Three days in a row, Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 and 2, Heritage High School students performed the school edition of the musical “Les Misérables.”
If you’ve never read the long novel by Victor Hugo upon which the play is based, these lines close to the end of the book would certainly make you want to know the whole story:
“The book which the reader has before him at this moment is, from one end to the other, in its entirety and details ... a progress from evil to good, from injustice to justice, from falsehood to truth, from night to day, from appetite to conscience, from corruption to life; from bestiality to duty, from hell to heaven, from nothingness to God.”
A little background: A man is sentenced to prison for stealing bread to feed his sister’s hungry children. He’s rejected by society upon his release 19 years later. He ends up homeless, is befriended by a bishop, steals again, is forgiven, yet steals again. He takes on a new identity, becomes rich, but is discovered and finds himself in prison once more. He saves a life and is freed, but there are people who want to bring him down. He saves a young girl from slavery and raises her as his own, but when she is grown, another man steals her heart. Broken as he feels over this, when the love of his daughter’s life is threatened during a revolution, our protagonist, in the musical version of the story, prays for his safety in a song that has become deeply popular and meaningful to people around the world: “God on high, hear my prayer … he is young, he’s afraid. Let him rest, Heaven blessed. Bring him home … he’s like the son I might have known … I am old and will be gone … bring him home.”
“Les Misérables” is a story is fraught with injustice, suffering, hate, jealousy, vengeance, heartache — and grace, forgiveness and redemption. To say that performing such a play is intense and exhausting is an understatement.
“I am incredibly proud of this cast, crew and orchestra,” says Lauren Peters, one of the musical’s directors. “The amount of work required to tell this story in such an authentic way is a feat in itself, but the fact that a group of high school kids told it so well is amazing. What makes me even prouder is the leadership shown, the friendships built and the kindness displayed within this cast. This has been an incredible experience.”
Another of the play’s directors, Stephanie Parker, wrote on her Facebook page: “What an unbelievable privilege I had of co-directing “Les Misérables” with the most talented kids ever... from the cast (and) orchestra (to the) back stage crew, I can’t express how special this show was to me and how proud I am of each of you.”
Grayson Parker, a Heritage graduate and Stephanie Parker’s daughter, also helped direct the play. She wrote on her Facebook page: “… Being a part of the musicals was and is by far my favorite thing about HHS. … (Les Mis) is THE show that has shaped my love for musical theatre so I knew I had to be a part of it no matter what. I am so honored that they trusted me to join the team and help them with this show. The cast, orchestra and back stage crew were like no other and I’ve been a part of a lot of theatre. I could not have been more proud of these kids and to be an HHS musical alum!”
Yet another director, Kyle Conkle, wrote on Facebook: “I have searched for what to say about ‘Les Misérables.; It was the most moving experience I have ever had with a show. Period. For the amount of time, love, hard work and prayer that went into this beautiful production, the only words I can find to say are thank you. What a journey. There were so many amazing people that helped and brought this show to life, but Lauren Meredith, Stephanie Scealf Parker and Keith Parker this was a vision that came to pass. … Grayson Parker I don’t even know what to say. … Your vision, education and experience made this show even more incredible. I’m so proud of you. Tim Henson-Hinck (the play’s musical director, orchestra conductor and pianist), thank you for pouring into our kids. I know they soaked up every single thing you taught them. To the kids, you should be proud of what you made. Don’t EVER lose that passion and love. Do what you love, what brings you joy because that’s what life is all about. We have one shot. Be happy. I hope this is an experience that will stay with you, and I hope you’ll think about continuing Theatre outside of school. I am so proud of all of you.”
And finally, from HHS principal Ronnie Bradford: “Musical theater has always been outstanding at Heritage, but the ‘Les Misérables’ performance took us to the next level. The emotional, mature and inspiring performances of the cast members left audiences with a theater experience they will never forget. I’m so proud of what this cast and crew was able to accomplish with their talent, hard work and exceptional direction.”
The main characters in the HHS production were: Jean Valjean played by Zack Dowis, Javert played by Alex Frost, Eponine played by Melissa Simmons, Marius played by Evan Jackson, Fantine played by Moriah Bone, and Cosette played by Pearson Smith.