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Les Miserables pulls out all the stops for park production


With the production back on Broadway, this is the last time to see the show for three years

by: COURTESY OF MADELINE GARLAND - Nathan Doyel as Jean Valjean, and Matt Flanagan as Inspector Javert head up Sherwood Foundation for the Arts' production of 'Les Miserables.'When the Sherwood Foundation for the Arts presents “Les Miserables” at the end of July, it will be the largest show the organization has ever undertaken in scope, length of production, number of cast numbers, orchestra musicians, and even the musical score.

“The score is almost 500 pages (long),” said Leslie Goyette, director of the expansive musical. “There’s not one spoken word in this show.”

Since November, Goyette and others have been in the process of planning the production set July 24, 25 and 26 at Stella Olsen Park.

Although the musical has 35 cast members, there are 125 roles, meaning that some cast members play two, three or even four different parts during the three-hour production.

“We have one cast member who has eight costume changes,” said Goyette, a veteran director and producer of 45 plays and musicals. “It’s a lot of work.”

Goyette said there was no shortage of those who wanted parts, with no less than 115 applicants, some as far away as Medford, vying for roles.

Another first will be in the sheer size of the production team with two music directors, an assistant director, a stage manager and assistant stage manager.

What will make the production a must-see too will be the fact that Sherwood received the last rights to perform “Les Miserables” before it returns to the Broadway stage. That means no other off-Broadway performances can be staged until it closes in New York.

“They’re expecting the run to go three years,” she said. “We did not think we’d get the rights when we applied for it.”

At 25 musicians strong, the production will be the largest orchestra assembled for a Sherwood Foundation for the Arts musical, with Russell Griffin returning as musical director.

The show has also taken on 10 understudies just in case someone gets sick or injured.

“It’s just that the show itself is so complex,” Goyette pointed out.

When deciding how to cast the show, Goyette and producer Marie Johnson wanted to be true to the characters as much as possible but came across some amazing younger talent. As a result an 18-year-old actor and two 17-year-old actors landed roles that are normally relegated to older actors, but will be performed by the younger actors.

Goyette praised Johnson for all her hard work.

“She has been the glue that has brought this show to life,” she said.

Johnson in turn called Goyette an amazing director.

“She’s thought this out for over a year,” Johnson said about the $15,000 production.

After watching the recent Tony Awards’ take on “One Day More” from the Broadway production of “Les Miserables,” Johnson pulls no punches.

“Our cast, I believe, sounds significantly better,” she said. “I’m not kidding, our cast is phenomenal.”

Part of that comes from the wide talent pool of those who wanted parts, and Johnson says she’s never seen Sherwood productions as “just community theater,” saying they are so much more.

“The music is so moving,” said Johnson. “I think people will be thrilled and amazed.”

So what does the lineup of the epic saga look like?

A veteran of “Oklahoma!” and “Wizard of Oz,” local dentist Nathan Doyel portrays fugitive Jean Valjean.

“It’s such a challenging role,” Goyette said of Doyel, who can sing in falsetto, baritone and everything in between.

Matt Flannigan is the dogged Inspector Javert, who pursues Valjean.

“Matt is phenomenal,” Goyette said. “He can sing any role in the show.”

Meanwhile, Sarah Kelley, a veteran actress from Beaverton, plays the part of Fantine.

“She will send goose bumps down your spine,” said Goyette. “She’s always wanted to play this character.”

Goyette said when she sang “I Dreamed a Dream” during rehearsal, many onlookers were moved to tears.

“It’s definitely a show that touches a vein with people,” she said. “The message is redemption forgiveness and love.”

One of the challenges of bringing this to the Stella Olsen Park stage was that the traditional Broadway production calls for a revolving stage, something Goyette and set builder Steve Nipp worked around. What they came up with, said Goyette, was a resolution she believes will impress the audience.

Meanwhile, tickets are going fast and there has been talk of adding other shows.

“We’ve never had to do that before,” Goyette pointed out.

Tickets for the 7 p.m. July 24-26 shows are $12 for adults, and $10 for child and senior citizens. Visit sherwoodarts.org to purchase tickets online. Theater-goers are asked to bring cans of food to benefit Sherwood’s Helping Hands food bank.