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Friday, November 8, 2013

‘Les Mis’ Pops Up In Community Theaters Across Country

A scene from the 2012 film "Les Miserables." (Universal Studios)

A scene from the 2012 film “Les Miserables.” (Universal Studios)

“Les Miserables” is one of the most popular musicals in the world. It’s toured 42 countries in 22 languages. The original Broadway production won eight Tony Awards, and the latest film adaptation won three Oscars.

But for actors, roles in productions of Les Mis were hard to find, since the rights have been restricted for regional and community theaters.

That changed this year. Driven by the popularity of the latest movie, the licensing company released the rights, and regional productions have been popping up across the country.

From the Here & Now Contributors Network, Erin Keane of WFPL has more on a local Les Mis production in Louisville.

Reporter

Transcript

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI, HOST:

"Les Miserable" is one of the most popular musicals in the world. It's been performed in 42 countries in 22 languages. The original Broadway production won eight Tony Awards and the latest film adaptation won three Oscars. But off-Broadway for would-be actors of "Les Mis" have been hard to find due to the restrictive rights for regional and community theaters. That changed this year. Driven by the popularity of that latest "Les Mis" movie, the licensing company released the rights, and regional productions have been popping up across the country. From the HERE AND NOW Contributors Network, WFPL's Erin Keane has more on a local "Les Mis" production in Louisville, Kentucky.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ERIN KEANE, BYLINE: When the announcement went out that the rights to "Les Miserables" were open, CenterStage's artistic director and "Les Mis" super-fan John Leffert jumped at the opportunity.

JOHN LEFFERT: I got the early notification that "Les Mis" was being released, and we abandoned everything and applied for it immediately because we wanted to be one of the first in the area to do it.

KEANE: Word got around and more than 300 local performers turned out to audition. Finally, they were singing "I Dreamed a Dream" for keeps.

LEFFERT: I know we joke a lot about them, and when we hear auditions, like, oh, not another "On My Own," but they - in the context of the show, they're absolutely and so incredibly powerful.

KEANE: Jordan Price got cast as the young revolutionary Marius. The New York native studied theater and once harbored big Broadway dreams.

JORDAN PRICE: Well, don't think I didn't try. I'm from New York, so I went and I gave it a valiant effort. And it was just such a hard life to sustain, going to audition to audition. Even when you were working steadily, you knew that that contract was going to end.

KEANE: Here at CenterStage, Price lands his dream roles in shows he always wanted to do in New York, like "Rent," "Next to Normal" and now "Les Mis." Price does admit he was skeptical at first of CenterStage's ability to pull off such a demanding show.

PRICE: It just seemed like one of those mega-musicals that you really needed that big professional stage to pull off. Otherwise it would just be a disaster. And I think we're doing a really good job at disproving that.

KEANE: It's not easy. Staging "Les Mis" is a financial gamble for a small nonprofit. The budget is about $40,000, more than double that of Leffert's last CenterStage show.

LEFFERT: It's the highest we've ever spent. Our set budget is kind of blown out of the water to get what we needed to make this production the best. There's over 800 costumes we rented from a production company in California, so huge expense.

KEANE: That includes a custom-built rotating stage.

LEFFERT: Like the ABC Cafe will turn and has different levels and doors. And this is garden gate scene for the Rue Plumet.

KEANE: And a second music director just to work with the community orchestra was also needed.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KEANE: Performances are already selling out, but it might be a while before "Les Mis" plays on community stages in Louisville again. The same popularity that pushed the rights to be released also inspired a revival on Broadway. It's slated for next year, and to prevent competition, the regional theater rights will be pulled in 2015. For HERE AND NOW, I'm Erin Keane in Louisville. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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