NORTH CANTON North Canton Playhouse’s youth edition of the Broadway classic Les Misérables, based on the novel written by Victor Hugo, sold out prior to opening night.
Les Misérables will premiere Jan. 13 at the main stage, located 525 7th Street NE, and run through Jan. 29. All nine of the musical’s original performance dates are sold out at $15 per ticket, prompting the addition of two more showings at 7 p.m. Jan. 22 and Jan. 29.
"I think it’s the popularly of (the musical) and also the fact that we have 55 people in the cast," said Paynter, who has been a director at the North Canton Playhouse for 12 years. "It was very surprising; I didn’t expect to sell out through the run of the show before we open."
Lisa Paynter, director of Les Misérables, said is hoping the cast can perform the show for an extra week, but is unsure if extra shows will be added due to conflicting schedules of the students.
The show includes 55 student actors from high schools including Green, Jackson, Glenoak, Hoover and Perry.
Lauren Smith, a senior at Green High School, was one of two students casted for the role of Fantine. Smith has performed at North Canton Playhouse for five years and said performing in the Playhouse’s youth program has allowed her to make friends all over Stark County.
"It’s really cool because you get to meet people from other schools," Smith said. "I don’t know how to describe it, honestly. It’s really fun to meet other people and get to know them, and (it’s) people that you aren’t seeing day to day at school."
Smith said she fell in love with the musical after seeing it for the first time. When Smith found out North Canton Playhouse would be performing the musical, she knew she had to audition.
"I’ve always loved 'Les Mis' since I saw it," Smith said. "I love the music a lot. The storyline is depressing, but there’s still that hope in the end for redemption. I loved that, and I loved the character development throughout. You don’t leave with a feeling of despair. You have that hope to walk out with."
Klaire Vandegrift from Hoover High School will also be playing Fantine. Paynter double casted many of the leading female roles due to the number of talented students who auditioned.
"We had so many wonderful, talented female auditioners, and I just really felt that more needed to be given the chance to play Fantine, Eponine, Cosette and Thenardier. They’re all so equally talented, and I just felt that I wanted to hive an opportunity to more of the females to play those roles."
Paynter said she was worried at first of having multiple people playing a role because of the competition it could create. However, Paynter said the girls were very supportive of one another.
"These kids that are playing the roles together have been so supportive of each other," she said. "Not one of them feels like they’re in competition with the other. They think that they each have a different version of the character a little bit, and that’s wonderful."
All students involved are younger than 19 years old. The youth version is a shortened version of the Broadway class, which runs almost three hours.
"Working with the kids is wonderful, and it’s wonderful … that all of these publishers do junior versions of all these musicals now," Paynter said. "So they get to experience doing a music of this caliber that’s been adapted more for their age group."
The students have been rehearsing twice a week since September to prepare for opening night. Smith said starting rehearsals early made it easier for her to prepare for her role. Smith was also rehearsing for Green High School’s musical in between rehearsals for Les Mis.
Paynter said musical rehearsals typically run between six and eight weeks with four or five nights of practice. By spreading out rehearsals, Paynter said more students were able to attend without schedule conflicts.
Paynter also said this musical will be using projected stage settings instead of traditional physical backdrops. Projected images were also used for the Playhouse production of Mermaid at the Canton Palace Theatre, which premiered in July 2016.
The images for the show were purchased from Broadway Media Distribution. In the production of Mermaid, swimming fish and moving water could be seen in the background.
"It was gorgeous. Water was moving; the ship was moving. It’s was just really cool," Paynter said. "The projections move. They have different projections for every scene of the show."
When Paynter saw the images for Les Mis were available, she jumped at the chance to use moving images, which will allow for a wider variety of backgrounds and scene changes.
"Buying a projector is very expensive, but once you buy a projector for it you can just rent the images," Paynter said. "They have them available for many popular shows, and so were hoping in the long run that it will be worth the cost and even save us money."
For more information on the shows that were added or to order tickets, visit www.northcantonplayhouse.com or call the Playhouse at 330-494-1613.