High school musical season is in full swing. For the students at Mountain View High School in Bend, their production of “Les Misérables” was a real test of courage and commitment.
They — the kids — had to do it on their own while their theater teacher took paternity leave.
It’s not that unusual to see a high school doing a big production like “Les Mis” as long as the play is pared down a bit, the sets are simplified and the cast gets plenty of supervision.
There was no such paring down for this production.
“I was very nervous when we decided on this show,” said Heath Koerschgen. He’s the Mountain View Theater Director and the backbone of any school play here.
Heath says taking on “Les Mis,” without him around for six weeks, sounded like a horrible idea.
“This thing is all singing. The storytelling is, I mean it never stops. Musically, vocally it is incredibly difficult,” said Heath.
Senior Ethan Jones volunteered to direct the play. To say his learning curve was steep is an understatement.
“Certainly a disciplinary aspect of it because I’ve never been the kind of person to be mean to people. And I’m really bad at it,” said Ethan.
The first thing that had to happen for these kids, once reality set in, was collaboration.
“It made it so we all really had to listen to each other and really had to hear everyone’s ideas,” said Sahalie Carnahan-Ramsey, who plays Cosette.
“A big aspect that was hard for us was time-management,” said Millie Juesche, who plays Eponine. “All of the problems were up to us.”
For all of the seniors you meet in this story, “Les Mis” isn’t just a pass or fail project. It’s a passion project. A last chance to go big, even if it meant going it alone.
“You got to do what you love. It’s go big or go home,” said Caden Tomlinson, who plays Enjolras. “And ‘Les Mis’ is the story that speaks to me emotionally and I care about it. We had the passion so we decided we might as well put what we have together to make it.
“We knew it was going to be a lot of work and we’re here often for many hours at a time but we still love it so we’re willing to do what it takes,” Caden continued.
It took a community.
“We got a lot of help from some cast members’ parents financially supporting us in this,” said Ethan. “Just finding connections and bringing people in and having music directors and sound engineers and all that were all just stuff that we found just talking around and finding connections.”
“If you work in the arts, you are constantly looking for help, for money, for resources. So, I could not have, with the budget that I have — working for the school district — I could not have put this on,” said Heath.
Just another obstacle for these young actors to overcome.
But after the final rehearsal, the last costume stitch, and the last brush stroke, the audience that knows this classic tale as well as any, didn’t come for excuses. They came for a show.
“I truly feel as far as high school productions concerned, this is phenomenal. It really is. I have also seen many professional productions that were not this good,” said Heath.
If an education in survival, in cooperation, in self-worth was supposed to be part of the theater arts program at Mountain View High School — mission accomplished. Because when the curtain is pulled and the lights go out, what these kids walk away with is a new level of confidence that is no act.
“You take away the messages that come from ‘Les Mis’ of forgiveness and of a second chance,” said Finney McFarland, who plays Javert. “And it kind of makes me view all people as better in a way. Kinda makes me view all people as my friend. Makes me want to achieve my potential and do the same for everybody else.”
“Les Mis” at Mountain View High School has four more performances to go, including a doubleheader on Mother’s Day Sunday. A ticket to this show is a peek at what this young generation is truly capable of when there’s no choice but to sink or swim.
- Thursday, May 11 at 7 pm
- Saturday, May 13 at 7 pm
- Sunday, May 14 at 2 pm and 7pm
Doors open 30 minutes before showtime.
Tickets are $12 for Adults, $7 for students (kinder-12th grade). Purchase tickets in advance online through the Touchbase payment system or pay cash/check at the door. For those buying online, follow the login instructions on the Touchbase home page and bring a printed copy of your payment confirmation as proof of purchase.