The right cast for “Les Miserables,” a big musical about the French Revolution with a challenging vocal score, doesn't come along every year.
Colin Brown thought this was the year.
Brown, who is directing the Omaha Public Schools summer musical that opens at South High School tonight, has been directing the program for five years while also teaching vocal music at Central High. He will transfer to Bryan High School this fall. That gave him perspective on the unique set of vocal performers likely to audition this year.
“I thought we had the kinds of voices and exceptional talent needed to pull off ‘Les Miz,' and a lot of them graduate this year,” Brown said. “Turned out I was right. They showed up, and we have an amazing vocal cast.”
That cast includes Jacob Wilson and Harrison Leitch, brand-new Central High grads, as leading man Jean Valjean and his nemesis, Inspector Javert; Brittany Bowman, a North High grad, as lovelorn …ponine; Garrett Howard, another North grad, as Enjolras, leader of the student rebels; Benito Pacheco, a South grad, as idealist Marius Pontmercy; and Central High grad Dawaune Hayes and Bryan grad Elizabeth Planck as the scheming Thťnardiers. Nicole Shockley, of South High, plays tragic mother Fantine, and Melissa Comstock, of Central High, is her daughter, Cosette, adopted by Valjean.
Brown said the turnout at auditions for the summer musical has grown each year, peaking at over 100 this year. He cast 52 students, ranging in age from elementary and middle-school pupils to just-graduated seniors. Another 22 students are in the orchestra, directed by Sarah Stratton, and six are backstage crew members.
“Theater and music teach kids so much about working together and teamwork,” Brown said. “And there's a lot of history in this show. So we're having the students research the time of the French Revolution to help them shape their characters, or study the music of the day.”
Angelina Gradel is directing vocal music for the show, while Brown's wife, Joi, is choreographer. Dave and Elizabeth Weisser designed scenery and lighting.
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