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Ridgefield High Tackles 'Les Miserables' For School's 35th Anniversary

Ridgefield High School senior Sam  Gravitte plays Jean Valjean this year in the school's production of "Les Miserables."
Ridgefield High School senior Sam Gravitte plays Jean Valjean this year in the school's production of "Les Miserables." Photo Credit: Joseph Heinzmann

RIDGEFIELD, Conn. – It’s been 35 years since Ridgefield High School put on its first musical and to celebrate, the students will put on one of their biggest shows yet: "Les Miserables."

The popular operetta on Broadway turned Oscar-winning film, has inspired many of the lead cast members but they’re all anxious to make the parts their own. This is especially true for senior Sam Gravitte, who is playing Jean Valjean.

One of the difficulties playing this role, Gravitte said, is that he’s a 17-year-old playing a grown man, and finding ways to emotionally connect with the role.

Of course, Gravitte isn’t the only one feeling the pressure, senior Mattie Joyner, 17, who will be playing Fantine, said that she didn’t want to play the part like Anne Hathaway who won Best Supporting Actress this year at the Oscars for playing the same part.

“It’s such an incredible role and I think it’s a really important story to tell,” Joyner said.  She has been performing in Ridgefield High musicals since she was a freshman. “The fact that we’re doing (Les Miserables) in this 35th anniversary season of musicals at RHS is really special for all of us.”

For other members of the cast, like junior Tara Mazur, 16, the play is bittersweet. Great, she said because she’ll be playing Eponine, but sad because she feels so close to the more than 20 seniors in the cast and crew who will be graduating this year. “It’s going to be really hard. I think I’m even closer with their class of people than my own,” she said, comparing the cast to a family.

Putting on a performance like "Les Miserables" requires a lot out of the cast, crew, directors and musicians, like Albert Montecarlvo, the conductor. “I told the students that it’s probably going to be 2 1/2 to three hours straight playing, no resting. And they’re attitude was let’s do it.”

Director Joyce Flanagan said she is so excited with this year’s group of students – they all had what it takes to put on this show.  “I’ve been waiting to do it for about 10 years,” she said. “It’s not something you can just say 'Oh we’re going to do 'Les Mis' next year.' I look at the voices and you have to wait for that group of kids. And you also have to wait for that group of musicians. They have to be able to play the score and they have to be able to sing it.”

Besides the cast and musicians who have put in long hours since rehearsals started in January, the crew has worked after school six days a week painting sets and designing the stage.

“Everything we’ve built, me and the stage crew,” said senior Maddie Wroblewski, 17, the show's stage manager.

The performances start Friday, March 8 at 7:30 p.m. in the high school auditorium.  Additional shows will be March 9, 15 and 16 at 7:30 p.m. plus a matinee on Sunday, March 10 at 2 p.m.  Tickets are $10. A snow day has been scheduled for Sunday March 17 at 2 p.m.

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