By KELLY PLUMMER
The lights fade. The music begins. The curtain opens. Alas, the show has begun. Deborah Bradshaw and the Cumberland County College theatre group have done it again – bringing magic to the stage with their performance of Les Miserables. The show was held in the Frank Guaracini Theatre in the Fine and Performing Arts building the weekend of November 22-25, 2013. Les Miserables was an emotional show resembling life, hope, new beginnings, love, loss, and faith. It encompassed every emotion that we, the viewers, feel throughout our lives.
Les Miserables was astounding, to say the least. The Broadway-quality performance at CCC was a hit as it captivated an audience of all ages. With all shows sold out, it provided a memorable experience for those involved and those who experienced the magic first hand. Weeks have passed and I am still in awe of the performance that was given.
Deborah Bradshaw, Director of Theatre Programs, knew she wanted to take on Les Miserables from the beginning. As soon as the rights to produce this show became available in November 2012, Bradshaw secured them immediately. “This is the 20th anniversary of the FPAC and I was assured I could do the production I wanted to do. Meaning….the funding would be available for the production values that are necessary to do this show justice,” said Bradshaw. Les Miserables was her show of choice for personal reasons, which was no secret.
Bradshaw began her love of theatre and music at age 5, when she gave the Yule log ceremony speech at the Williamsburg Lodge in Virginia. Furthermore, she began singing through school and church events from Jr. High on, as a soloist. Going on to obtain an undergraduate degree in Music from ASU, and a graduate degree in theatre from NYU, Bradshaw had high hopes for her career. Her dream was to move to NYC and perform on the Broadway stage – a dream that most musical theatre lovers hold. Bradshaw was ambitious and fulfilled that dream as she performed on Broadway in Les Miserables from 1987-1991, as well as the final performance of the show in 2003. She played approximately 15 characters, some including Crazy Bag Woman, Momma Whore, and Lady Liberty, in her span of well over 1,000 performances, stating “It was a thrill to be on that stage…and I loved singing the music each night.” With Broadway in her blood, Bradshaw was able to lead her team in this memorable show.
Les Miserables was certainly a huge undertaking for all that were involved – so many details that must be attuned to, the script, the set, costumes, wigs, live orchestra, and special effects. The show was magnificent for the viewers, and to Bradshaw, “It was everything I hoped it would be and as close to perfect as I could have anticipated.”
Company Manager, Linda Scully, was the director’s assistant, as well as backstage-mother to the cast. She was the intermediary between the production team and cast members. Scully often wrote and responded to emails, did the paperwork, made phone calls and took notes, managed cast issues and information, helped with costume changes and hairdressing behind the scenes. Scully’s involvement as the director’s “right-hand” was essential.
There was much preparation that went into making Les Miserables so lifelike. Bradshaw used Scaramouche Costumes in Chester, NJ, to provide the authentic-looking costumes. The rental arrangements were made by Greg Hambleton, the Director of the Fine Arts Center. Bradshaw also contacted the Walnut Street Theatre, where she was directed to contact Gerard Kelly, the designer of the 50 wigs used for the production.
The set included a barricade; the base was constructed by a local welder, while CCC’s own technical director, Chris Totora, filled the structure with various items. In addition, the set was complete with a 30’ rotating turntable, also built by Totora. According to Bradshaw, “We did the original Broadway version, meaning I wanted to use the turntable. The turntable allows the story to unfold as Jean Valjean journeys through his life.” The lighting for Les Miserables brought the set to life, and was beautifully crafted by Shawn McGovern.
The show was filled with an array of songs including bittersweet harmonies, accompanied by a talented orchestra. The Musical Director, Rosalind Metcalf, worked with conductor, Bob Schiavinato, to assemble the members of the orchestra. All were very talented, and several were from the Bay Atlantic Symphony. Each musical number and the show as a whole were craftily choreographed by Crissy Amico-Borowski. The entire production team was fully dedicated to making the show a success.
Les Miserables was an experience that will never be forgotten. Crew and cast alike agree that this show was beyond compare. Cast member and CCC alumnus, Michael John Lopergolo, played the part of Major Domo and was also in the chorus. Despite the number of shows he has been involved in, Lopergolo states, “It doesn’t compare at all. It rises above everything…I have loved every show I’ve ever been in, but as far as Les Miserables goes, it’s just superior – emotionally, spiritually, technologically, and as a show in general.” This mirrors the opinion of Scully as she expressed, “Honestly, the show is one of those pinnacle productions that everyone in theater dreams to be a part of.”
Regarding her experience with the cast and production team, Bradshaw states “They were wonderful, committed to the rehearsal process, talented and loving…what an honor and complete joy it has been to work with them on Les Miserables. It was a perfect and unique rehearsal process and beautifully, lovingly, and skillfully executed on the part of every person involved in this production.” After the enthralling production of Les Miserables, I am intrigued as to what Deborah Bradshaw has in store for her future productions at CCC.