A feast for all the senses
By Samantha O’Conner
Arts & Entertainment Editor
EOU’s Kenneth Wheeler and the EOU theater department are excited for their production of “Les Misérables,” opening May 22 in Mackenzie Theater.
“We decided (on the play) last spring; in May of every year we decide what our season is going to be for the next year,” said Wheeler. “It has been almost a year since we decided to do the show. We have a tradition here of doing usually really big musicals. We were the first university in the nation to do the amateur production of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and two years ago we did the huge production of the ‘Titanic, The Musical.’” Wheeler said he always wanted to do “Les Misérables.” This was the first year the rights were available for universities to do the show and Wheeler thought it would be a great opportunity for the theater department.
The EOU theater and music departments are working together for this production. The production has also been opened to community members.
“We have both students and community members,” Wheeler said. “We decided because it is such a big show and because it was such a difficult show that we wanted to give opportunities to local community members as well to participate.” He added about nine or ten community members plus about 40 students are in the cast.
“That includes five kids,” he said. “We have a six year old and she’s our youngest. She plays young Cosette. And then we have a nine-year old, an eleven-year old, a seven-year old and a twelve-year old.” Wheeler said the oldest cast member is around 55 to 60. “So, we have quite an age range of actors in this show.”
Three classes are also involved with the play. Two costume tech classes and one scenic tech class are creating the costumes and sets. This increases the number of participants to close to 120 people involved with the production. The scenery is being designed by Michael Heather. The costumes are designed by Heather Tomlinson.
“The main male lead, Jean Valjean, is a played by a student named Rick Mugrage,” said Wheeler. “He’s a nontraditional student; he’s a little bit older. I won’t give away his age, but he’s in his mid-thirties with a family and as a matter of fact, one of his daughters is playing little Éponine in one of the scenes.”
“Our female lead is another EOU student. Her name is Emily Smith and she plays Fantine and the love interest,” Wheeler continued. “Marius and Cosette are being played by two students, Israel Bloodgood and Madison Ribich. And it’s kind of a love triangle. Marius loves Fantine but Éponine loves Marius and Éponine is played by Shahayla Ononaiye.”
Wheeler mentioned that Daniel Wagner, who plays Thenardier, is “the comic relief of the show.” His wife is played by Ellie Aiton. He added that the other character considered a lead is Enjolras, who is the head of the student organization that is in rebellion. That role is being played by Dylon Wagoner.
This production will also have a live orchestra of 17 people. The orchestra will be playing throughout the entire play performances with few breaks, including the 15 minute intermission. “The whole show is music. I think there are only five spoken lines in the whole show,” said Wheeler. Teun Fetz is the orchestra conductor while Peter Wordleman and Jaime Jacobson serve as the vocal coaches.
Tickets can be reserved at the box office by calling 541-962-3757. Students are encouraged to buy tickets early. The show runs May 22-24 and reopens May 29-31. All performances begin at 7:00.
Prices are $15 for general audiences, but $10 for students, seniors and active or retired military and their families.
“We encourage everyone to come,” Wheeler said. “It will be a feast for the eyes, a feast for the ears and it’ll be a really nice night.”