 8, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The 411: Les Misérables at 142 Throckmorton Theatre. Fridays, March 4 & 11, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, March 5 & 12, 2 p.m.; Sundays, March 6 & 13, 2 p.m. Tickets are $18 General Admission, $14 Students, $30 Reserved Seating. Click here or call 415-383-9600 to buy tickets.