“Les Misérables,” the musical production seen by more than 60 million people in 42 countries, will soon be making its Morristown debut in a special co-production between Encore Theatrical Company and the Theatre and Music Departments of Walters State Community College.
The show opens Friday, July 19 and plays for three weekends on the Morristown campus of WSCC and will be directed by Encore’s founding artistic director, Micah-Shane Brewer, who has returned to the company for this production.
Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, “Les Misérables” tells a story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption. In the play based on the Victor Hugo novel, ex-convict Jean Valjean is hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert after he breaks parole.
When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine’s young daughter Cosette, their lives change forever. Audiences familiar with the stage production or the recent movie starring Hugh Jackman and Ann Hathaway will recognize the hit songs from the score, including “I Dreamed A Dream,” “Bring Him Home,” “One Day More,” and “On My Own.”
“This is an epic musical,” Brewer said. “The moving story of redemption is a reminder to us of the resilience of the human spirit and the depths one will go for love and forgiveness. I am thrilled that Encore and Walters State are working together to bring this production to life.”
Joining Brewer is WSCC Director of Choral Music Laura Ritter, who will serve as the production’s musical director; WSCC Director of Theatre TJ Kent, who will serve as production manager; and Encore veteran Amy Webb, who will serve as production stage manager. The four are leading a cast of 44 actors and 11 orchestra members.
“I sit in rehearsal and get goose bumps listening to this cast and these musicians,” Ritter said. “It’s really been an incredible experience.”
The cast and orchestra — including community members, WSCC students and veteran Encore performers — have traveled from all over East Tennessee to be a part of the show.
In the lead role of Jean Valjean is William Beard of Strawberry Plains, who is making his debut on the Walters State stage. Beard has a wide range of experience and has performed in many different theaters, varying from the Grand Ol’ Opry in Nashville to the Knoxville Opera Company.
Valjean’s nemesis, Javert, is played by Mike Howard, familiar to Encore audiences from his roles in “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Miracle on 34th Street.” Other veteran Encore performers include Robyn Issacs, last seen in Encore’s production of “Chicago,” in the tragic role of Fantine and Susan Christophel, who performed the comic role of Madame Thenadier.
Newcomers to the Morristown stage include Hannah Miller and Seth O’Kegley, playing the young lovers, Cosette and Marius; Nora Beth Moran as Eponine; and Jon Luttrell as Enjorlas; all from the Tri-Cities region. Stuart Matthews of Knoxville is playing the innkeeper Thenadier. Young actors featured are Cooper Campbell as young Cosette, Ian Sexton as Gavroche, and Parker Stansell as young Eponine.
The ensemble is made up of a group of talented actors and singers from all over the region: Ben Bean, Eric Bullard, Josh Cassels, Annie Cavin, Bleu Copas, Evan Corlew, Hannah Corlew, Joshua Davis, Lindsey Davis, Janice Denson, Emily Durand, Taylor Ferrell, Bryan Flatford, Rachel Helvey, Kelley Hinsley, Kevin Jackson, Kathy Jones-Terry, Jim Lumpkins, Henry Mendoza, Paige Munroe-Mattocks, Austin Olive, Emily Reitnauer, Laureeann Ruel, Connie Sexton, Nolan Sexton, Mabel Dunkirk Smith, Dani Tower, Amber Vaughn, Luke Walker, Scott Waisner, Kaysi Watson, and Ryan Worden.
The production team includes Kyle Biery (scenic and lighting designs), Frank Williams (technical director), Debbie Bennett (costume designs), Johanna Dunphy (movement director), Heidi Stansell (props manager), and Gene Wooten (sound design), as well as countless volunteers working behind the scenes.
“Les Misérables” is sponsored by Brewer and Terry, Tarr Chevrolet, Morristown Hamblen Healthcare System, Suntrust Bank and WCRK Radio.
To accommodate the anticipated popularity of the musical, Encore and WSCC have added Thursday night showings to their typical weekend schedule.
Shows will be held at 8 p.m. on July 19, 20, 25, 26, 27 and Aug. 1-3. Matinees will be held at 2 p.m. on July 21 and 28 and Aug. 3 and 4. All shows will be staged at the Judge William H. Inman Humanities Theatre on the WSCC Morristown campus.