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Geibel dreams the dream and takes on 'Les Miserables'

| Saturday, March 9, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Practicing the final scene of Geibel Catholic High School's production of 'Les Miserables' are (from left) Brianna Workman, Joanna Medofer, Jared Beck, Olivia Rakas, Matthew Emerson and Katie Catanzarite. MARILYN FORBES I FOR THE TRIBUNE-REVIEW

For the past two years, Geibel Catholic High School musical director Nick Bell has pushed the gauntlet with his spring productions, staging two phenomenal musical classics with last year's “Cats” and the previous year's production of “Phantom of the Opera.”

This year will be no exception as he prepares his cast of students to perform “Les Miserables.”

Bell said that he wanted to tackle the challenge of the show, because he enjoys the musical and knew he had the talent to pull it off.

“I looked into doing the show, and I thought, ‘Why not?' ” Bell said. “I figured we could try number three. I knew that I would have the talent to fill the cast.”

Bell's reference to “number three” is the fact that “Phantom of the Opera” and “Cats” are the two longest-running musicals, with “Les Miserables” taking the third spot.

“I thought he might go with number three,” Jared Beck, 17, of Masontown said of the show.

Beck will be playing lead Jean Valjean and is preparing for the challenging part by watching his health and his voice.

“It's a bit of a stretch for me with some of the higher notes, but I'm being careful not to strain my voice,” Beck said, adding that he is watching his diet and taking measures to stay healthy.

Olivia Rakas, 16, of Uniontown said that she is glad that her initial perception of the show has changed, as she believed it was a sad and depressing musical.

“I really didn't like ‘Les Mis' very much,” Rakas said. “I thought it was just a depressing show where everyone dies, but it's so much more than that. I've learned that it's about religion and love and redemption, and now I love it.”

As with every year, the students' biggest challenge is their preparations for the show, which is done in the school music room as the show itself will be staged in the State Theater in Uniontown.

“We don't get on the stage until show week, and that is always a challenge,” Bell said, adding that this year is an extra challenge as the students have yet to have the opportunity to work with the set. “We built it here, then it has to be taken down and reassembled there so the students won't get to work with it until Monday of show week.”

The haunting music, strong, vibrant characters and lasting message are just a few characteristics of the show that will draw in the crowds, but Bell is thrilled with the timing aspect of the production.

“It's now an award-winning movie, and it was just done in Pittsburgh,” Bell said. “Plus, it's coming back to Broadway in 2014. The timing for us putting this on could not be better.”

The show will feature all of the music that has made it a favorite, but the show itself is the school version, which has been trimmed by about 25 minutes.

“They are doing a great job,” Bell said of the cast, adding that he hopes to prove those who are skeptical wrong. “I hear, ‘You guys are crazy to put on “Les Mis,” ' but they said the same thing before when we did ‘Phantom' and ‘Cats,' so, hopefully, this year we will prove them wrong again.”

“Les Miserables” will be staged at the State Theater in Uniontown on Friday through March 17. Show times will be at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday with a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday. All seats will be $10.

Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.

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