Matthew Burns

LES MISÉRABLES SCHOOL EDITION AT SEDBERGH SCHOOL

Pupils from Sedbergh School take to the stage this week for a three-night run of Les Misérables School Edition. The cast, directed by Cathy Want, takes to the stage this evening for a second performance and then ‘one day more’, the final night on Friday, 7.30pm in Powell Hall.

Co-director Andy Loghue, Head of Modern Foreign Languages, said: “The production uses a brand new LED lighting rig, a 21-piece orchestra and 30 radio microphones.

The team includes a number of professionals from the theatre, film and music industries, including George Want as Movement Director and Kat Askins, a film industry professional makeup artist who has worked with some of the best-known faces in Hollywood.  

She has supported and guided a team of six pupils responsible for make-up.  Julie Nixon, an artist based at Farfield Mill in Sedbergh, painted the gauze screens, a key feature of the set – painted freehand, with hand-mixed colours herself – no mean feat!”

Musical Director Chris Allinson said: “A sung-through musical of this type presents quite a challenge for the pit orchestra as well as the cast: it is 2.5 hours of non-stop music that is at times very demanding and requires intense concentration.

The actors playing the principal parts took responsibility for learning their songs, whilst a lot of singing rehearsals were used to boost chorus numbers. It is important to note that many members of the cast have never done anything like this before, so singing in harmony is a particular achievement, as is learning to project one’s own voice.

Our pit orchestra consists of musicians from across the School, from pupils and music teachers to the school nurse and Assistant Headmistress! I consider it very important to strike a balance between an educational experience for the pupils and the need for a professional sound.

The orchestra started rehearsing immediately after half-term, and the focus over the last week or so has been to pair up the cast with the orchestra.”

Les Miserables began life in a very popular French version mounted in 1980 at the Palais des Sports in Paris.  Five years later, it opened at the Barbican Theatre under the auspices of Mackintosh and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Two years later it opened at the Broadway Theatre in New York and at London’s Palace Theatre. The show revolutionised Broadway and West End musicals by seamlessly blending universal storytelling with spectacle. It possesses some challenges for schools, though, with complex music and vocal ranges that stretch even the best formers, as an example.

The School Edition was created by Music Theatre International, in conjunction with Cameron Mackintosh, and was adapted to meet the specific needs of the educational theatrical market. 

Lead parts include Finn Askins (Javert), Will Player (Valjean), Olivia Ridsdale (Fantine), Molly Barrett and Ella Seymour from Casterton, Sedbergh Preparatory School (Little Cosette/Eponine),  Sahanna Grimaldi (Cosette), Megan Kenyon (Madame Thenardier), James Caruthers (Thenardier), Gregor Fyfe (Gavroche), Alex Proctor (Marius), Jack Roper (Enjolras) and Eden McGuire (Eponine). 

A huge thanks to the cast and crew, and all of those busy behind the scenes. A selection of photographs from the Dress Rehearsal is available on the Sedbergh School Official Facebook page.

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