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Geyer Performing Arts Center scores coup with 'Les Miz'

| Saturday, June 6, 2015, 5:21 p.m.
Rehearsing a song for Geyer Performing Arts Center's production of 'Les Miserables' are Josh List of Greensburg, who plays Jean Valjean, and Bethany Coldren of Connellsville, who plays Cosette.
MARILYN FORBES I FOR TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Rehearsing a song for Geyer Performing Arts Center's production of 'Les Miserables' are Josh List of Greensburg, who plays Jean Valjean, and Bethany Coldren of Connellsville, who plays Cosette.

Staying true to his promise to continue to bring bigger and better shows to the Geyer Performing Arts Center, Brad Geyer has been working for several months on the upcoming musical “Les Miserables,” which will be staged this weekend at the Scottdale theater.

Geyer, who is president of the board of directors for the theater, said the show is his personal favorite and one that he wanted to bring to the local stage for a long time.

“I have wanted to do this show here for years,” Geyer said, explaining that the rights for the show were released this year but only for a short period of time, and that the theater was fortunate to get them. “New York will be pulling the rights for community theaters to do this show, and we didn't know when they would be available again. The timing was right.”

The lavish production was released on Broadway in 1987 and continued its run through 2003.

The story follows the life of Jean Valjean, a righteous man who was released from prison after 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family.

Valjean finds that the required “ticket-of-leave” that he must wear once released is nothing more then a badge that turns him into a pariah, thus forcing him to change his name and identity, which leads him on a path of discovery and despair.

“It's a powerful story, and I think it's the greatest musical/opera of all time,” Geyer said.

When the announcements were published for the auditions for the June show, Geyer was not sure what to expect since the show is not one that is normally done in community settings. He was pleased at the response.

“We had over 130 people come out to audition, which is the most that have ever come to audition in all the years that I have been here,” Geyer said. “We had to turn away more than we could cast, and it was a very difficult casting situation, but we have a fantastic group who are committed to this show.”

Josh List of Greensburg, a longtime local performer, landed the plum role of Valjean and said he is not only enjoying his first role on the Geyer stage but is enjoying the experience of playing the iconic role.

“I'm excited, scared and nervous,” List said with a laugh. “It's all coming along really well though.”

List said most of the cast is new to him, and he always enjoys working with new talent and fresh faces.

“I love working with new people,” List said. “It's always a great way to learn from other performers.”

Music director Brad Henry said the show will be the best he has ever done in 20-plus years as director.

“This show is going to be phenomenal,” Henry said. “I have never worked with such a talented group of performers. Many of them are vocally trained and experienced, and I really think that this will be the best show ever performed here at the Geyer.”

Presales for the show have been so strong that the theater has added a Saturday matinee to the schedule.

“This is the first show that we have done that with,” Geyer said, explaining that years ago they added a performance of the ballet “The Nutcracker” but never added one for a musical. “People have been excited about the show for months.”

Geyer said the show has progressed to the point that he feels they could stage it a week before opening night.

“The commitment of this group has been unbelievable.” Geyer said. “They believe in the show, and everyone is working together to put on a quality performance.”

Putting together a show the size of “Les Miserables” can be challenging, and cast member Victoria Post worked endlessly to bring it all together.

“Les Miserables is an opera, which made blocking it particularly difficult, because when all of it is sung, character motivations can be difficult to decipher, and making movements that accurately reflect on the personable characters proved to take a while to get the hang of,” Post said. “It was a huge learning experience being taken under Brad's wing, and the show is coming together fantastically. All of the people involved are passionate about the characters and the powerful story, and that passion, in the end, is what makes the drama live.”

“Les Miserables” will be staged Thursday through June 14.

Show times will be 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; a 2:30 p.m. matinee will be offered Saturday and June 14.

All tickets are $15.

For information, call 724-887-0887 or visit Geyerpac.com to reserve seats.

Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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