The musical theatre department at Belmont University already has a reputation for its Broadway-quality productions.
But starting Friday, it will also be known as the first-ever college program to put on a production of “Les Miserables.”
Members of the cast said the story behind performing the longtime Broadway show may be just as good as the performance itself. Marjorie Halbert, creator and director of the musical theatre program, is retiring this year, and members of the cast said she had always wanted to put on a production of “Les Miserables.” Unfortunately, the rights for the show were not scheduled to come out until this summer after Halbert’s retirement.
“Our director, David Shamburger, emailed the people in charge of the rights for the show, and by the grace of God, they granted us the right to get the rights early,” said Haley Henderson, a senior musical theatre major who will play Fantine in the show. “We are the first musical theatre department in the United States to perform ‘Les Miserables.’”
This musical is one of the largest productions that the Belmont University musical theatre program has ever produced. There are 43 students in the cast, all of whom are musical theatre majors. There are nine lead roles distributed among thirteen students because of the overall quality of the cast, said assistant director Emily Tello Speck.
“We are excited to present the live version onstage with a cast that, in my opinion, can sing circles around the cast of the film,” she said.
That film, released last Christmas to widespread critical acclaim, only adds to the Belmont show’s hype, she said.
“There is a lot of hype about Les Miserables due to the recent release of the film and the Oscar nominations it received,” said Speck. “There is heightened excitement about this show in general, but even more so this month.”
Belmont musicals, which have included productions of “Footloose” and “Hairspray” usually sell out several of the nights. However, this show is already entirely sold out, even after extra performances were added.
While this is the third straight musical the department has done that has also been made into a film, members of the department say the trend is unintentional. However, the cast agrees that putting on musicals that the general public recognizes from the film world certainly does not hurt the turnout.
“A movie-musical is almost like free advertisement for a musical!” said Mary-Claire Lutz, a senior musical theatre major who also plays the role of Fantine.
The musical theatre students and faculty have rehearsed almost every day to prepare for the show. Lutz hopes that their hard work will make it an incredible production.
“I hope that the audience will be moved in some way,” said Lutz. “My favorite line of the show that I believe fuels the whole story is, ‘To love another person is to see the face of God’… I hope the audience sees this production and is inspired to show and accept love, no matter the cost.”
– Brittany Hadley