Students gear up for play's opening night

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Before dress rehearsal practice began Tuesday night for Moffat County High School's production of "Les Miserables," a few of the cast members debated where they placed chronologically in schools putting on the performance for the first time this year.

One thought MCHS was one of four schools putting it on in the United States, another said the MCHS cast was the first of four in Colorado.

Wherever they fall on the list, cast members know they are one of the first schools to put on the Broadway production "Les Miserables," and they're fired

up about it.

"The audience should go away inspired," said freshman cast member Robert McClellan of the production. "It gives the message that you can improve your lot in life. People will feel uplifted."

Senior Anjuli Cunningham agreed with her fellow cast member.

"You will walk away changed," she said. "If you don't learn lessons from this, you're heartless."

"Les Miserables," based on Victor Hugo's novel, is one of the longest running theater productions in history, translated into some

16 languages.

The main character, Jean Valjean, is released on parole after 19 years on a chain gang and is ready to begin a new life.

But he finds starting a new life is not easy as an ex-convict, said senior Jerry Davis, who plays the part of Valjean.

So he breaks his parole and starts a new life, but continues to be haunted by his past.

But what Valjean does with his life in the story is inspirational, Davis said.

"He shows that everyone has a second chance," he said.

Each performer agreed that the play is complex and challenging, but said the end product makes the challenge worthwhile.

"The music is indescribable," Cunningham said.

For six weeks, cast members have been practicing for three hours everyday except Sunday, they said.

With one day to go before opening night, play director Amy Coleman said she was happy with how the group was doing.

"It's going better than I thought it would," Coleman said. "People underestimate the talent that we have here. This show puts that forward."

Many of the students in this year's performance were involved in the school production of "Cinderella" last year.

As a first-year theater instructor at MCHS last year, Coleman said she thought the talent level of those students was high enough to take on a more difficult production this year.

"A lot of these kids are thinking about a profession in theater," she said. "This play kicks it up a notch.

It's a bigger challenge than 'Cinderella.'"

Another challenge mixed into this performance is an orchestra accompaniment, directed by music instructor Ray Zentz, Coleman said.

But it's the music that sets "Les Miserables" apart from other productions, Coleman said.

"You have to be a pretty hard person not to be touched by this music," she said. "That's why I did this because the music affects me and moves me."

The students have worked hard for six weeks, but that hard work is what will make it special in the students' minds, Coleman said.

"The kids have definitely risen to the occasion," she said. "I hope this is something they always remember."

Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or jnichols@craigdailypress.com.

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