BWW Reviews: New Jersey College Gets a Double LES MISERABLES Treat for Their Production
Since the MTI release f the student productions of Les Miserables in 2003, hundreds of high schools across the country have mounted the "world's most popular" musical. In 2012 MTI also released the professional and amateur rights to the show. Long time Cumberland County College (CCC) director Deborah Bradshaw who has directed over 25 CCC productions wasted no time in securing those rights. Deborah has the unique advantage of being part of the Broadway productions of Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera. She now has the thrill and privilege to produce the show some 24 years later. Deborah invited her long time friend and Les Miserables star Craig Schulman (Valjean) to facilitate a master class for her theater students to glean as much from the characters as possible.
This lush production has been enhanced by an 18 piece orchestra, a thirty-foot rotating stage and the same script and musical score that have been performed on Broadway for the past 26 years.
I had the joy of joining Ms. Bradshaw in rehearsal mode and asked her some questions about her experience with the show then and her fresh new production that is about to unfold.
Pati Buehler: What company did you perform with and who were the main lead characters?
Deborah Bradshaw: Original Cast Member First National Touring Company 1987-1989
JVJ- Bill Solo & Craig Schulman
Javert - Herdon Lackey
Fantine - Diane Fratantoni
Cosette - Tamara Jenkins
Marius - Hugh Panaro
Thénardier - Tom Robbins
Madame Thénardier - Victoria Clark
Broadway Cast Member 1989-1990
PB: What changes if any have taken place since you were part of the Broadway Company?
DB: There have been many cuts to the score to shorten the running time of 3:20 as well as reinventing the story without a turntable. However, I was determined to share with my students and our audience the original, turntable staging concept. With the support of our administration and our technical director, Chris Totora, he built our turntable over the summer.
PB: Tell us about your Les Miserables. What is the process of securing the rights? How have you pulled together your production... cast? direction? sets?
DB: The professional and amateur rights for the full score became available through MTI in November 2012 and we secured those rights immediately. The school edition only allows actors under the age of 18 to perform.
We only rehearse three days a week so with a show like Les Miz we needed to get an early start. I began casting in April and rehearsals began late August. On a side note: A couple of weeks into rehearsal, my husband received the gift of life with a kidney transplant. The cast and crew were very supportive and we all grew stronger as a company as I ran from hospital to rehearsal...elated and bleary eyed!
We had the entire show on its feet by early October and were ready for the next challenge in staging Les Miz. We put the cast through a "turntable class" to get them acclimated to stepping on and stepping off a revolving stage. We then incorporated over 30 turntable cues into the staging. Interestingly, there is one restriction for use of the turntable. As seen in the Broadways production, MTI restricts using the turntable to revolve the barricade during the battle scenes. This presented us with a challenge for staging the death of Gavroche. Our TD, Chris Totora devised a breakaway mid-section of the barricade that we revolve at the end of the scene to reveal to the audience the death of Gavroche and Enjolras on the opposite side of the barricade.