Les Mis brings local touch to global production

Les Miserables opens in Anchorage Friday. The Broadway musical has been produced around the world since 1985, but this production has local twists.

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Director Andy Ferrara guides the cast through one of their last rehearsals before opening night as they dance about the stage singing At the Wedding. The 23 players have been working on the two-hour long show for only about four weeks. The main cast and crew are from LA, but once they hit town they were joined by four local girls. They’ll take turns playing Little Cosette and Little Eponine.

When asked if they’re having fun, they chorused “Yes!” in unison.

The Les Mis cast practices one of the final scenes.
The Les Mis cast practices one of the final scenes.

Eleven-year-old Parker Kinley says she loves the once-in-a-lifetime experience and has learned from the professional cast.

“I’ve learned that to trust all of your teammates because they’re going to help you through this and even if you mess up their going to guide you through this. And yeah, it’s awesome.”

And the wigs have shown the young brunette some other things.

“It’s so fun to see yourself as a blonde!” Kinley says.

But 10-year-old Megan Nelson says the acting is a challenge.

“It’s hard cause I like to smile a lot and trying to not to smile and act said because her mother couldn’t afford to keep her and so she had to drop her off with people who are actually mean to her, so you have to act sad.”

And let’s face it, Les Mis isn’t exactly a happy play.

“Here we go. Who dies first?” Ferrara asks the cast and a woman responds.

“Stand up. Raise your hand,” he commands. “Chad, this is the first one who dies.”

That’s Ferrara again. He’s blocking the scene at the barricade where — spoiler alert — most of the cast dies. They drape their bodies over a rotating set that looks like stacked rubble – broken chairs, wooden boxes. Ferrara says the set is smaller and less complicated than one might see on Broadway because this is a regional production.

“We don’t have $10 million to spend on a production. We have far less. So it really makes you be more creative with what you’re going to do.”

He says they do things like use candles and fog to create different scenes instead of relying on a massive turntable.

Unlike other regional productions, the Anchorage Concert Association has been involved with this show for more than two years. They helped find the set and audition cast members. Even the local crew has more of a say than they would for other productions.

“Here, they’re involved. It’s like, ‘Why don’t we change over here?’ Or, ‘Why don’t we do this?’ Every element from the lights to the costumes to the sound department is involved in some way in putting on the project instead of just being told what to do.”

Ferrara says that’s why they got to choose four girls instead of just one to sing Little Cosette’s iconic song:

“Crying at all is not allowed. Not in my castle on a cloud.”

Les Miserables is playing at the Performing Arts Center through October 26.