Elon University music theater majors dream a dream of one day making it big on Broadway. North Carolina Theatre (NCT), one of the region’s premiere producers of professional Broadway musicals, recognized the potential in Elon senior music theater students.
Karrah Fleshman, Justin Gaab and Christopher Manley have recently been cast in NCT’s production of “Les Miserables,” which will open Feb. 11 and continue through Feb. 23.
Dave Clemmons, a visiting professor at Elon and former casting director in New York City, will direct the show.
“I’ve had a relationship with [NCT] for over 20 years,” Clemmons said. “And because of my history with the show, they wrote and asked me to direct.”
Clemmons proved instrumental in getting the Elon students involved with the production.
“They bring me in about four or five times a year, and I work with the senior class and teach master classes with the theater department,” he said.
Gaab said he sent in a video audition after Clemmons asked him if he was interested in auditioning for the show.
“Getting these kids involved was an opportunity that I knew was possible, and I’m glad that the faculty and everyone worked so hard to make it happen,” Clemmons said. “Elon is very near and dear to my heart, and it has been a privilege to have these kids involved.”
The students involved with the production said they are incredibly excited to have the opportunity to work with professional actors.
“It is an incredible learning opportunity to perform with such renowned actors,” Gaab said. “Every day I learn something new about the profession, and it is so nice to be treated like a professional.”
The biggest struggle, he admits, is commuting back and forth between school and rehearsals.
“Rehearsals are long, but a lot of fun,” Gaab said. “The best part is getting to learn about equity and future theaters. I really feel like I have learned a lot about my profession.”
The Elon seniors are also joined by Elon alumni Maxwell Korn ‘10, a music theater major who was a founding member of Rip_Chord, one of Elon's all male a cappella groups, and Meagan Chieppor ’12.
“It’s a wonderful thing to be able to see these kids who are so well-trained come and put that into practice,” Clemmons said. “I pulled them aside the other day and told them they are representing Elon very well. If I didn’t know, I would assume they were professional actors from New York. Everybody respects them.”
Clemmons also had alumni Korn and Chieppor as students and said that the two have done a terrific job proving themselves.
This production will lack the iconic turntable of the original production, but Clemmons said they have found a creative way to solve that problem.
“The original design relies so heavily on that, but I think we have come up with a really unique production that is interesting and has shades of the original, but it also certainly has things that are new and borrowed from other productions and our own spins,” he said.
The lead roles belong to Raleigh native Lauren Kennedy as “Fantine”, former Broadway actor Craig Schulman as “Jean Valjean” and Chuck Wagner as “Javert.”
“I’m excited to see all of this come together,” Clemmons said, “especially knowing we are going to be giving them a story they will love, if they don’t already.”
Student rush tickets will be available one hour before curtain call for $25 for the best available seat. This original production of “Les Miserables” will be performed at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium at Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. For more information visit www.NCTheatre.com.