Hear the people sing when Bishop’s stages ‘Les Mis’ in La Jolla

Any production of “Les Misérables” is truly that — a production. Hundreds of costumes, sets reflective of different places in 1800s Paris, Broadway-worthy vocal range and expertly coordinated musical timing. But for the first time, The Bishop’s School theater department has the talent and tech to produce it.

The production includes a 30-person cast (some playing as many as 10 different characters), 15-person crew, four-person creative staff and 13-member professional pit orchestra musician.

“We decided at the end of last year to do this production, and at the time we didn’t know what was going to be possible,” Les Mis director Christine Micu told La Jolla Light. “But we have a stunning group of talented singers and actors this year. We knew we had the group of kids that could act it and sing it. It was exciting for us. We’re really lucky in that a number of the students in the show are in both Bishop’s Singers and Acting Workshop, which are our advanced programs. They are passionate and studied (singing and acting) for a while.”

Specifically, two of the production’s leads (both seniors) are advanced singers and actors. Jonathan Zau plays Inspector Javert and is credited with having a powerful voice worthy of any stage; and Jacob Lincoln, who plays Jean Valjean, can “sing everything from low baritone to high tenor” said Micu. “If you put music in front of him, he can do it. He’s a secret weapon.”

And the enthusiasm doesn’t hurt.

Micu said students were singing “95 percent” of the music by the time this school year started. “There is so much excitement and so much love for the show, and so many people know it and support it, so everything came together so we could do this, this year,” she said.

Bishop’s teacher AJ Paulin’s Advanced Theater Production classes created the elaborate set, which was another reason the Bishop’s theater department felt confident in putting the show together.

Giving Paulin his due credit, Micu said: “It’s one of the larger sets we’ve had on our stage. We have these giant moving balconies that come in from the sides, we have the workhouse gates, we have Jean Valjean and Cosette’s garden, our barricade has its own entrance music! He also built us a mock-up on which we could practice.”

Each of the 30 cast members have contributed at least three hours apiece to technical production, and all Bishop’s School theater tech classes at all levels have been involved in painting parts of the set — including the 24,000 hand-painted bricks on flats and set pieces.

Seniors Priscilla Hsieh, Keona Lee and Melanie Schwimmer started last semester in the School’s Creative Science Lab, where they created a scale model for the stage using 3D printers. They also designed some of the more intricate stage props on the 3D printer. Juniors involved include lighting designer Kira Tran, and assistant stage managers Sabrina Fogel and Kirra McColl; sophomore Helen Banta is the assistant costumer.

The technical crew includes teacher AJ Paulin, and seniors Priscilla Hsieh, Keona Lee and Melanie Schwimmer. Courtesy

Paulin has worked on three previous productions of Les Mis; first, in a seven-and-a-half month touring production as Enjolras, then as an assistant lighting director and again as a director of a high school summer production. That prior experience gave him an opportunity to implement all those “If I ever did this show again, I’d …” ideas at Bishop’s.

He said he estimates that 500-plus hours will have gone into the technical production, and nearly that many hours will go into costume design and management. Typically, the majority of costumes in Bishop’s productions are created by costume designer Jean Moroney, but with more than 300 costume pieces for Les Mis, many costumes had to be rented for this show.

Paulin said: “This show has something for everyone. Big, grand sets, the spectacle of a battle sequence with stage-blanks, beautiful music, great story, and strong character development that allows the audience to root for and against characters. It ticks all the boxes.”

Micu added: “The main messages of the show and the main reason we chose it is: love is here for all of us. One of the last line of the show is ‘To love another person is to see the face of God,’ and through loving people, we become better people. It is how you redeem yourself in the eyes of God. The students really took to that message, and it shows.”

IF YOU GO: “Les Misérables” is on stage at The Bishop’s School, 7607 La Jolla Blvd., 4 p.m. Feb. 21; 7 p.m. Feb. 22, Feb. 23 and March 1-2; and 2 p.m. Feb. 23 and March 2. Tickets $30 premium seating, $10 open seating, $8 students.