News Column

'Les Mis' 'fresh' addition to WVPT season

July 11, 2013

YellowBrix

July 11--"LES MISERABLES" is set for 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and July 18, 7:30 p.m. July 19-20, and 2 p.m. July 21 at the Metropolitan Theatre. For tickets, gift certificates and season subscriptions, call 304-291-4122 or 1-877-999-WVPT (9878) or visit wvpublictheatre.org.

While last week marked West Virginia Public Theatre's (WVPT) summer debut, Wednesday will be another inaugural event for the company.

For the first time, the company will put on the tragic musical "Les Miserables." It is set for Wednesday-July 21 at the Metropolitan Theatre.

And, director Michael Licata said it's also the first time any of the cast has been a part of the production based on Victor Hugo's classic novel published in 1862.

"For a director mounting a production of this size in 10 days, that can be frightening," Licata said. "On the other hand, it is extremely exciting knowing that everyone, including the director, will be approaching the piece from a fresh perspective."

Licata said that for all intents and purposes, "Les Miserables" is an opera, and directing such a play can be a challenge.

"Once the orchestra starts playing, they don't stop," Licata said. "What makes a piece like this challenging is that everything must be done within the confines of the music. There aren't scenes where the actors set their timing and a song starts. The music dictates everything."

Will Erat, who will play the central character Jean Valjean, believes he will be challenged as well.

"This is through-composed, meaning it is all music, like an opera," Erat said. "(It's) very taxing on the voice and has an epic feel."

Erat said he has to take care of his voice and ensure that he is telling the story correctly.

"It covers so much time and has so many characters, that as an actor, you really have to be clear and concise about where you are and what is going on around you," Erat said.

Among the musical selections are the renowned "I Dreamed a Dream," "One Day More," "Red and Black," "Master of the House" and "In My Life/A Heart Full of Love."

Licata said he is excited to impress his passion for the piece upon his cast members, and in turn hopes they will translate that passion to the audience.

"My job is to take all the creative energy, material and talents available and focus them into a theatrical piece that tells the audience the story Victor Hugo meant to tell. The actors' job is to bring truth and clarity to every moment they play on the stage."

Regardless of it's difficulty, Licata believes the story and its central theme -- the conflict between Valjean, an escaped convict searching for redemption, and Javert, a policeman who doesn't believe in redemption -- are incredible and universal.

"The story Victor Hugo tells is magnificent. It is not only a story of humanity, but is a story with historical relevance," he said. "But these conflicts are not unique to the 19th century; they are driving forces of the 21st century."

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(c)2013 The Dominion Post (Morgantown, W.Va.)

Visit The Dominion Post (Morgantown, W.Va.) at www.dominionpost.com

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