I've written -- and edited -- enough high school play stories to know "Les Miserables" has a reputation. It's supposed to be one of the most difficult plays to produce.
When done well, though, this tale of poverty, revolution and redemption is magnificent to behold.
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If you goWhat: Kaneland High School's production of "Les Miserables"
When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 16-17; 2 p.m. Sunday, March 18
Where: Kaneland High School auditorium, 47W326 Keslinger Road, Maple Park
Tickets: $10, $5 for students and seniors; free for KHS students and staff
Details: (630) 365-5111; kaneland.org
Kaneland High School has taken on the challenge of "Les Mis" and will stage the Claude-Michel Schonberg musical, based on the 1862 novel by Victor Hugo, this weekend. Performances are at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Director April Rames, who teaches English and theater at Kaneland, took some time to answer a few questions about the play.
Q. Why did you choose "Les Miserables" for your spring musical this year?
Rames. We chose "Les Mis" this year for several reasons. We all love the show and we knew the students would be excited about performing it. We also knew that we had enough talented students, particularly boys, this year. We always have talented students involved in our shows, but it's unusual in high school theater to have so many talented boys. We also thought this would be a show the community would be interested in seeing.
Q. We've heard "Les Mis" is a difficult show to put on. Did you find that to be true, or not? What were some of the biggest challenges in putting together this production?
Rames. Yes, "Les Mis" is a challenging show. It is "sung through," which means there is no spoken dialogue in the show. Singing for two hours straight can be difficult. The subject matter can also be difficult to work with, especially for younger performers. The storyline puts the actors in situations with which they are unlikely to have much experience, such as leading a revolution or chasing down a fugitive for 20 years. The scenery needs for show are also challenging. We need to represent several different locations quickly and clearly.
Q. What was most surprising or unexpected in the production of this show?
Rames. The community response has been the most surprising aspect of the production. We have had a lot of interest, and ticket pre-sales have been strong and steady from the beginning.
Q. What do you think will be the audience's favorite part of the show? What will they find most touching?
Rames. There are many moving moments in the show. Numbers like "Bring Him Home" and "Little Fall of Rain" tend to evoke a strong emotional response audiences, as well as the battle scenes.
Q. How many years have you been directing plays at Kaneland? Who else is involved with the direction and production of this play?
Rames. This is my second year directing plays at Kaneland. Previously, I was the technical director and scene designer for three years. Bryan Kunstman, choir teacher at KHS, is the musical director. Aaron Puckett, band teacher at KHS, is the pit director. Paula Franz, a dance professor from Northern Illinois University, is the choreographer. Chad Carlson is the technical director. Christie Montalto, English teacher at KHS, is the set designer.
Q. Tell us the one main reason people should come and see this show.
Rames. We have some really talented students and they've worked very hard on this production. I think readers will find that this production exceeds their expectations for a "high school" production.