I have a confession to make.
I had never seen a performance of “Les Misérables” in its entirety, neither a dramatic staging nor a musical version, until this month. An old friend loved Victor Hugo’s 1862 masterwork and always kept me apprised of the latest theatrical developments, of course, and I’ve seen snippets and heard most of the songs at some point over the years.
Staff with the Middle Tennessee State University School of Music and speech and theatre department made me sit down at rehearsals one night and pay attention to this tale of judgment, friendship, perseverance, redemption and grace.
The students, faculty, alumni and community members who have come together to present “Les Misérables” from Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 22, will make you pay attention too.
The operetta is one of the first American university stagings to be licensed for the complete Broadway production. That means it’s the full-length, professional version, and the MTSU cast and crew are complete professionals in their presentation.
It’s the largest musical theater production staged to date on campus. A cast of 52 is working with a crew of 25-plus and an 18-piece orchestra to open the curtains at 7:30 p.m. and at a 3 p.m. for the Sunday matinee.
The gifts the “Les Misérables” team will share with the audience over three hours are stunning. I have watched our student productions since my own days as an MTSU student, and the 2013 “Les Misérables” is clearly the culmination of years of dedication, hard work and single-mindedness from almost 100 people.
Director Kristi Shamburger, a professor in the speech and theatre department, teamed with musical director Raphael Bundage, a professor of vocal performance in the School of Music, for “Les Misérables.” They expect no less than professionalism from their people, and they get it.
“We’re just thrilled to be able to offer this production to the community,” Bundage said. “There are so many partnerships that brought it together through MTSU Arts, but we’re most proud of the pre-professional experience we’re offering these students. They are professionals in every sense of the word.”
Even in their street clothes, even with only a piano for accompaniment, the professionalism of the entire “Les Misérables” team shines through.
I can hardly wait to see them with their glorious costumes, with an orchestra and evocative lighting on that barricade, a capacity crowd squeezed so tightly into our beautiful Tucker Theatre that the fire marshal may raise an eyebrow or two.
I suspect the fire marshal will sit down and pay attention to the show too.
General admission tickets are $10 each. MTSU students, faculty and staff with valid IDs will be admitted free. To buy tickets, visit www.mtsuarts.com or call 615-494-8810.