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Tara Bradbury
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Atlantic Light Theatre company formed with the purpose of producing ‘Les Misérables’

Their goal is to “illuminate the stage,” and Atlantic Light Theatre is launching itself with fireworks.     Not content with just any small production, the newly-formed theatre company is taking on famed musical “Les Misérables” as its debut large-scale performance, with a four-night run at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre starting Thursday.

Atlantic Light was founded by Jacinta Mackey Graham, who serves as the company’s artistic director, and Doug Vaughan, music director. The pair’s idea to produce “Les Misérables” goes back a few years, when they were both teachers at Gonzaga high school and produced the school’s performance of “Damn Yankees” together.

“We often said we’d like to do it again, and we said we’d love to do ‘Les Mis,’” Vaughan explained. “It was 2010, the 25th anniversary of the show, the movie was out soon, and people were saying to get the rights to do it would take years.”

In December 2012, Vaughan and Graham received an emailed update from Music Theatre International saying the rights to produce “Les Mis” were finally available. That evening, they printed off the required forms and went to Gonzaga near midnight to fax it all off.

Part of the theatre company’s mandate is to bring home Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who have already made it big in the musical theatre world to perform locally, allowing newer actors and singers to learn from them and get a glimpse of what life is like as a professional performer.

For “Les Misérables,” Vaughan

and Graham have brought actor/composer/lyricist Jonathan Monro home to St. John’s from New York to play the role of lead character Jean Valjean. London-based performer Sarah Loveys plays Cosette, while opera singer Calvin Powell, a native of Carbonear, is playing the role of police inspector Javert.

“Calvin has a reputation for being quite a powerful force while onstage,” Vaughan said. “He has a commanding presence and he’s perfect. He’s imposing, he’s intimidating, he’s just what you want in this kind of role.”

Other cast members include Kiersten Noel as Fantine, Peter Halley and Shelley Neville as Monsieur and Madame Thenardier, Erin Winsor as Eponine, Tim Matson as Enjolras, and Darrin Martin as Marius.

“Les Misérables” is different from any other musical, Vaughan said, and that’s one aspect of its appeal for him and Graham.

“It’s sung throughout, so in that sense, it’s closer to opera than a musical,” he said. “I guess the main reason (we were attracted to it) is just the love of the story. The music is incredible and the story is everything: it’s uplifting, it’s depressing, it’s funny, it’s violent. It brings every emotion, every feeling.”

Based on the book by Victor Hugo and set in France in the early 19th century, “Les Misérables” tells the story of Valjean, who is seeking redemption after spending nearly two decades in jail for stealing a loaf of bread for a starving child. The musical was first presented during a short run in Paris in 1980, and the English-language version opened in London five years

later. It went on to become

a Broadway hit, and it spawned the Oscar-winning 2012 film starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried.

Vaughan recognizes the production will set a high bar for future Atlantic Light productions, and says the company is up for the challenge.

“It’ll be great if this show does prove to be the success we think it will be,” he said. “It would be great to have people asking us what we are doing next. That would be a wonderful thing to have happen.”

“Les Misérables” runs from Thursday until Sunday at 7:30 p.m., with a 1:30 p.m. matinée on Sunday. Tickets are $58.50 (including HST and service charge) and are available at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre box office, by calling 729-3900  or online at www.artsandculturecentre.com.

Organizations: Light Theatre, Music Theatre International

Geographic location: New York, Carbonear, France Paris London Broadway

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