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LES MISERABLES SCHOOL EDITION and DISNEY'S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST JR. to be Streamed by The Performer's School

Film production and editing techniques allowing use of closeups and special effects are being used to further create a cinematic product.

LES MISERABLES SCHOOL EDITION and DISNEY'S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST JR. to be Streamed by The Performer's School

A cornerstone of the experience offered by The Performer's School is the opportunity to perform for audiences in a fully staged production of a hit Broadway musical. Before the pandemic, 26 fourth and fifth graders had been cast in the school's planned productions of DISNEY'S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST JR., and 40 sixth through eighth graders were cast in LES MISÉRABLES SCHOOL EDITION. With in-person performances prohibited under the quarantine, The Performer's School co-founders Stacey Flaster and Liz Fauntleroy found a way to provide these students with an equally satisfying, but COVID-safe, performing experience. The finished products will be streamed from May 21-23 and 28-30 for LES MISÉRABLES and May 28-30 and June 4-6 for DISNEY'S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST JR.

Flaster and Fauntleroy brought in the digital production company Marston McCoy Media, a new firm founded by veteran Chicago theater director and Marriott Theatre Associate Artistic Director Peter Marston Sullivan, to produce video productions of the two musicals. Sullivan had been experimenting with editing technology that would allow performers to be recorded individually in front of green screens and edited so that the actors appear to be performing together on a stage, and he saw a way to use this technique to meet the demands of a large cast musical theatre production. As employed for the two Performer's School productions, Sullivan's technique creates the effect of having from two to 40 singers and actors appear to be performing on a single stage simultaneously, in front of elaborate and detailed backgrounds designed by three-time Jeff Award winner Jeffrey D. Kmiec.

Film production and editing techniques allowing use of closeups and special effects are being used to further create a cinematic product that is more visually engaging and satisfying than many of the Zoom readings that have become common in the past year. Typically, such Zoom performances have relied on actors performing from separate locations and appearing on separate cameras, a format that has become predictable and can lack much of what makes theater and film so exciting.

Here's how the two musicals are being produced.

Scene 1 - Rehearsals, Audio Recording and Costume Fittings


Students Zoomed in twice a week to learn music, blocking, choreography, and character development. Once COVID regulations allowed, each masked student went into a studio to meet with TPS's conductor/music director/editor Jeff Poindexter and Sullivan. Poindexter recorded each performer's vocals from behind a plexiglass screen separating him from them. The individual vocal tracks - from solos to big ensemble numbers - are now being mixed with an existing orchestral track to complete the soundtracks of the two musicals in preparation for opening dates in late May.

While at the one-on-one vocal sessions, the kids enjoyed costume fittings with costume, set and prop designer David Geinosky. Geinosky built hundreds of costumes for each of these productions with Mindy McDonald providing additional costumes for LES MIS.

Scene II - Video Shooting


Students had individual filming sessions where they shot their scenes in full costume and make up, with help from costume designer Geinosky to get into their many costume changes. They were shot in front of a green screen to allow for Kmiec's beautiful backgrounds to be added during editing. Sullivan, along with actress Elizabeth Telford and editors Peter Robel and David Sajewich, worked with each student to shoot their scenes in front of the green screen and lip-synch to their own voices one person at a time.

Scene 3 - Editing


The editors are now taking the footage and editing actors together in front of the backgrounds with anywhere from one to 40 performers appearing in a frame, just as audiences might see them on stage or in a film, rather than in a Zoom checkerboard.

"We truly believe that this process has been unique and special for all of us," said Fauntleroy. "We have heard such great things from The Performer's School families. Not only did their children have an amazing theatrical experience, but also most importantly they stayed connected with their theater friends during an extraordinary time in our world."

Student Ethan Michaels, a seventh-grader from Lincolnshire who will appear in LES MIS, said "Being in this show has been the best part of the pandemic for me. I have been with The Performers School since I was nine years old, and when I thought the show would be cancelled, I was devastated. But the film is something new and exciting. It's cool knowing you're a part of something no one else has done before. Not to mention it's doing something I love. This has been an amazing experience and I'm lucky to get to do this."

LES MISÉRABLES SCHOOL EDITION will stream on May 21, 22, 23, 28, 29 and 30. and DISNEY'S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST JR. will stream on May 28, 29, 30 and June 4, 5, and 6. Screening times are Fridays and Saturdays at 7 pm and Sundays at 2 pm for both musicals. For ticket information, please visit www.theperformersschool.com.


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