Costume designer Alan Yeong and volunteer Gwen Fulsang construct a costume for the Broadway classic Les Misrables at the Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville on Thursday. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
'Les Mis' at the Aurora
To read the first two installments of the three-part series, click below:
Act I: The rights
ACT II: The Cast
Aurora Theatre prepares for Les Misérables production
Aurora Theatre prepares for Les Misérables production that will show in Lawrenceville July 25 - Sept. 8.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a three-part series about the Aurora Theatre’s producion 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 on Thursday.
LAWRENCEVILLE — Without costumes, a set and ambiance, the cast of “Les Miserables” would look just like poorly dressed people marching around an empty stage singing about the terrible conditions of 19th century France.
Luckily, the Aurora Theatre knew the right team to call.
“Together Justin Anderson the director, Anthony Rodriguez and I worked to secure the dream team of Atlanta theater design,” Musical Director Ann-Carol Pence said. “Phil Male (set), Alan Yeong (costumes), Mike Post (lighting), Scott Sargent (props) and Sarah Turner Sechelski (choreography) all met for the first time in February.”
Since then, the group has worked tirelessly on the musical, pitching new ideas and constantly working out the kinks to make the show flow as seamless as possible.
None of this has been an easy task for the crew since the Aurora doesn’t shut down its operations to produce one show at a time. During the summer, there were camps with children in and out of the building during construction.
“This meant we had to very good at planning out when, where and how the set would be constructed so as not to interfere with camps using the stage for class,” said Rodriguez, producing artistic director. “Add to that, rehearsals, and a crew of volunteers working to get all the costumes built in time for fittings and adjustments and virtually every inch of the Aurora Theatre is occupied. The next hurdle will be trying to figure out dressing rooms for the 27 actors in ‘Les Mis’ plus having dressing areas for the performers using the Studio Theatre for other productions.”
Yeong is in charge of the costumes, creating approximately 150 pieces total.
“I know we are building or pulling from stock for two-thirds of the show,” he said. “One-third is all tailored stuff for the richer characters, like the wedding sequence. Those are not built because it takes a lot of time. I’m building bigger sizes so they are easier to take in as needed. I try to make it as easy for my life as I can.”
There are so many costumes because each character has multiple looks.
“That’s without shoes and hair,” Yeong said with a laugh. “We have a hair stylist and wig maker, but me and Monty (Schuth, the wig designer) have been communicating. This show is tricky because there are a lot of quick changes. We try to design and style in such a way that the change goes faster. Some of the change sequences will happen as part of the choreography.”
Once on stage, the audience needs to be able to hear the actors and orchestra. That’s where the sound team comes in to play.
“I always feel like my ability to achieve as a great music director lies on the shoulders of a sound designer,” Pence said. “I can be great at my job but if no one hears it, it does not succeed. Since I play in the pit of my shows, I have to trust the sound designer implicitly. That is easy to do with Daniel (Terry, sound director).”
Although not finished, Anderson has been thrilled with the vision and work created by the lighting, costume, sound and set teams.
“Our designers are exemplary in their work and every day there is something new on stage or hanging in the dressing room,” he said. “It’s one of the most rewarding parts of the directing process: literally seeing a show come together before your very eyes.”
There is one different about the Aurora’s production of “Les Mis” — it’s set on a smaller stage than usual.
“I’m proud to say that everyone has done an enormous amount of homework to get this show ready to open,” Rodriguez said. “The key for all of us was to remember that at the heart of what we are creating is the story. We can’t get sidetracked by what the film was or what the Broadway show looked like. Aurora is an incredibly intimate venue and, in my opinion, the perfect setting to create a singularly personal version of ‘Les Miserables.’”
A setting that will finally come to life when the curtains open Thursday night.