Picketwire’s Les Miserables Runs Two More Nights – written by Susie Sarlo
In Picketwire Players’ summer musical “Les Miserables”, it is all about the people singing. The lead actors – Joe Trainor as Jean Valjean, Natalie Summers as Fantine, Tom Seaba as Javert, Scott Goheen as Marius, Leeanne Roath as Eponine, and Katie Lagergren as Cosette – sing the roof off every night. But in this play, there are no small parts because every part, every line in the song, moves the story along. Without the chorus, the play could not be complete.
This summer the chorus is a wonderful mix of veteran actors and newcomers, young people from the age of four to the young at heart who have reached retirement age. Henry Kelley was in his first Picketwire show at the age of nine or ten. He has since been in children’s theatre plays in La Junta and Rocky Ford as well as high school productions under the direction of Kelly Jo Smith.
As a student playing out the rebellion in Victor Hugo’s masterpiece, Henry said, “to be part of a story that was real makes the character I’m playingmore intense. We are all fighting for the same reason. As a teenager, finding your own way and fighting for what you believe in, you can relate to these characters.” Henry also has bonded with his fellow students. “We bring what we are supposed to have onstage to our own relationships and have gotten closer. They have learned from each other – the young and more mature. Henry appreciates watching John Eubank because “he is always on, always professional”. He concluded by saying that it was hard living up to the expectations people have about “Les Miserables”. He did, however, really like seeing how all of his fellow actors expressed their characters and that sharing a dressing room with his fellow students is “the single most insane experience I’ve ever had.”
John Eubank is familiar to audiences both in Picketwire and Otero Junior College productions. He wanted to be a part of “Les Miserables” because it gave him the chance to do a really challenging musical. “It is a step above any other musical I have done in the past and it’s fun to have that challenge.” He also enjoyed getting to meet and work with new people. “We do community theatre because we love it and we are enthused about it. This play was a whole lot more work than I expected it to be, but it was a whole lot more fun.”
Tim Baublits said being on the stage in “Les Miserables” is probably one of the highlights of his community theatre experience. “The quality of the play and music surpasses all others. We began with a book and musical score that had everything we needed. We just had to bring it to life.” He feels proud to be working with this group and declared them all to be great singers. He also wanted to highlight the professionalism of the orchestra. Tim is especially happy to be acting alongside many of his current and former students from Fowler High School and Otero Junior College. “This is why Picketwire is so important. Community theatre brings together all ages, all levels of experience, to perform together and deliver to the audience an excellent, creative story.”
Like Tim, Brenda Erwin has been a major fixture around Picketwire for many years. She is noted for her great work on stage as well as behind the scenes. Her fellow actors respect how organized and calm she always is. “This has been an amazing experience,” she said. “Every play is wonderful in its own way. I am enjoying playing multiple parts and keeping things organized backstage in this play.”
Returning to the Picketwire stage after quite a long absence is Darlene Blackford. Her last play with Picketwire was choreographing “Carousel”. She said she decided to do this summer’s production because “I absolutely could not let this musical go by without being a part of it. First of all, this is a fabulous musical. Second, the enormity of this enormous production is almost impossible to imagine doing. I have great respect for the people responsible for putting it all together. The quality of the cast and the team of Tracey [Salzbrenner], Cameron [Salzbrenner], and Desiree [Goheen] is wonderful. I respect that and wanted to be a part of it.”
While Darlene had not done a play since “Carousel”, Dawn Pollmiller’s first play was “Carousel”. She believes it is important to have a strong community theatre because it gives creative people in La Junta an outlet. It also brings people together in a family atmosphere. Dawn loves to perform and audiences seem to enjoy being able to see high quality performances in their own home town. As a vocalist and former music educator, what drew Dawn to this production was, of course, the music. “It is music from beginning to end. It draws you in with dynamic, emotional, and passionate music. The storyline matches the music. There is nothing else like it.” She explained that the music is very difficult. “The key signatures have seven sharps or seven flats. You can’t get more difficult than that. I cannot imagine how much rehearsal the
orchestra did at home to prepare for their parts.” Dawn is also enjoying the range of age and experience in this cast. “ It is amazing to me to see how well everyone is doing and those actors who didn’t even know how good their talent is.” She laughed about how excited the “little ones” are about being in the play. “They arrive twenty minutes before they need to be here and stay excited till the play ends. These are our future performers.”
Grant Elliott holds the record for doing more Picketwire shows than anyone else. “Each play has something different that makes it special and makes it fun,” he explained. “It is the people you meet in each play that makes it special. In this play, the talent and dedication of the people is almost unbelievable. It takes that kind of talent and hard work to make it flawless.” Grant has seen many changes at Picketwire over the years, but he commented that the technology of plays is changing at a faster rate than ever. “What we are doing with “Les Miserables” is incredible – with digital projections and the new LED lights. These new technological changes coming along get the audience more involved and evokes more feelings that they used to because it is more interactive.” He feels confident for the future of Picketwire because of all the young people involved. “They know how to work all this technology. Just thinking about where theatre can go from here with these changes is exciting.”
Grant has seen a lot in his many decades of participation with Picketwire. For the man who just came with a friend to watch practice and got dragged up to the stage to sit in a lifeboat for a photo shoot, to playing in almost every play since that time, he is having the time of his life this summer. He agrees with everyone else quoted in this article, “Les Miserables” is a once in a lifetime experience that audiences will not want to miss.
“Les Miserables” plays Friday and Saturday nights (August 8 and 9) at 7:00 PM. The box office opens at 5:00 PM. Call 719.384.8320 to reserve seats. Or order online at www.picketwireplayers.org. The play is sponsored by Otero County Health Department’s Tobacco Program.