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Students to perform ‘Les Misérables’ at Southold High School

The auditorium at Southold High School was filled with energy Friday afternoon, with students wielding muskets and belting out songs like “One Day More.”

A well-known tune from “Les Misérables,” the seventh- to 12th-graders were preparing for their upcoming rendition of the famous musical, considered to be one of the most difficult productions to perform — especially for young actors.

Since “Les Misérables” is almost entirely sung rather than acted, performers must have the vocal stamina to withstand continuous singing, as well as the ability to act and tell their character’s story through song, co-director Jessica Ellwood said.

“We’ve wanted to do [“Les Misérables”] for years now because we’ve always loved the show,” co-director Casey Rooney added, referencing discussions with Ms. Ellwood and musical director Kelli Baumann. “It seemed like this was the right time. There’s a lot of talent this year.”

An increased focus on musical performances forced the directors to prepare differently this year. They spent the first two or three weeks of rehearsals — more time than in past years — concentrating solely on the music, Ms. Baumann said.

The student actors, some of whom are new to the scene and others who are seasoned performers, all recognize that “Les Misérables” is more difficult than many productions and are using it as inspiration to work harder.

“It’s more challenging music,” said senior Grace Bruer, 17, who is playing Combeferre. “The show takes place over a long period of time, over 20 years. There’s a lot of set changes, too. This is the first time the set moves in two different directions. I think it’s the biggest one built. It’s really cool.”

Another challenge is how mentally taxing the characters’ stories are.

“The show is emotionally demanding,” said sophomore Marissa Rackwitz, 15, who has been cast as Cosette. “You have to know the music, but you also have to become the person and know the emotion that goes with our character. They all go through so much.”

Another motivator for performers is the musical’s fame. Students agreed that because “Les Misérables” is so well-known and beloved, they have been encouraged to work harder so that they get the music just right.

“When I’m on the way out the door I’ll see [the cast] is practicing a scene I want to see and I’ll stay because the play is so good,” said senior Sean Okula, 17, who is playing Thenardier.

Overall, the cast is excited to be a part of a production they find so rewarding.

“I have a deep personal connection to the show itself,” said senior Daisy Rymer, 18, who is playing Fantine. “I think this is one of the best ones we’ve been a part of … I’m excited to be a part of it because it’s our best and my last.”

Performances of “Les Misérables” will be held Thursday-Saturday, March 23-25, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, March 26, at 2 p.m. in the high school auditorium. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for students and senior citizens and can be purchased at Southold Free Library beginning Monday, March 13, or at the door.

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Photo: Southold students in grades 7-12 will perform ‘Les Misérables’ later this month. Since the show is emotionally demanding and almost entirely sung, it’s considered one of the more difficult musicals to perform. (Credit: Nicole Smith)