MOUNT CARROLL, Illinois — Les Misérables, the most popular musical ever written, will be presented at Timber Lake Playhouse (TLP) for the first time Thursday, July 31, through Sunday, Aug. 10. Special guest star Jason Kraack, who has played the role of Jean Valjean on the national tour, leads the TLP production under the direction of Matthew Teague Miller.
Executive Director James Beaudry says: “We’ve been very lucky to assemble 28 of the best performers we’ve ever had at Timber Lake for this production. Our director has a long history with the show, having performed it around the world, and our star is giving one of the finest performances I’ve ever seen. Additionally, the orchestra is the largest we’ve had in my time here, and they are astonishing.”
Les Misérables premiered in London in 1985 (where it continues to run) and quickly grew to be a major hit in the United States and in productions around the world. Now in its third Broadway production, the musical has long been available to schools, but only recently have professional theaters been granted the rights to produce this epic and triumphant show.
The story of Les Misérables spans two decades and is one of passion, dreams and redemption set against the backdrop of a nation in the throes of rebellion. Jean Valjean is released from 19 years of unjust imprisonment, finding nothing in store but mistrust and mistreatment. He breaks his parole in hopes of starting a new life, initiating a lifelong struggle for redemption as he is relentlessly pursued by police Inspector Javert. During the Paris student uprising of 1832, Javert must confront the truth after Valjean spares him and saves the life of Marius, a student revolutionary, who has captured the heart of Valjean’s adopted daughter, Cosette.
Guest performer John B. Leen, a Jeff Award winner from Chicago, stars as Inspector Javert, with resident performers Nathan Goodrich and Caroline Murrah as Marius and Cosette, respectively. TLP favorite Erica Stephan returns to the company as Eponine, who longs for Marius. Lexie Plath plays Cosette’s ill-fated mother, Fantine. Matt Webb and Analisha Santini provide comic relief as The Thenardiers, scheming their way through Paris.
Joining the adult cast are Lily Leding of Clinton, Iowa, as Young Cosette, Avery Findlay of Savanna, Illinois, as Young Eponine, and Cecelia Ryan of Sterling, Illinois, as Gavroche.
“We were also lucky to find three young people in the area with the talent Lily, Cecelia and Avery have,” Beaudry said. “They are a joy to work with, and the company’s faces light up every time these young ladies perform.
“But it was the role of Jean Valjean — one of the most demanding in all musical theater — that was the tough one,” he added. “After a national search and many auditions in many cities, we found Jason Kraack. It’s been a privilege to have him at Timber Lake for Les Misérables.”
Of his experience at TLP, Kraack said: “I have been amazed by the talent here. The cast is just amazing. The band, the directors, the designers — all of it. Theaters like TLP have their pick of the best talents of the future, and they certainly hired the best young talents for this show. I have very much enjoyed the chance to mentor and learn from these great performers in our cast. I can’t wait for audiences to see the hard work we have been doing for the past few weeks. They are going to be blown away!”
Les Misérables performs evenings at 7:30 p.m., and there are 2 p.m. matinees on Sundays and Wednesday. There is also a Saturday matinee performance on the opening weekend at 3 p.m. Tickets are $17-$23 and may be purchased through the box office between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., daily, at (815) 244-2035 or any time at www.timberlakeplayhouse.org.
As part of the playhouse’s “Do Something Spectacular: Live The Story” campaign, TLP is partnering with The Table, a group that serves hot meals in Carroll County Monday through Friday at no charge. Part of Great River Outreach, The Table has served more than 45,000 meals to date. A non-perishable food drive to support The Table will be held at TLP throughout the run of Les Misérables.
The Table has a specific need for cereal, rice, dry beans, peas, soda crackers, egg and elbow pasta, canned fruit, pancake mix, and pork and beans. Cash donations may be made to cover the organization’s needs for meat. Anyone able to make a donation of chickens, pigs or cows is encouraged to contact the organization directly at (815) 990-6511 or firstname.lastname@example.org. All non-perishable donations may be dropped off at Timber Lake Playhouse, 8215 Black Oak Road in Mount Carroll, during box office hours or before any performance of Les Misérables.
From the July 30-Aug. 5, 2014, issue