Absegami’s Emanon Players hope audience will be happy to see ‘Les Miserables’

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Cast prepares for two weekends of performances in Absegami’s Performing Arts Center. Cast prepares for two weekends of performances in Absegami’s Performing Arts Center.

GALLOWAY – Absegami High School’s award-winning Emanon Players drama club will present the school edition of the legendary Broadway musical “Les Misérables” for the next two weekends.

Performances are scheduled at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 14 and 15; 3 p.m. Sunday, March 16; and 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 21 and 22.

The production stars Absegami sophomore Zach Hassel as Jean Valjean, as well as junior Nathan Moore as Javert, senior Malia Monk as Fantine, senior Gabrielle Hughes as Cosette, sophomore Abby Cohen as Éponine, junior Nicholas Hathaway as Marius, junior Brady Bock as Enjolras, sophomore Michael Moore as Thénardier and junior Colleen Garrison as Madame Thénardier.

Other players are Aaron Sartorio, Tyler Brito, C. J. Coyle, Brandon Castillo, Austin Beaulieu, Saverio Turrano, Jess Schrading, Isabelle Brown, Rachel Cohen, Kyri Saint Germain, Luis Ozoria, Joshua Wescoat, Ashley Fox, Maggie Cohen, Lexi Patterson, Andrea Rapetti, Natalie Frantz, Matt Brennan, John Lopez, Jordan Geigel, Angela Capella, Brandi Aldredge, Brianna Gargione, Juliet Melnik, Miranda Muniz, Molly Deibert, Sandy Hambel, Sarah Heintz, Sophia Turrano and Nicole Marmolejos-Cepada.

The cast also includes local elementary school students. Abby Murphy plays young Cosette, Emily Deibert plays young Éponine and Reilly Hall plays Gavroche. Gavroche’s gang members are played by Cali Jack, Victoria Williams and Mackenzie Hackney.

The play is being directed by Absegami High School drama director Chip Garrison with the vocal and instrumental music under the direction of Galloway Township Middle School teacher Brian Conover.

Junior Nathan Moore and sophomore Michael Moore are the sons of Sharon and Herb Moore of Galloway.

The brothers have appeared in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” “Seussical,” “Anything Goes,” “Julius Caesar” and others at the school.

Nathan Moore said he is interested in a career in electrical engineering.

“Drama is something I will consistently return to,” said the student who plays Javert, who he terms “a steadfast man of the law who makes no exceptions when it comes to that law.”

“Javert never gives up the chase for Valjean, and remains this stoic and intimidating figure throughout the course of the show,” Moore said. “Such determination is to be admired.”

He said he was speechless when he first heard the drama club would be performing “Les Misérables.”

“The magnitude of the show itself is enough to make an actor cringe,” Moore said. “However, as I stared at the show's poster that day, I thought to myself, ‘We're going to rock it. Let’s do it.’”

He said his role can be intimidating at times, and the character is often unyielding when it comes to rules.

“I do my best to stay in line as well,” Moore said. “But I prefer to let others make their own choices.”

Preparing for the role wasn’t as difficult as he expected it to be, Moore said,

“The singing, however, is demanding and challenges some of my vocal limits,” he said.

He said he’s impressed with how well the show has come together.

“With the show having many underlying themes, such as love, devotion and brotherhood, I would hope that the messages conveyed by these themes could impact the audience,” Moore said.

His younger brother, Michael Moore, plays Thénardier.

“I really like Thénardier as a character,” he said. “He has a very unique role in the plot, because even though he isn't the antagonist, he is the only real bad person in the play.”

Most conflicts in the show come about because the characters have conflicting opinions about what is right, he said.

“Thénardier is the only one with actual malicious intent,” Moore said. “He knows what he does is wrong, but he takes pride in it. And the silly joy he takes in robbing people is actually sort of comical. If I met him in person, I'm sure I'd hate him – but I love the dynamic he contributes to the story.”

He said he’s very different from his character.

“The biggest difference is that Thénardier thrives on stealing from the rich, and stealing from the poor, and stealing from people's he’s never met, and stealing from people he knows,” Moore said. “I’ve never stolen a thing in my life, and I'm sure I'd feel terrible about myself if I ever did.”

But becoming Thénardier wasn't difficult, he said.

“I have this regular system of figuring out the character's facial expressions and mannerisms, and then gradually making them into habits that I can just do unconsciously,” Moore said. “Thénardier really didn't take much more than the usual. The only challenging part is finding the tricky balance between being despicable and being comedic. He's a total jerk, but at the same time, the audience is supposed to be able to laugh at him.”

He said that despite snow disrupting rehearsal time, “I think we're on track to put on an enjoyable production.”

