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New Berlin students combine efforts for largeness of 'Les Misérables'

Operatic play opens this weekend at Eisenhower

Feb. 17, 2014

New Berlin — "Les Misérables," an emotional and spiritual journey that has thrilled audiences worldwide as one of the longest running musical theater productions, will come to the Eisenhower Middle/High School stage beginning Friday.

The sweeping theatrical experience will be a rare combined production of the high and middle school, with a few children in the cast as young as 12.

The combined production came from the pure scope of the show, said director Natalie Baertschy in an email interview.

Massive show

"We knew the time commitment from the students as well as the directors would need to be longer due to the difficulty of the show, and there were prime roles in this show for middle school students. Thus, we created one super production," Baertschy said.

Because the effort to put on the pop opera is so massive, the show will be two weekends instead of one, Baertschy said.

Baertschy acknowedged that it's challenging for a high school to put on an opera but everybody seemed ready for this one.

"We have had kids and their parents both dropping hints and flat out begging for us to do this show," she said, adding that she believes audiences also are ready for this epic musical event.

Audiences also will be amazed at what she called the breathtaking sets created in conjunction with the a construction class at Eisenhower and with the help of dads.

Brothers as adversaries

Based on Victor Hugo's novel "Les Misérables," the musical introduces the audience to the main character Jean Valjean, who after 19 years of toil and labor for the minor crime (stealing a loaf of bread) violates his parole but changes his ways. He becomes the mayor of a town and family man.

However, Valjean is hunted mercilessly by the ruthless Javert, who wishes to see him pay for violating his parole.

The main characters facing each other on-stage will be two brothers who face each other over the breakfast table every morning.

Ross Spadaro, 17, a senior, will play Valjean. His 15-year-old brother Drew will play his nemesis the implacable Javert.

Baertschy is amazed at how the casting turned out.

"We never go into an audition with a set cast in mind," she said.

During the open auditions, Ross proved to have the emotional and vocal range to play Jean Valjean, and "when Drew sang 'Stars,' we knew he was perfect for Javert," she said.

The brothers themselves couldn't be happier. Their parents loved the show since before they were born and played a CD of it at home.

"My brother and I would sing along to the parts," Ross said in an email interview.

Impishly, Drew acknowledged that it's fun to persecute his big brother in the show.

"He has always been older than me and it is fun to sometimes have the upper hand on him," Drew said.

Playing opposite his brother even helps in the fight scenes, he said. They know each other's limits so they can be more realistic, he said.

But the brothers leave all that onstage. When they are home they are close and great friends, Drew said.

AT A GLANCE

WHAT: pop opera "Les Misérables"

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Feb. 21, 22, 28 and March 1; 2 p.m. Sundays, Feb. 23 and March 2

WHERE: Eisenhower Middle/High School, 4333 S. Sunnyslope Road

HOW MUCH: $10 general or $7 for students with identification and seniors at least 65 years old

THE CAST

Jean Valjean — Ross Spadaro

Javert — Drew Spadaro

Cosette — Jenna Weigand and Samantha Kent

Fantine — Gabrielle Laske

Enjolras — Nicholas Shinners

Marius — Zachary Olson

Eponine — Maddie Teipner

Thenardiers — Isaac Surprenant and Maddie Stoiber

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