Ironwood High School senior Aaron Arseneault was cast in another show when he discovered he landed a main role in the hit musical “Les Miserables.”
For a number of years, the 18-year-old Glendale resident wanted to be a part of the show, so he left the musical he was working on in order to take the role of Marius in “Les Miserables: School Edition,” which opens Friday at Creative Stages Youth Theatre in Peoria.
“It’s a show that I’ve always wanted to do no matter what because the music is incredible and the storylines about all of these characters are great,” Arseneault said.
Based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel of the same name, the musical revolves around many characters and is set during the early 19th century as they struggle for redemption and revolution. The Tony Award-winning score features the songs “On My Own” and “I Dreamed a Dream,” which has been covered by a number of artists including Aretha Franklin, Neil Diamond and Susan Boyle.
While many musicals have dialogue interspersed with tunes, the “Les Miserables” cast sings the entire show without any spoken words, similar to an opera.
This could have been difficult for a group of children and teenagers, but director Jason Washburn said he and musical director Ken Goodenberger, who is also the director of West Valley Chorale, helped the young cast.
“We really worked hard to help them understand what they’re singing about and to navigate them through some of this complicated music,” Washburn said.
Washburn said it’s a great challenge for the cast, who often perform traditional musicals.
“It’s not your typical ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ or ‘Guys and Dolls,’ but that’s what makes this show so special and very incredible when it’s done right,” Washburn said.
“Les Miserables: School Edition” is a condensed version of the Broadway show designed for students. It removes some sections and has a revised vocal score for young voices.
Even with a few revisions, Washburn said it doesn’t change the central message of the musical.
“Those changes don’t detract from the drama or the power of it all, because this is a human story about the struggles of life,” he said.