Iconic musical meets historic venue when Theatre Macon stages ‘Les Mis’ at the Grand Opera House

July 11, 2014 

The iconic musical “Les Miserables” has a history all its own. But, it also has a history with Theatre Macon director Jim Crisp.

“I have a history with this show. There is a student version that we did in 2003 at the Grand (Opera House),” Crisp said. “At the time, we were the first theater -- not just in Middle Georgia, but one of the first theaters in Georgia -- to do this show with our youth actors. Then, in 2007, we did it again, but in our home space.”

Crisp said that although performing the play on the Theatre Macon stage works well, “the demands of the show and the way the story is told unfolds better with the system in place at the Grand. The spirit of the show is big. It needs space to breathe. It needs height and depth. The scale of this story is operatic and I knew that we would want to go back to the Grand.”

Financing the space at the Grand proved less stressful than Crisp anticipated.

“The stumbling block was renting the Grand, but we put out the call on Facebook and wrote a letter to our subscribers, and we raised the money within 10 days,” he said. “Those are our ‘Les Mis’ angels and we are so grateful to them. We could not have done this without them.”

Eleven years after that first student performance, Crisp said he felt it was time to stage the musical once again because of its continuing resonance with modern audiences.

“ ‘Les Mis’ has been running for more than 25 years. It is an extraordinary phenomenon. Hunger and homelessness -- these are two of the most pressing social issues of our times. They also were incredibly prominent issues of (author) Victor Hugo’s Paris,” Crisp said. “Hugo’s forward to the novel suggests that as long as the few claim the wealth for themselves and leave the masses unsheltered and unfed, there would be a place for this story. He was right. This is not a story disconnected from us, it is deeply rooted in the world we live in right now.”

“There are also the human stories that we respond to -- the love between people and the stories of spiritual movements from darkness to light,” Crisp said. “It makes a powerful statement when you consider that redemption is possible for everyone. We cannot overlook the single moment that sets this story into motion. One act of true Christian generosity and kindness from the Bishop, a scene that only lasts five minutes, brings about more than he could have ever known.”

Crisp called the cast “phenomenal” and in particular lauded the talent of the two leads and the show’s crew. Brian Barnett plays Javert, the policeman, and Justin Carr plays Jean Valjean.

“There was a host of people who made this possible and without whom, we would not be going forward,” he said. “I would like to thank our music directors Jim Penndorf and Cam Bishop and assistant director Richard Frazier. Shelley Kuhen and her staff have designed and built 300 costumes. We auditioned 104 people for a cast of 64. Cheri Engen and Nic Sostilio made more than 300 props and provided all the details that made this world come alive. Tony Pearson, our set designer, has outdone himself. Everyone has been fantastic and everyone has worked enormously hard.”

“Les Misérables”

When: 8 p.m. July 11-12 and 18-19; 2:30 p.m. July 13; 7:30 p.m. July 17

Where: Grand Opera House, 651 Mulberry St.

Cost: $35 adults; $25 students through age 22

Information: 478-301-5470; www.thegrandmacon.com

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