Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 19, 2014

New movie prompts look back at FHS’s ‘Les Mis’

By SCOTT SLECHTA, Special to The Ledger | Dec 26, 2012
LEDGER ARCHIVE PHOTO A scene from “Les Misérables” performed by the Fairfield High School music department and the Broadway Players of FHS in April 2006. Branden Schomberts, who played Marius, said he saw a touring Broadway performance of ‘Les Miserables’ in Kansas City, “and though I thoroughly enjoyed it, I think we could’ve given them a run for their money.”

Before you see the movie adaptation of the Broadway adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic “Les Misérables” which opened on Christmas Day, remember the Fairfield High School music department and the Broadway Players of FHS staged it in April 2006.

“Les Misérables” is now the world’s longest-running musical, seen by more than 60 million people in 42 countries. Cameron Mackintosh’s legendary production of Boublil and Schönberg’s classic sweeps its audience through an epic tale of passion and destruction in 19th century France.

In this story, the viewer discovers a nation in the grip of revolution where convict Jean Valjean is on the run. Hunted relentlessly by the policeman Javert for breaking his parole, he must leave his past behind and keep his vow to raise the young orphaned Cosette. But with revolution in the air and Javert closing in, Jean Valjean has no choice but to fight for his life and sacrifice everything to protect the people he loves.

The movie version released on Christmas Day has this cast: Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, Russell Crowe as Javert, Anne Hathaway as Fantine, Amanda Seyfried as Cosette, Sacha Baron Cohen as Thenardier, Helen Bonham Carter as Madame Thenardier, Eddie Redmayne as Marius, Aaron Tveit as Enjolras, Samantha Barks as Eponine  and Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche.

The movie reviewers have had this to say: “While trailers for the film have been riveting, some people have remained skeptical ... [But], ... “Les Misérables” proved all the naysayers wrong. It hits all the right notes and is, in this writer’s estimation, the newly minted frontrunner for the Best Picture Oscar.”

This is what reviewers of the FHS production said: “The entire cast brings the music to life and puts on a tremendous show with feeling.” and “Each member of the cast shines, and the work of those behind the scenes is apparent.”

In the high school production, these characters were performed by Jim Edgeton as Jean Valjean, John Roloff as Javert, Jennie Flinspach as Fantine, Samantha Kruse as Cosette  with Baylee Bowman and Kara Greiner sharing the role of little Cosette, Michael Smith as Thenardier, Madeline Sloat as Madame Thenardier, Branden Schombert as Marius, Derek Hayes as Enjolras, Meghan McMahon as Eponine with Baylee Bowman and Kara Greiner sharing the role of young Eponine, and Mason Carnahan and Price Slechta as Gavroche.

Edgeton is now married to Adena, and with their son, Khy, lives in Pella. He  is a Central College graduate and works for the industrial technology department for the Pella school. Rolloff lives in Des Moines and works as the operations manager for the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra. He is currently working on his MBA at the University of Iowa. Flinspach was active in drama at Simpson College, and now she teaches English and coaches speech at Tipton High School. Bowman, FHS junior, is active in sports, music, and dance and drill. Greiner, FHS junior, is active in speech, drama and band. Sloat is the kindergarden through 12th grade choir director for the Pekin Community School District. She recently directed “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Schombert is  working for Cerner, a healthcare IT company, as an implementation consultant in Kansas City, Mo; he also sings for his church’s  worship team. Hayes is a Knox college graduate with a business degree and is working at Cambridge Investment Research. McMahon is living in Colorado. Carnahan, a FHS senior, is active in sports. Slechta, a FHS freshman, is involved in speech, band and choir.

Some of the graduates have left the community, while others have remained in the area or in the state. Although a full update could not be made on all cast members, the full list of cast, crew, and orchestra members follows along with a brief update on those whose information could be secured:

Cast and Chorus: Jean Valjean- Jim Edgeton III; Javert - John Roloff; The Bishop of Digne - Brandon Hyde (He is teaching history and coaching speech and basketball at Maharishi School); Factory Foreman - Zach Edlin; Fantine - Jennie Flinspach; Factory Girl - Emily Poole (She is finishing her senior year at Columbia at Chicago.);

Factory Girls - Heather Buch (She completed student teaching through the University of Northern Iowa.), Emily Ledger (She was active in theatre at Simpson and is now living in Boston.), Jossy Heilman (She  married Jimmie Simmons and is working in the Fairfield area.), and Ramya Hipp;

Factory Workers - Bryan Bogaards (He is finishing his second of a three-year graduate school program to be an architect at  Washington University in St. Louis.), Tom Vandel and Veronica Labagh-Coplin;

Bamatabois - Nick Amrine (He is working in Iowa City.);

Prostitutes - Mallory Burggraaf (She received a BA in social work and works in Iowa City.), Jamie Eversage (She lives in Maine.), Amy Gookin (She is a biochemist for Molecular Characterization Lab at Pioneer in Ankeny), Kelly Mack, Alison Mayer (She is a senior at Simpson College with an elementary education major.), Molly McMahon (She is working in realty in Colorado.), Taryn Pacha (She is recently married.), Amy Rauscher (She is married to Ian Curran and living in Colorado), Melanie Roth (senior at University of  Iowa pursuing a dentistry degree.), Abby Sieren (She is a senior at the University of Northern Iowa.) and  Noel Wotherspoon (She is a graduate of Northwestern College with a BA in theatre arts. Currently she is freelancing as stage manager and light technician);

