Sierra Rep to Stage LES MISERABLES, 3/1-5/4

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Sierra Rep to Stage LES MISERABLES, 3/1-5/4

Sierra Repertory Theatre opens its 2014 season this March with the epic Les Miserables. The production - complete with a huge cast, complex characters and elaborate costumes and sets - will also mark the start of SRT's 35th Anniversary season. It plays March 1 through May 4 at Sierra Rep's East Sonora Stage.

It's the first time SRT has staged Les Miz, and the opening night gala performance is sold out. No wonder. This show has it all: themes of love and compassion; an incredible musical score; intense drama; fantastic singing from beginning to end. Plus, presenting Les Miz in SRT's intimate, 200-seat space will give theater-goers a chance to be swept up in the emotion of the production close-up, SRT's Producing Director Dennis Jones said.

"Imagine, people will be seeing this incredibly epic musical from no more than 10 rows away," he said.

Les Miz enjoys the reputation as one of the most popular musicals in the world. Based on Victor Hugo's classic novel, it tells the story of Jean Valjean, a prisoner who skips parole in hopes of starting a new life. He's pursued relentlessly by police inspector Javert, who refuses to believe Valjean can change his ways. Along the way, Valjean and a slew of characters are swept into a revolutionary period in France where a group of young idealists make their last stand.

Since it premiered, Les Miz has been seen by more than 65 million people and won numerous awards, including eight Tonys. The Broadway production is one of the longest-running musicals in Broadway history, behind CATS and Phantom of the Opera.

Les Miz is a three-hour production, most of it sung, so Jones and company had to search for actors who are also accomplished singers. Valjean is played by Cliff McCormick, who has performed leading roles throughout the Bay Area, including Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar and Jekyll/Hyde in Jekyll & Hyde. Eric Jon Mahlum plays the inspector, Javert. He appeared in the Broadway production of Wicked and has played featured roles in numerous national tours and regional theater productions across the country including Mame at Goodspeed Opera House, A Little Night Music at Arden Theatre and Sweeney Todd at Opera Kansas.

Also joining the cast are Chris Vettel, who plays the innkeeper Thernardier, and Scott Sowinski, who plays the revolutionary Enjolras. In addition to playing the pastor in last year's Sierra Rep production of Church Basement Ladies, Vettel sang for four seasons with the Opera Company of Boston before performing in national and international tours (Annie, Sunset Boulevard and Cabaret) and at regional theaters. Sowinski has performed extensively in New York and in regional theaters, as well as undertaking such roles as Anthony in Sweeney Todd for New York City Opera and appearing on opera and concert stages around the world. Sierra Rep audiences may remember him from his turn as Tony in SRT's production of West Side Story.

Jones directs Les Miz and designed the sets. They were anything but routine, since the story takes place in a variety of places. There's a prison, a factory, a red light district, a hospital, a dingy street and more. Costumes are detailed and in the style of the 1800s. Guest costume designer is Ryan Moller (2012's Cinderella). Guest lightening designer is Christopher Van Tuyl and the musical director is Sean Paxton. SRT's resident artists are also working on the show, including properties designer Mercy Sharpe and stage manager Doug Brennan.

Les Miserables opens Saturday, March 1 and runs through May 4. Thursday and Friday performances begin at 7 p.m., Saturday evening performances are at 8 p.m. and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees begin at 2 p.m. Select Thursday matinees begin at 2 p.m., replacing the usual evening performance. Ticket prices range from $26 to $42 depending on the day of the performance.

Opening night March 1, a special benefit performance that includes a pre-show reception, dinner, silent and live auction, is sold out. But seats are available for a Director's Brunch and matinee performance, set for April 6 at Black Oak Casino Resort Hotel's banquet room and the East Sonora Theatre.

For brunch reservations, contact SRT Development Director Beverly Handelman at 209-532-0502, ext. 111 or bhandelman@sierrarep.org. For performance information or reservations for all other performances, call SRT's box office at 209-532-3120 or visit the theatre's website at www.sierrarep.org.

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