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LES MISERABLES STUDENT EDITION coming soon to Fort Wayne Summer Music Theatre!

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Live theater is BACK with this incredible undertaking by 65 area students

LES MISERABLES STUDENT EDITION coming soon to Fort Wayne Summer Music Theatre!

With theatrical productions finally getting back into the swing of things after a long and desolate period of cancelled shows and delayed seasons, Fort Wayne's lucky that one of the first shows this summer is LES MISERABLES, a student edition produced by Fort Wayne Summer Music Theatre and directed by executive program director Andrew Sherman.

There's no better show to welcome live audiences back to the theater than this one. Slated to open in July at the Robert Goldstine Performing Arts Center, LES MISERABLES STUDENT EDITION will be presented by 65 high school and middle school students from 23 of the Fort Wayne area's many public school districts and private schools. During one of their rehearsals last week, I sat down with a few of their ensemble members to talk about what this opportunity means for them after a tumultuous year-and-a-half.

Avery Cunningham, an outgoing senior from Homestead High School and member of the ensemble women of the show, spoke to me about her excitement about being cast in one of her favorite musicals, and having a chance to sing and dance some of the numbers that have become so iconic in the theater world since the premiere of LES MISERABLES back in 1985.

She had previously participated in FWSMT's production of WEST SIDE STORY two summers ago, the last show that the group was able to produce before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Last year, LES MISERABLES had been one of two shows on their docket, the other being AMERICAN IDIOT; unfortunately, both had to be postponed due to high coronavirus numbers in the county and a general uncertainty about whether or not people would feel safe attending the theater, masked or not. But the show must eventually go on, and FWSMT didn't give up on their goal of staging this wildly ambitious show, instead moving it to the summer of 2021 instead of 2020.

Cunningham noted that audiences should "look forward to the size of the musical, because it's huge, and it's dramatic." This seems to be a recurring theme throughout my conversations with the actors; every single actor who spoke to me was positive that the scope of the costumes, lighting, set design, and powerful vocals of this cast will blow Fort Wayne away. "We're not backing down this summer," Cunningham said.

LES MISERABLES STUDENT EDITION coming soon to Fort Wayne Summer Music Theatre!

Another Homestead student, Zane Bray, is excited about the large group numbers as well. "I am really looking forward to the tavern scene, where everyone's strewn about over on the tables. It was a lot of fun blocking," he said. Bray plays Army Officer and is part of the ensemble of revolutionary men. He's no stranger to the stage, and this incoming junior joined FWSMT's company this summer out of a desire for more opportunities for theatrical performance. LES MISERABLES, though, offers something special in its music. "For one, the songs are absolutely beautiful. There's a lot of recurring songs sung by different characters that are construed in new ways throughout the show," he said. "And beyond that, it's very catchy music. People know the songs... it's a big part of musical history."

Their enthusiasm is matched by Gianna Williams, a featured ensemble member and outgoing senior from Snider who will be headed to Purdue University in West Lafayette to major in acting and musical theatre. "I know Andrew [Sherman] and the production staff will bring it and exceed the expectations of what I have in my head for the show," she said.

But beyond just the show itself, Fort Wayne Summer Music Theatre holds a special place in the hearts of many of these young performers.

LES MISERABLES STUDENT EDITION coming soon to Fort Wayne Summer Music Theatre!

"I really like the professionalism of this organization. And not only are they really professional, but they make everybody feel included in what we're doing," she said, also noting that Sherman and the other staff all respect the students' time. She appreciates their genuine feedback and dedication to helping them improve their performance, too. "Andrew and all of the other staff have always been encouraging, but they'll also tell you how it is. They're not going to sugar coat everything- they'll be real with you." And that's what makes FWSMT's shows and these growing performers the best they can be, all while allowing them to foster connections with students across the city as they work together to tackle this massive undertaking.

"I didn't get to do a musical this year at my high school," said Williams. "I didn't get to have my senior musical, so getting to do a show before I go off to college is really important to me. And it's super exciting to get to do what I love. I'm going to college for this, so it's a big deal to be able to have one last show before I go. It gives me a moment to take it all in for what it is."

LES MISERABLES STUDENT EDITION plays July 23, 24, 30, and 31 at 7:30 p.m. & July 25 and August 1 at 2:00 p.m. downtown at the Robert Goldstine Performing Arts Center (University of Saint Francis) located at 431 West Berry Street. You can buy tickets online here starting July 1; tickets will also be sold at the door. For more detailed ticket information, call 260-225-8828.

Now part of Indiana Musical Theatre Foundation, Inc., the Fort Wayne Summer Music Theatre has been a staple of Fort Wayne summers since 1999, giving young actors from all across northeast Indiana an opportunity to work with students from other schools and learn from theatre professionals, all while putting together a show in just a few short weeks. You can find out more about the program or about LES MISERABLES on their website or by visiting their Facebook page.

Their new studio and rehearsal space at RKF Studios is also available for rental; see their website or email IMTFinc@gmail.com for more details.

Photos courtesy of Alex Leavell and FWSMT.


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