BY ELISABETH ANDREWS
“The question is, can we pull it off?”
Randy White, artistic director of Cardinal Stage Company, admits the Bloomington theater group is taking on a challenge in its plans to perform Les Misérables at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater June 19-29. The epic musical, based on the 19th century historical novel by Victor Hugo, has traditionally occupied grand halls with sets and staging of enormous scale. Les Misérables at the Buskirk-Chumley will be “considerably more intimate,” says White.
“We’ll have to convey the grandeur of the play without the big space,” he notes. “The lighting and the costumes are going to have to do a lot of work, but at the same time, it still has to have its visual oomph.”
Capturing the violent intensity of the 1832 June Rebellion and evoking numerous Parisian settings will demand a great deal of creativity, White says. He is confident, however, that a smaller-scale version of the musical offers a storytelling advantage.
“The way it’s been done traditionally, with the sets going in every direction, people can’t always follow it all,” he says. “In terms of getting us engaged with the characters, the show is better when it’s simpler.”
Even more importantly, White says, he’s got the one thing it takes to do Les Misérables justice: outstanding singers.
“This is going to be the best sung Les Misérables in the history of Bloomington, and I include the national tours,” he says.
The featured voices include those of Broadway actor Pat McRoberts as protagonist Jean Valjean; Indiana University Jacobs School of Music alumni Scott Hogsed and Amanda Biggs, both accomplished professional opera singers, as Valjean’s nemesis, Inspector Javert, and the selfless mother, Fantine; Jordan Goodmon, a senior vocal student in the Jacobs School, as Fantine’s daughter, Cosette; and Cardinal veterans Mike Price and Hannah Slabaugh as the corrupt innkeeper, Thénardier, and his daughter.
Under the musical direction of Bloomington’s Susan Swaney (who most recently was the vocal director for the national tour of Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, by John Mellencamp, Stephen King, and T Bone Burnett), the singers will be accompanied by the largest pit orchestra in Cardinal’s history.
“This will be an enormous undertaking. It’s definitely going to strain our resources,” White says, adding, “but we’ve never let that get in our way before.”