News Column

'Les Miserables' to lead Orlando Shakespeare Theater's next season

February 19, 2014

By Matthew J. Palm, Orlando Sentinel



Feb. 19--"Les Miserables" will kick off the Signature Series of Orlando Shakespeare Theater's 2014-15 season, theater officials announced Tuesday.

The musical's first Orlando-based production will open Sept. 12 and will be the Shakes' largest single show, said artistic director Jim Helsinger.

"Les Miz," as fans call it, has been seen by more than 65 million people in 42 countries since the first English-language production opened in 1985 in London. Still running, it's London's longest-running musical. The original 1987-2003 Broadway production is the fifth-longest show there. A new Broadway revival will open next month.

"We've had such success with 'Nicholas Nickleby' that I can't wait to bring 'Les Miserables' to life," Helsinger said in the announcement. The theater's two-part "Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby," currently onstage, is its largest-ever production.

For "Les Mis," the theater will use an orchestra to accompany the actors, Helsinger said.

Based on Victor Hugo's 1862 novel, "Les Miserables" is a story of redemption and the human spirit told through the eyes of Jean Valjean, an unjustly convicted Frenchman who escapes his prison sentence and seeks to make a better life for himself and the poor people he encounters.

In 2012 the story was adapted into a big-budget movie musical starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway.

Theaters on the outskirts of Central Florida, including Ocala Civic Theatre and the Titusville Playhouse, have staged the show. A production opens at Theatre Winter Haven on Thursday. And the Sands Theater Company, a community-theater troupe that performs at the Athens Theatre in DeLand, has a production planned for April.

The Shakes also announced three other shows in its upcoming 26th season.

Following "Les Miserables" will be "The Best of Enemies" in October. Inspired by Osha Gray Davidson's best-selling book, "Enemies" is based on a true story about the relationship between a Ku Klux Klan leader and a black civil-rights activist during the 1971 desegregation of the schools in Durham, N.C. The 2011 play was written by Robert St. Germain, best known for the off-Broadway hit "Freud's Last Session."

"'Les Miserables' and 'The Best of Enemies' are compelling pieces about standing up for what you believe," Helsinger said. "Whether it is social injustice, racism or the redeeming power of love, we will be celebrating the power of the human spirit in our 26th season."

The theater's children's series will feature a world-premiere adaptation of "Rapunzel," followed by "The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley."

Local actor-playwright Brandon Roberts, who previously adapted "Cinderella" and "Sleeping Beauty" for the Shakes, will also write "Rapunzel." The tale will be presented with a comic twist. It runs ahead of the main season, June 21-July 27.

"The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley" is based on the popular books by Jeff Brown. Two-dimensional Stanley teaches children that heroes come in all shapes and sizes as he travels the globe. The show will run Oct. 25-Nov. 23.

Season subscriptions are on sale now; tickets to individual shows go on sale June 10 except for "Rapunzel," which will be available April 22. Call 407-447-1700. The other shows in the theater's season will be announced later this spring.

mpalm@tribune.com

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Source: Orlando Sentinel (FL)


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