Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Arts/Entertainment

October 22, 2013

A rare thrill in 'Les Mis'

Blockbuster musical is ACT's biggest production to date

Some call it the holy grail of musical theater.

And 80 cast members with ACT Theater Company are thrilled at the chance to bring it to the stage starting this weekend.

After months of intense rehearsals, the local nonprofit troupe opens the curtain on “Les Miserables” at the J. Everett Collins Center for three performances this weekend.

“There’s a buzz about this show,” said Cara Kennedy, a teacher at the Pike School in Andover who is in the cast. “It’s a blockbuster.”

The show could not have been possible until this year. Kennedy said the rights to stage the play were off-limits to adults until now. And only a handful of non-professional adult theater groups in the state were awarded those coveted scripts. ACT — which originally launched as Andover Community Theater — was among the lucky few.

It isn’t the first time Andover has hosted a production of “Les Miserables.” Andover High School staged the story of redemption and love focusing on Jean Valjean in 2002 when the school was allowed the rights.

It was a big show for Andover High at the time, and it led to some great memories for the play’s director, Susan Leland-Smith Choquette, who is now the director of theater arts at Andover High.

“We staged it with a cast of future stars,” Leland-Smith Choquette said.

That high school cast included Catherine Charlebois as Eponine, now on Broadway in “Wicked;” Martin Johnson as Enjolras, front man for Boys Like Girls; Briga Heelan, who was in the ensemble, is now starring in her own sitcom, “Ground Floor,” which premieres next month on TBS; Alex Hanna as Thenardier, who appeared off-Broadway this past spring at Playwrights Horizons after graduating with an advanced theater degree from Juilliard School; Becki Dennis Buchman as Madame Thenardier, who is now an actor and talent professional in the Boston area; and Dale Spollett as Jean Valjean, who is now an actor and musician in Los Angeles.

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