When licensing parameters allowed community theater companies to produce “Les Miserables,” it was music to the ears for Signature Productions.
“When they put it on Broadway, you can’t access it,” said Karl Larsen, Signature founder. “So when it became accessible (in 2013), we … already had things planned, so it took us this long to get to it. This is going to be a full production, not a concert or something like that.”
Signature plans its production for 7:30 p.m. April 4-26, with matinees set for 2 p.m. April 12 and 26, at the Summerlin Library and Performing Arts Center, 1771 Inner Circle Drive.
View stopped by for rehearsals, which are held in a 4,000-square-foot warehouse space in North Las Vegas. The two-story set, all welded metal and plywood, had just been delivered and assembled. It was designed by Greg Crane, an Emmy Award-winning set designer. The set was deliberately created in sections, giving the director options for how to configure it.
Larsen said the $20,000-plus set would generate income in the future when Signature rented it out to other companies. Costumes for the show ran $15,000. With expenses such as that, no one involved with the play gets paid.
Anthony Meyer plays Marius and said he doesn’t want to duplicate what other actors have done.
“I like to research through literature and also different variations of it being done, not just the musical,” Meyer said. “… I was just watching on Netflix — they have a TV movie of it with John Malkovich — and it was a completely different story than the musical. And Liam Neeson was in a movie, so I take all of those different (sources) and look at the mannerisms of the character. And I’m a comedian, so I like to bring in some sort of humor. So, my character’s going to have that sort of charm as well.”
The part of Cosette is played by Jacqueline Walker. What does she like about her character?
“She’s very poised and definitely the most classic, and she brings … elegance to the show,” Walker said.
She said her favorite part is when Marius and Cosette meet, because “this show is really heavy, and this is, like, the love story, so it’s definitely the beauty and lightness (aspect) of the show.”
Jeffrey Long’s part is Enjolras, and he said one of the pros of doing a show that so many people know is “familiarity. Everybody is coming with anticipation for the show, unlike a show they’re not familiar with and are not really sure what they’re in for. The cons, obviously, (are) being compared to everyone they’ve seen on Broadway or (heard on) CDs.”
He said getting away from being compared to past performances required being “different but being yourself. Bring something new to the character. … The more likable he is, the more of an impact his death will have.”
Signature has the benefit of being in a town with a plethora of talent. Some of those working on the production come from shows on the Strip.
Director Phil Shelburne comes from Excalibur’s “Tournament of Kings.” Besides working on Signature shows, he’s been directing shows for Super Summer Theatre at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park for the past 20 years. He said Signature meshed well with his approach.
“I work in a very collaborative fashion,” Shelburne said. “When we select the team and everything like that, I make sure we find people who will work together. A lot of effort is made to find people with the right energy, who have the right vibe, so that they complement each other.”
He said the show was challenging but that community theater in Las Vegas adhered to high standards.
“ (Compared) to what I’ve seen in other areas, the shows that we do here and that we do at Super Summer Theatre , those are definitely above and beyond the (usual) community theater status,” Shelburne said.
This night, Feb. 25, was for blocking out the second act and began with a scene of the rebels making plans. Shelburne was using the set for the first time. Stage workers repositioned one section as he stood back and tried to visualize how it would look with the actors and small props. It was easier said than done as the set was only metal framework. The “skin” would be added later.
With the set in place, a handful of actors carried in tables and chairs and placed them in front of the structure with a minimum of tweaking from the director.
Satisfied, Shelburne called for a run-through. The actors stepped into their roles as though a switch had been thrown. The excitement was high, and everyone ran their lines so quickly, it could have been a race. The director stopped them and reminded them they were merely blocking out the scene and to take it slower.
Various aspects of the scene were broken down, including where each person should move and how quickly.
Even little items were scrutinized — where to place the wine bottle, whether two actors at a table should have one of them standing and if the one on the right or left should be standing.
“Let’s flip this and see how that looks,” Shelburne said. “Nothing’s set. We’re just trying to sort things out.”
Sorting things out included making sure the audience was clearly clued into the motivation driving the scene. When Marius entered, lovestruck by his encounter with Cosette, the others chide him for being late. One informs him on what he’s missed.
“Stop,” Shelburne said, stepping away from his lectern to pull one actor front and center. “Who are you talking to? Everyone in the room already knows this information, right? So, you’re talking to him (Marius). So, step out to about here to address him, maybe even meet him on the stairs.”
The evening continued with more tweaking and more lines, moving closer to the time when it would be ready for Las Vegas audiences.
Tickets are $30 for adults, $28 for seniors 60 or older and students 13 or older and $20 for ages 8 to 12.
For more tickets, visit signatureproductions.net. For more information, call 702-878-7529.
Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2949.