By Alex Lippa
---- — After directing musicals for more than 20 years at Timberlane Regional High School, Eric Constantineau thought that the theater program had hit a plateau.
So this year, Constantineau challenged his students this year to perform what he believes is their toughest production yet, “Les Miserables.”
“This is a step to the next level,” Constantineau said. “From a technical difficulty point of view, it’s a great challenge and one that our theater and music departments believe we can rise to.”
He said this is a performance he has been hoping to put on for some time.
“It’s a play that is so meaningful and has so much resonance, the whole 1832 student uprising in Paris has resonance to our own day with people standing up for their beliefs,” he said.
The curtain will rise on the first of four performances tonight at 7. Each performance has a different twist.
“I double cast each performance,” Constantineau said. “If an audience goes to one performance of a play and then they come back another evening, they are seeing a whole other look to a play.”
The double casting allows more students to get involved in the production. Constantineau said 120 students will participate, including cast and technical crew. Typically, about 70 to 100 students participate in a musical.
Seniors Kaylyn Ryan and Kacie McFadden are sharing the role of Éponine, one of the female leads. McFadden said rehearsing for the role has been a roller coaster ride.
“This is the first show that we’ve done here which is 100 percent singing,” she said. “That was a really big challenge, but I think we have definitely overcome it.”
Ryan said the prospect of a sung-through musical was intimidating at first.
“Normally, if you forget one of your lines, you can pass it off while you’re thinking of your next line,” she said. “But, in this one, you have to be with the music.”
Coincidentally, the musical is coming out just a few months after the movie came out in theaters. Constantineau said he decided Timberlane would be doing “Les Miserables” this spring, more than two years ago.
But both Constantineau and the actors say they have benefitted from watching the movie.
“The movie has been an awesome advertisement for us,” Constantineau said. “I didn’t watch it until after I blocked the whole show. Then it was fun to see how they did it compared to us.”
Senior Howie Collyer said he watched the movie for tips on how to play Monsieur Thénardier, one of the primary villains.
“It’s been really helpful to see different ways of how they get their sinisterness,” he said. “I definitely borrowed a little bit from other people who have played the part.”
'Les Miserables' Today and tomorrow at 7 p.m, Saturday at 1 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens. The Performing Arts Center is at 40 Greenough Road, Plaistow. Call the box office at 257-5257 or visit mktix.com/trpac.