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Community Matters

Les Misérables: Local Kids in the Spotlight at Keyano Theatre & Arts Centre

January 1st, 2014

By: Russell Thomas

The Search for Cosette was the first step in the public call for Keyano Theatre Company’s production of Les Misérables, slated to open in February. On a brilliant summer day during the interPLAY Festival, several dozen young ladies gathered their courage and belted out their songs in front a large appreciative audience and the judges. In the end, two performers rose to the top and were announced as playing the role of young Cosette: Amrita Mosale and Grace Lima.

Both girls expressed a love of singing as their driving motivator for auditioning. “There was no harm in trying,” recalled Amrita. “How could I forget that I love to sing?”

“I love, love, love to sing and I thought that this would be a great opportunity and I wanted to challenge myself,” said Grace, who lives in Anzac.

Strikingly different, but equally entrancing, Amrita and Grace will take turns playing the role of Young Cosette, going through a transformative experience along with a cast of about 50 others, including myself. I’ve been cast as Thenardier, the master of the house. We begin singing rehearsals before Christmas and dive into a demanding rehearsal schedule in January.

For these young performers, it is going to be a busy time, with many evening and weekend rehearsals that will culminate in a nine-performance run. While Amrita and Grace are anticipating getting to sing, act and meet a lot of new people, their parents are getting ready for lots of trips back and forth to the theatre.

“Playing Cosette is like a dream come true for her,” said Amrita’s father Natesh. “The long rehearsal and production process means a lot of dedication and work for all the people involved.”

“This is such a rewarding opportunity for Grace to learn and grow in so many different ways by being part of a theatre community,” said her mom Katherine. “One of which is a responsibility that she will have to uphold both to herself and as a member of the cast.”

While both girls have been singing “Castle on a Cloud” over and over again, and doing their best to stay healthy in preparation for the start of rehearsals, my son Ben has been preparing for this Keyano Theatre Company debut in a similar way. He is a member of the youth gang, and has been learning every song in the show. He often corrects me when I screw up the lyrics. At 10 years of age, he’s most looking forward to meeting the cast, making friends and having fun. And while he’s a little anxious about becoming nervous in front of an expected full house on opening night, he has high hopes that Les Misérables will be wildly successful. 

My older son Dylan is also in the show, playing one of the cronies in Thenardier’s den of dissolutes. Less visibly excited than his younger brother, there is no question that being in the show means a lot to this 14-year-old aspiring singer. “I’m happy to finally be on stage,” said Dylan. (He worked backstage in February 2013 as the follow spot operator for Hometown…The Musical!) “Doing it with all three of us is pretty cool. I’m really looking forward to that.”

Mama has conflicting emotions about Les Misérables. On the one hand, she is going to have two months of quiet time. “I’m looking forward to catching up on my studying,” said Heather. On the other hand, she’s not looking forward to the loneliness of not seeing us for days at a time. “This is going to be an unbelievable experience for Dylan and Ben,” she said. “I will be very proud when I get to see you all on that stage together.”

Natesh, Katherine and Heather likely mirror the emotions and logistical realities that all Les Mis parents are facing heading into a very busy period. The results of long hours of rehearsals, late nights and coming together as an ensemble promise to be stunning and likely one of the most attended productions in Keyano Theatre Company history.

Don’t wait until February to get your tickets, or you might be sadly disappointed.

Russell Thomas is a prolific blogger, artist, actor, and interim executive director of Arts Council Wood Buffalo. He also serves on the Premier's Council on Culture and is a member of the Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo steering committee.

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