Kamiakin High School's drama department present its first musical in more than a decade when Les Misérables opens Feb. 7 in the school's auditorium.
Under the direction of Tina Marang-Webb, with Scott Wagnon as musical director, the stage musical follows a similar path as the recent film version that stars Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe.
Kelsey Forman, 17, plays the downtrodden Fantine, whose life is cut short by consumption. Forman says her character's development has been an ongoing process.
"I connected with Fantine and understand more about her at every rehearsal," Forman said. "Sometimes it's difficult to act sad when everyone at rehearsal is in such a great mood. Shutting myself out from everyone else helps."
Les Misérables is a sad tale of life in early 19th century France. It follows the crucibles of Jean Valjean, who spends nearly 20 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread for his starving sister's child. Valjean is hounded by cynical Inspector Javert, who believes all convicts are eternal criminals at heart.
But Valjean was never a real thief, and once out of prison, he embarks on a quest for redemption. When he breaks parole to start a new life, he is relentlessly tracked by Javert.
Valjean befriends Fantine after she is fired from her job and is forced into prostitution to support her baby girl, Cosette.
Eli Drushella, 18, plays Javert. Though he did see the movie Les Misérables , he didn't care for Crowe's portrayal of the inspector.
"I would be a little disappointed in myself if I brought much of (Crowe's) interpretation with me onto the stage," Drushella said.
"I think a lot of people believe that because (Javert) is almost completely single-minded, he has to be one-dimensional," he added. "I think this is untrue. Javert is much more complex than people give him credit for. Especially near the end, when he becomes a nearly different person. I want to purvey the complexity and change I see in him to the audience."
Dakota Musick, 17, plays the troubled Valjean. He saw the movie three times. And even though he admitted Jackman's portrayal helped him add a more emotional scope to his character, Musick still felt challenged by the role.
"I've seen dozens of renditions of the play, but a musical play and musical movie are two entirely different things," Musick said. "Valjean has a more reserved, or serious, attitude and I happen to lean a bit more on the always goofing-off side. But the music helps put you into character, though."
This is Webb and Wagnon's first year as drama and music teachers at Kamiakin, so encouraging kids to turn out for a musical proved more of a challenge than they initially thought.
"It was difficult at first to get kids to try out for this musical," Webb said. "Mr. Wagnon and I visited numerous classes to explain the musical and to increase interest. It was worth the extra work.
"We started on blind faith because we're new to the school this year. But these kids are amazing. We have a cast of 45 dedicated and talented kids involved. We also have an orchestra pit with nine students who will be performing with us."
She believes the audience will be surprised and impressed with the student talent at Kamiakin.
"Kamiakin is well known for its sports programs," she said. "Now it is time for the community to see the talent in the performing arts programs as well."
Showtimes are 7 p.m. Feb. 7-8 and 2 p.m. Feb. 9. Admission is $10 for adults and $7 for students and seniors at the door.
*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org