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Feb 12, 2019 2:48 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

A Cast Of Seasoned High School Actors Take On 'Les Mis' In East Hampton

East Hampton High School students rehearse Les Misérables.   KYRIL BROMLEY
Feb 12, 2019 2:48 PM

All of the East Hampton High School students now rehearsing “Les Miserables” for a weekend of performances beginning Friday, March 1, have one thing in common: The long-running and critically acclaimed musical, based on the 19th-century novel by Victor Hugo, is one of their favorites.“The musical is about love and redemption,” Deb Mansir, the director, said while ushering students on and off the high school stage for their first dress rehearsal on Monday.

“Right now, we’re trying to scramble to get everything finalized. Opening night is a lot sooner than we think,” said Talia Albukrek, a senior cast as one of the leads, Fantine.

The 46-student cast will have next week, along with the final “crunch week,” to perfect the play. During crunch week, the live pit orchestra, which is made up of almost 30 students conducted by orchestra teacher Troy Grindle, will join in.

“Everyone this year is so passionate about the musical. The actors are really throwing themselves into the characters,” said Reghan Anderson, who is starring as Cosette. She said that while previous musicals have been great, this one is going to be exceptional.

Before running off to get his costume changed for the next scene, Wells Woolcott, who plays Marius, Cosette’s love interest, explained that there are only three spoken lines in the show. “Most of the show is sung,” he said, adding that this year’s cast is “super talented.”

The leading actors are seasoned, having acted in plays throughout high school, with some having taken private acting and singing lessons.

“I’ve been acting since fourth grade in other companies and in school as well,” said Colin Freedman, an 11th-grader cast in the lead role as Jean Valjean.

Aiden Cooper, who is playing a lead role as Javert, said he’s been acting in productions since kindergarten.

“Les Miserables” takes place in France during the early 19th century and tells the story of Valjean, who is hunted for decades by a ruthless policeman, Javert, after breaking parole following his release after serving 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread.

Fast-forward 18 years, to 1823, and Valjean in now a respected factory owner and mayor of Montreuil, Pas-de-Calais, when Javert comes to town as the new chief of police. One of Valjean’s factory workers, Fantine, is fired by the factory foreman after he learns about her illegitimate child, Cosette, who lives with a pair of greedy, thieving, innkeepers, the Thenardiers, because her mother can’t afford her care.

“He’s a witty guy. He does anything to get a dollar off the street. He pick-pockets people who stay at his raunchy little hotel,” explained Frank Bademci, who has been in numerous other productions, and who will play Thenardier. “He even goes into the sewer and takes money and jewelry off of dead bodies,” Frank said of his character.

Erin Cadger plays Thenardier’s wife, Madame Thenardier. “It’s my first major role in a high school production,” she gleamed on Monday.

Now a jobless single mother, Fantine resorts to selling her hair and teeth, and eventually prostitutes herself to make ends meet. After she attacks an abusive customer, she is arrested by Javert.

Valjean rescues her; later, upon Fantine’s death, he vows to care for her daughter Cosette. Nine years later, Cosette falls in love with a student named Marius Pontmercy, and during a revolt Valjean offers to execute Javert but releases him instead. Cosette and Marius marry and later reunite with a dying Valjean, whose spirit is guided away by other deceased characters.

“There was an actual student revolution in 1852 which happened in Paris. That’s what the second act centers around as the students rise up and revolt,” Ms. Mansir explained.

“My character is the leader of the students who start the revolution,” said Vincenzo Salsedo, who will be playing Enjolras.

“All of the stars are lining up for this show,” Ms. Mansir said. “It’s such a joy to work with this team.”

Jayne Freedman will help Ms. Mansir as assistant director, and Dylan Greene, a former student of Ms. Mansir who is now the high school chorus teacher, will work as vocal director.

“Everyone should come and see the show. It’s really going to be amazing,” said Alison Fioriello, who plays Eponine, before rehearsing her scene.

The students attend school all day before rehearsing from 6 to 9 p.m. Rehearsals run from 4 to 9 p.m. the week before the show.

Performances will start at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2, and at noon on Sunday, March 3.

Members of the audience may want to take along tissues. “There won’t be a dry eye in the house,” Ms. Mansir said.

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