EUGENE, Ore. — With its epic story, famous songs and pile of Oscars, “Les Miserables” is as much of a force to be reckoned with as its protagonist, Jean Valjean.
“It’s one of the modern classics of musical theater,” said Actors Cabaret executive producer Jim Roberts.
The classic made the jump from the huge stages of Broadway to big screens around the world and, just recently, to the comparatively tiny setup at Actors Cabaret.
“It’s much more intimate here,” said Roberts. “You can follow the story really well. It should really be a great show. We have a great cast.”
The cast isn’t just great in talent, but also in magnitude. The play includes 47 characters, such as Thenardier by Mark VanBeever.
“I like to do a lot of the character roles,” VanBeever said. “In such a heavy, stoic, depressing show I’m the comedy relief.”
Weeks before he and the rest of the cast start rehearsals, the backstage team is already hard at work. As the Hollywood production racks up awards, the racks at Actors Cabaret are overflowing.
“There are hundreds of costumes for this show. It’s one of the most mammoth costume shows we’ve ever done,” Roberts said. “We’ve been pulling all the costumes we do have, figuring out what we need to purchase, what we need to make.”
The crew also has to deal with the issue of the set. How do you cram a musical that spans decades and jumps from location to location in a theater notorious for being tiny?
“It will be a challenge,” admitted Roberts.
Another challenge: offering up a show that compares to, but doesn’t copy, Hollywood’s version of the epic.
“I’ve seen a couple of the clips of people doing songs from the show and they’ve been really quite good. We’re pleased,” Roberts said. “But we’re not watching the show ahead so it doesn’t influence how we produce the show.”
“It does add a little pressure because people might come and expect that same type of performance,” said Anthony Coslett, who plays Marius Pontmercy in the show. “However, it’s our job to try to eek out something original.”
When the lights go up on this summer’s production, there’s no doubt the audience of “Les Miserables” will be full of les joyeaux.
Admitted VanBeever: “Very excited about it. Very, very excited about it.”
You can watch the Actors Cabaret production of “Les Miserables” between July 5 and Aug. 17.