The many talents of the Prince Rupert arts community were proudly on display last week as Les Misérables took over the Lester Centre stage.
The producer, directors, orchestra, cast and crew members of Les Misérables spent hundreds of hours working on the production and it showed throughout three performances that pleased audiences’ eyes, ears and minds.
Producer Crystal Lorette, general manager of the Lester Centre, and artistic director Michael Gurney guided 60 Prince Rupert cast members in 117 roles included in the production.
Based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, the Lester Centre of the Arts presented Alain Boublil and Claude-Michael Schönberg’s musical version of Les Misérables that follows the story of Jean Valjean (Andy Enns).
Released on parole after serving 19 years on the chain gang, Jean is an outcast. But a kind act motivates him to change his life, breaking parole and changing his identity to become Monsieur Madeleine. Eight years later he is a respected factory owner and mayor.
An unrelated act will change Jean’s life once more, when factory worker Fantine’s (Lauren Armstrong) secret is announced: She is sending her wages to inn-owner Thénardier (Keith Lambourne) and his Madame (Lonni Bryant) to pay for an illegitimate daughter. Fantine is dismissed from Factory of Montreuil, and begins selling herself to continue paying the innkeepers. Following an altercation with an unwanted customer, Fantine is nearly arrested by lawman Javert (Graeme McNish) before the mayor arrives and demands she be taken to the hospital instead. When Jean realizes what happened to Fantine, he promises to care for her young daughter Cosette (Emily Cavin while young and later Heather McRae).
Jean must go on the run again after Javert recognizes him, but first he pays off Thénardier for custody of Cosette.
Nine years later Jean and Cosette are in Paris where there is political unrest because of the impending death of General Lamarque, the only man in government who shows mercy for the poor.
The Thénardiers have lost their inn, with Thénardier becoming the leader of a street gang, who along with the daughter Éponine (Caitlund Catherall) prepare to rob Jean and Cosette. Marius (Jeff Saunders), a student who is friends with Éponine, is warned to stay away but instead shields Cosette until Javert thwarts the robbery. After they have fled, Javert once again recognizes Jean and vows to recapture him.
After their brief encounter, Marius and Cosette fall for each other. Marius turns to Éponine, who grew up with Cosette on the inn, to help him find his new love. Despite her own feelings for Marius, so obliges.
Marius rejoins his friends, a group of idealistic students who are preparing for revolution. Leader Enjoiras (Jasper Nolos) encourages all of Paris to join the revolution as he and other students prepare for battle by setting up a barricade.
Javert disguises as a student to spy on the revolutionaries, with Éponine also disguising herself as a boy to be with Marius. When Marius discovers Éponine, he sends her to deliver a goodbye letter to Cosette, which is intercepted by Jean who learns of his daughter’s romantic relationship. He decides to join students at the barricade where Éponine has been shot, the first to die.
Gavroche (Erik Langille), one of the young revolutionists, outs Javert as a spy and Enjoiras tells Jean to kill him. But instead, Jean allows Javert to leave the barricades.
Then the battle begins, and all of the rebels are killed except Jean and the wounded Marius. Moving through the sewers, Thénardier and other looters gain access into the barricades and begin looting bodies, taking a ring from the unconscious Marius.
To escape, Jean carries Marius through the same sewers and once again comes across Javert. Jean bags him for an hour to bring Marius to a doctor, with Javert agreeing. He finds himself unable to come to terms with the fact that Jean is a criminal, yet has so much mercy, and decides to throw himself into the Seine.
After Marius becomes conscious, he confines in Cosette over the loss of his friends, and wonders who saved his life following the battle. Jean later confesses he is an escaped convict and must leave to not endanger
A few months later Marius and Cosette marry, with the Thénardiers crashing their wedding. Thénardier tries to blackmail Marius, claiming Jean is a murderer that he saw carrying a dead body in the sewers after the barricade fell. As proof, he shows him a ring that Marius recognized as his own, making him realize it was Jean who saved his life.
At a convent, Jean is awaiting his death when the spirit of Fantine appears thanking him for raising her daughter. Cosette and Marius arrive just in time to say goodbye before Jean passes.
Musical director Peter Witherly led the 15-person orchestra in a marathon of music lasting nearly the whole duration of the more than three hour performance, accompanied by cast members in favourites like One More Day and Do You Hear the People Sing?
Every song needs a little dance, with Jewel Jerstad choreographing Prince Rupert’s production of Les Misérables.
While the production stuck close to the musical version, it did include some North Coast elements like the incorporation of North Pacific Cannery artifacts in the scene set at Factory of Montreuil.