After the blockbuster movie version of Broadway’s Les Misérables hit theaters in 2012, the rights to the stage production were opened up again to community theatre groups for the first time in years. When they heard the news, Brooklynites Jeff Samaha and Karen Tadross couldn’t finish their application fast enough.
“We were denied the first time we applied this spring, so we repeated it and appealed, and then we got it,” said Tadross, producer of the upcoming Jeff Samaha Theater Productions/Ridge Chorale production of the seminal Broadway classic, to open in Bay Ridge on September 20.
“It’s been Jeff’s lifelong dream [to do this show],” explained Tadross, who noted that they had been applying for the rights every year for years, “just in case” it would actually be approved.
The Ridge Chorale production of the Broadway adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic work of historical fiction based on the French Revolution will run over two long-weekends—September 20-22 and 27-29—at the High School of Telecommunication Art and Technology, located at 350 67th Street in Bay Ridge.
“It’s a big deal because this is the first time Les Mis is coming to Brooklyn as a full production,” said Sean Kincaid, who will be portraying Enjolras, the lead student revolutionary. “For us, for me, it’s a proud moment to say, yes, we brought it to Brooklyn.”
The Brooklyn production will stand out from its community-theatre peers by featuring a 22-piece orchestra—over double the usual size—that will be conducted with the baton from the original Broadway production, some of the original costumes, a high production value, and a Broadway lighting designer. “It’s a quality production at a reasonable price,” said Tadross.
The need for a “lusher sound” is important because the entire story is told through song instead of having bits of dialogue transitions throughout.
“To me, the ensemble is probably the most important part,” said Samaha. “We have phenomenal vocals and acting leads [who] relate to each other naturally. The singing has to be top notch [because] the story is typical, but the music is brilliant in the way it takes your soul and twists it from song to song.”
Iconic songs from Les Misérables include “I Dreamed A Dream,” “Master of the House,” “On My Own,” “One Day More” and “Do You Hear The People Sing?”
The cast of 60 performers is also stellar as it is full of local talent. Around 80 percent of the cast lives in Brooklyn, and the other 20 percent are close by in New York and Long Island. The youngest actor is five years old and the oldest is 65, and they consider one another one big family—a bond that translates into powerful performances on stage.
“It’s a team effort,” enthused Ridge Chorale veteran John Panepinto, whose two friends auditioned and won roles in the ensemble. “I go over the book with friends and cast after rehearsal to see where their characters are coming from. It’s a literal and built family.”
Acknowledging that Les Misérables has a well-known story that the audience will likely have expectations about how it should be done, Associate Director Frank Caiati assures everyone that Ridge Chorale’s production will address those that come to see what they love, as well as those who want to be surprised.
“We will be true to the script, but also to the legacy,” he said.
“The show is timeless because everyone has experienced heartbreak, friendship, loss, death, and fighting for something you can’t have,” said ensemble cast member Taylor Leigh Cannon.
There are a limited number of tickets available, so buy them now online at www.ridgechorale.com or by calling 718-989-9566.