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Aurora Theatre moved fast to acquire 'Les Miserables'

Aurora Theatre prepares for Les Misérables production that will show in Lawrenceville July 25 - Sept. 8.


After several months of planning, the Aurora Theatre continues to practice for its debut of the musical "Les Miserables" on Thursday. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

After several months of planning, the Aurora Theatre continues to practice for its debut of the musical "Les Miserables" on Thursday. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

'Les Mis' at the Aurora

To read the other two installments of the three-part series, click below:

ACT II: The Cast

ACT III: The Production

Editor's note

This is the first in a three-part series about the Aurora Theatre’s production of “Les Miserables.” It is the world’s longest running musical, and for the first time in its 28-year history, the performance was optioned for regional productions, with the Aurora being one of the venues gaining rights to the story. To chronicle the landmark production,the Daily Post takes you behind the scenes as the massive production comes to life right here in Lawrenceville. The musical debuts Thursday.

Video

Aurora Theatre prepares for Les Misérables production

Aurora Theatre prepares for Les Misérables production that will show in Lawrenceville July 25 - Sept. 8.

Aurora Theatre prepares for Les Misérables production that will show in Lawrenceville July 25 - Sept. 8.

If you go

• What: “Les Miserables”

• When: Opens Thursday, runs through Sept. 8; dates and times vary

• Where: 128 E. Pike St., Lawrenceville

• Cost: $20 to $40

• For more information: Visit auroratheatre.com

LAWRENCEVILLE — When the Aurora Theatre heard that the rights were available for “Les Miserables,” it didn’t wait around to secure its spot. There wasn’t time to waste.

“From the time we heard ‘Les Mis’ was available, it took about six days,” said Anthony Rodriguez, the Aurora’s producing artistic director. “In order to secure the rights, we needed to pay a substantial portion of the licensing fee in advance. Our show sponsor, Peach State Federal Credit Union, made sure we could do that without delay.”

On Dec. 6, 2012, MTI — the licensing company that represents “Les Miserables” — and Playbill sent out a post announcing the rights were available. On the same day, the Aurora was the featured entertainment at the Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Foundation luncheon. While at the event, several people sent emails to the theater letting them know about the announcement. Talk about being in the right place at the right time.

“We literally applied that day and were awarded the rights on Tuesday of the next week,” Music Director Ann-Carol Pence said. “If you look nationwide, some of the nation’s largest regional theaters are producing the show this season, including the Dallas Theatre Center, Pittsburgh Musical Theater, Maine State Music Theatre, Barter Theatre in Virginia and Flat Rock Playhouse in North Carolina. It is nice to be among those institutions as being able to produce a musical epic.”

Once it got the rights to the play, the theater needed to find the right director to take the helm. Pence and Rodriguez thought of someone they’d worked with before: Justin Anderson, who directed the Aurora’s “Tigers Be Still” show during the 2012-13 season.

“Anthony and Ann-Carol had approached me late last year to see if I was interested in directing Aurora’s 18th season opener,” he said.

When he was asked, it wasn’t known what the opener would be, but he accepted anyway. Once it was confirmed as “Les Mis,” Anderson was more than excited. He had never directed a production of this magnitude.

“I am always eager for a challenge,” he said.

Rights obtained? Check. Director chosen? Check. Cast and crew? That was the next piece of the puzzle.

The Aurora held three days of auditions — two in February for adults roles and one in April for the children’s roles. It’s a big production, and the auditions reflected it. The staff was looking for more than just a pretty face with a voice. There was much competition.

“We look for more than just great singers — they have to be able to tell the story as well,” Rodriguez said. “So we look for the best actor and singers that fit each role. Ann-Carol, Justin and I always look for brave actors that are willing to make a big gutsy choice. We only have four weeks of rehearsal so we look for actors that are going to make great choices quickly.”

After listening to close to 200 auditions — live and via video submissions — the cast was whittled down to 31 actors for the production. But that was only the beginning, Act I of preparation for the theater’s most famous production.

In Saturday’s edition, the Daily Post looks at the first time the cast sings together, dress rehersals, and learning the music and stage positions.