Old Woman - Rachel Keller (She is a senior at University of Northern Iowa.); Little Cosette - Baylee Bowman and Kara Greiner; Monsieur Thenardier - Michael Smith; Madame Thernadier - Madeline Sloat; Young Eponine - Baylee Bowman or Kara Greiner; Gavroche - Mason Carnahan or Price Slechta; Eponine - Megan McMahon; Cosette - Samantha Kruse; Montparnasse - Nick Amrine; Babet - Zach Edlin; Brujon - Corey Symmonds;

Claquesous - Bradford Thorn; Enjolras - Derek Hayes; Marius - Branden Schombert; Combeferr - Ammon Clemmons; Feuilly - Ryan Larson (He graduated in pre-law and completed an internship in Chicago.  He is currently pursuing a degree in criminal justice.); Courfeyrac - Tanner Schafer (He is working in Iowa City); Joly - Bryan Bogaards; Grantaire - Brandon Hyde; Lesgles - Seann Burgmeier (He is in the military.); Jean Prouvaire - Tom Vandel;

The Chain Gang, the Poor, the Factory Workers, the Drinkers, and the Wedding Guests were played by members of the Ensemble: Tyler Adam, Kirsten Adam (She is a Notre Dame graduate now pursuing doctorate degree in Oregon.), Nick Amrine, Bryan Bogaards, Heather Buch, Mallory Burggraaf, Seann Burgmeier, Katie Carty, Ammon Clemmons, Jon Edgeton (He is at Drake with a degree in video editing and finishing a music education degree in 2013.), Jamie Eversage, Zach Edlin, Amy Goehring (She is a Central College graduate now working at Cambridge Investment Research.), Jossy Heilman (She is married to Jimmie Simmons and working in the Fairfield area.), Ramya Hipp, Natalie Horras (She is working in New Jersey.), Brandon Hyde, Amy Gookin, Kelsey Johnston (She is a graduate of  Simpson College with a degree in sociology and religion and worked as a Lutheran Corps volunteer Corps. She is currently working at after school children’s program and taking care of her grandmother in Iowa City.), Rachel Keller, Veronica Labagh-Coplin, Ryan Larson, Emily Ledger, Molly McMahon, Kelly Mack, Alison Mayer, Sylviane Openshaw, Taryn Pacha, Caity Parr (She is working for Barker Corporation at Keosauqua.), Emily Poole, Amy Rauscher, Melanie Roth, Tanner Schafer, Abby Sieren, Corey Symmonds, Bradford Thorn, Lena Tichy, Caitlin Troutt, Darrin Webb, and Noel Wotherspoon.

Student Directors/Stage Managers – James Gibson andKelsey Jones;

Grips/Set Construction/Set Design: Laurie Johnson, Cat Martin, Adam Rotondi;

Lights and Sound: Joel Boland, Amber Coe, Laura Liles, Jimmie Simmons, Kira Symmonds, Jesse Tray, Alison Weschler (She is working at Epic Systems, an electronic health record software in Madison, Wis.);

Costume Assistants: Laura Biggs (She is working in Hy-Vee’s accounting department.), Adeara Maurice, Deepti Sharma;

Public Relations: Shelley Urban; Orchestra:  Flute - Katie Messerli (engaged and living in California), Oboe/Bassoon - Dr. Gary Roth, Clarinet - Boanne MacGregor, Alto Saxophone - Monica Goudy (senior nursing student at South Dakota State University at Brookings, S.D.), Trumpet - Roger McHone, Trumpet and French Horn - Fred Hucke, Trumpet - Brian Baird, French Horn - Mark Mayer, Trombone - Ron Prill, Guitar - Jon Edgeton, Bass - Gerry Runyon, Drums - Vinney Sharp, Keyboard I - Linda Mitcheltree, Keyboard II - Connie Keller, Keyboard III - Erin Schmidt, and Auxiliary Percussion - Tracy Hickenbottom (She is a graduate of Truman State University, teaches math in Northern Missouri, and is married to Ben LaVan.).

The new movie-musical was directed by Thomas George “Tom” Hooper,  who is a British film and television director of English and Australian background. Hooper began making short films at the age of 13.  He also directed Oscar Award winning “The King’s Speech.”

The FHS production staff is still active in directing. Betsie Wotherspoon served as production assistant. She is currently assisting with the drama program and coaching speech. Music director Linda Mitcheltree is the president-elect, Iowa Choral Directors Association.  Orchestra director Jim Edgeton and artistic director Scott Slechta still teach at FHS.

While Mitcheltree is busy with her statewide duties and Edgeton is busy with his school duties, they also are working with the Van Buren Players to produce “Chicago.” Slechta is directing the Fairfield Area Community Theatre winter production of “Belles” and then goes into production for the FHS spring show, Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Inspector Hound.”

Branden Schomberts (Marius) stated, “ I actually did see a touring Broadway performance of ‘Les Miserables’ here in Kansas City, and though I thoroughly enjoyed it, I think we could’ve given them a run for their money.”

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