“I hope the audience leaves entertained,” Moore said. “I hope they can go home and say good things about it. There's something in it for everybody, so everybody has different emotions toward it. I'm sure some people will walk out of the theater in tears, some with gigantic smiles, some thoughtful, some genuinely moved, and hopefully some anxious to return to watch again – but as long as they feel entertained, I think we can call it a success.”

Senior Gabrielle Hughes, daughter of Margery and John Hughes of Galloway, plays Cosette.

“This is my 13th show at Absegami, but I have been in a little over 40 shows within the community in the last seven years,” Hughes said. “There is never an off season for theater.”

She said she plans to major in both communications and performance in college. “Eventually,” Hughes said, “I hope to become a creative director for shows, musicals and opera.”

Cosette, she said, is sweet and kind.

“She had a terrible existence as a child, so she developed compassion for the less fortunate,” Hughes said. “She and Marius symbolize young love in a very miserable time. I like her curiosity and optimism.”

“Les Misérables” is a mammoth of a show for any company, let alone a high school.
“Considering the finicky temper of these snow days, resulting in a crunched rehearsal schedule, this production is coming along marvelously,” Hughes said. “It is my last high school musical, so this production will always hold a special place in my heart.”

She said Cosette is “perhaps more precocious than I am.”

“I have never experienced being an orphan or an isolated teenager during the French Revolution,” Hughes said. “However, we both are optimistic sopranos who love our fathers very much.”

Cosette is a very high soprano, she said.

“Most of my preparation had to deal with hours of vocal scales and gargling apple-cider vinegar,” Hughes said. “This show in general is very intense vocally, but the musical score is so beautiful and iconic, it is a pleasure to sing.”

Everybody knows the show, she said, especially now after the success of the 2012 movie starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway.

“Every character is complex, much like the musical arrangement,” Hughes said. “The storyline itself is heart-wrenching, intricately woven, and even comical at times. It is a great way to enjoy a night out at the theater and take a new perspective on the lives of a full range of individuals throughout French history.”

She said she hopes the audience leaves feeling empowered.

“Les Mis is a show about hope, redemption, and, most importantly, love,” Hughes said. “As always, the goal is to entertain while inspiring new thoughts in our community via theater.”

Sophomore Zachary Shaw Hassel, the son of Tim and Wendy Hassel of Galloway, plays the role of Jean Valjean. He recently appeared in “Seussical.”

He said his goal is to attend the Air Force Academy to become a fighter pilot

“Jean Valjean is an extraordinarily dynamic character,” Hassel said. “The change from anger and hatred to love and compassion he experiences is an inspiring example of the grace in humanity.”

He called “Les Misérables” one of the theater’s most exceptional shows, with its themes of love, forgiveness, despair and bravery filling us with amazement and wonder.

“An aspect of Valjean’s character that I do not have is his understanding and generosity for others,” Hassel said. “He constantly acts for the benefit of those around him, even as far as sparing Javert's life.

He said the role was very difficult to prepare for, rehearsing immense solos and fully understanding and acting out Valjean’s persona.

He said the production has progressed rapidly, with all the pieces falling into place at the right time.

“If the show is as great as I expect and hope it to be, the audience should leave the show stunned with awe and an admiration for all the time and effort put in to produce such a fantastic performance,” Hassel said.

Junior Nicholas Hathaway, the son of Lisa and Butch Hathaway of Galloway, will portray Marius Pontmercy in “Les Misérables.”

A performer since fourth grade, Hathaway’s credits include “White Christmas,” “Into the Woods,” “Julius Caesar,” “Seussical” and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

He said he plans to pursue a career in musical theater.

“I love all of Marius’ songs and how he is always in the middle of Cosette and Éponine,” Hathaway said. “Les Misérables is an amazing show that is extremely challenging, but a lot of fun, too.”

He said his character has a wide range of low notes and some really high notes, so it has been very difficult to master vocally.

“I feel like the production has really come together through the weeks, and will be something worth seeing,” Hathaway said. “I’m hoping the audience will leave feeling shocked and inspired by all the beautiful messages portrayed in the show.”

If You Go
Absegami Emanon Players Production
School edition of “Les Miserables”
Absegami Performing Arts Center
7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 14 and 15, 3 p.m. Sunday March 16, and 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 21 and 22
Reserved seating $12; $10 for students and seniors
Call (609) 404-2073, ext. 3502 or see www.absegami.net

Photos submitted by Ryan Brennan

Five lead players who interviewed with The Current: From left are Gabrielle Hughes, Nicholas Hathaway, Zachary Hassel, Michael Moore and Nathan Moore. Five lead players who interviewed with The Current: From left are Gabrielle Hughes, Nicholas Hathaway, Zachary Hassel, Michael Moore and Nathan Moore.

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