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'Les Miserables' makes high schoolers happy

| Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, 12:42 a.m.
The Geibel Catholic Junior-Senior High School's Spring Musical of 'Les Miserables' will take place at the State Theatre Center for the Arts in Uniontown on March 15, 16 and 17. Director Nick Bell (right) looks over the musical's vocal book with members of the school's Chamber Ensemble section leaders (from left) Olivia Rakas, Katie Catanzarite, Jared Beck and Brianna Workman. The production will be the school edition, which features all the songs made famous in the Broadway show including “On My Own,'“Castle on a Cloud,' 'One Day More” and “I Dreamed A Dream.” Tickets will be available in late January. Mark Hofmann | Daily Courier nov 2012

Geibel Catholic Junior-Senior High School may be a small school, but when it comes to musicals they go big. The school recently announced its spring musical for 2013 will be “Les Miserables.”

This is the third year in a row the school has taken on Broadway's best. Two years ago the students performed “Phantom of the Opera,” the longest-running show on Broadway, followed by “Cats,” the second longest-running show on Broadway, last year.

“‘Les Miserables' is the third longest-running show on Broadway. I thought why not complete the top three longest-running shows,” said director, producer and music director Nick Bell. “In fact ‘Les Miserables' may be third on Broadway, but it is the longest-running show in the world having been seen by 60 million people in 42 countries and having been performed in 21 languages all over the globe.”

In a school of about 152 students in grades 7 through 12, approximately 72 are expected to be involved in the production. Additionally Bell plans to utilize some fifth-grade through eighth-grade students from throughout the diocese in the show.

“We could end up with as many as 100 kids on stage at once,” Bell said.

Bell credits his students for the reason he feels confident in choosing to tackle such huge shows.

“My faith in my kids is my number one reason that I can pick big shows like this,” he said. “My kids work their butts off. They are just so dedicated to the program. I know if I pick a big one, they will not let me down.”

The students will perform the school edition which features all the songs made famous in the Broadway show which include: “On My Own,” “Castle on a Cloud,” One Day More” and “I Dreamed A Dream.”

John Wagner of Connellsville, a 2005 Geibel alumni, will be choreographing the show. This will be the ninth time he has taken on this role, having started his senior year of high school as a student choreographer.

Wagner has never worked on “Les Miserables” before, but has seen the show many times and it was one of the first professional shows he saw as a child. While the student version of the show is based on the previous Broadway production, not the version currently touring that is more of a concert style, Wagner said it still has minimal choreography compared to the shows Geibel has tackled in the past.

“I am excited to work with such a beautiful score of music. My goal is to create a production of Les Mis that is unique to Geibel, with ideas from the original production combined with my own ideas and vision for the show,” he said.

“Les Miserables” will be presented on March 15, 16 and 17 at the State Theatre Center for the Arts in Uniontown. Tickets will be $10 each and will be available in late January. Bell said the school has performed at the theater for at least the past 14 years that he has been in charge of the program.

“We love the theater, it's a great place to have our shows. I think the atmosphere adds a lot more to it,” Bell said.

Performing the show at a location outside of the school does present its challenges, though, especially for set designer Scott Procko. All of the sets must be built at the school then disassembled and taken to the State Theatre.

Procko makes sketches of the sets then oversees the students' construction of them.

“I think it's always interesting to see how it comes together, because the kids make it their own,” Procko said.

Linda Harkcom is a freelance writer.

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