The Emanon Players, Absegami High School's award-winning drama club, present the school edition of the legendary Broadway musical "Les Miserables," on March 21 and 22, closing out a five-performance run.

This production, which takes place at the Galloway Township high school's Performing Arts Center, has been specially adapted for high school students and is entirely performed by students.

The play is directed by longtime Absegami High School drama director Chip Garrison, with the vocal and instrumental music under the direction of Galloway Township Middle School teacher Brian Conover.

The story, adapted from Victor Hugo's timeless novel, recounts the struggle against adversity in 19th century France. Imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread, petty thief Jean Valjean is released from his 19-year term and not only becomes an honest man, but the mayor of a prosperous town and a loving adoptive father, violating his parole in the process. Inspector Javert consequently pursues him and makes a decent life for Valjean impossible. Only years later, after Valjean proves his mettle during a bloody student uprising and saves the life of a young man hopelessly in love with Valjean's adopted daughter, does the ex-convict finally feel fully redeemed.

Garrison said he chose the epic story for several reasons.

"First, I felt we had the talent to play the roles. The vocal parts are difficult, so I had to make sure I had the voices who could carry off the parts," Garrison explained. "Second, I felt we needed to do something dramatic. We did 'Seussical' last year, which is a great show and wonderful, but I felt we needed to do something a little heavier."

Garrison also believes the theme of the play - crime and punishment versus forgiveness and mercy - resounds in current society and is particularly newsworthy given some of the latest headlines.

Les Miserables is the ultimate "pay it forward" tale, he said. When Jean Valjean is shown mercy by the Bishop of Digne, it changes his life. He proceeds to then change the life of Cosette, the daughter of a woman whose own life ended in misery. Valjean stands in contrast to Javert, the lawman who makes capturing Valjean a lifelong obsession.

"Despite its grandness, it is also a very intimate story, which is what makes it great," Garrison said.

The school edition of the play is slightly changed from the professional version. Although no critical scenes or songs have been removed, they have been edited by the authors to shorten the running time. Also, there are a few subtle changes of vocal pitch in some of the songs to make it more accessible for high school singers.

The production stars sophomore Zach Hassel as Jean Valjean, junior Nathan Moore as Javert, senior Malia Monk as Fantine, senior Gabrielle Hughes as Cosette, sophomore Abby Cohen as Eponine, junior Nicholas Hathaway as Marius, junior Brady Bock as Enjorlas, sophomore Michael Moore as Thenardier and junior Colleen Garrison as Madame Thenardier.

Rounding out the cast are Aaron Sartorio, Tyler Brito, C.J. Coyle, Brandon Castillo, Austin Beaulieu, Saverio Turrano, Jess Schrading, Isabelle Brown, Rachel Cohen, Kyri St. Germain, Luis Ozoria, Joshua Wescoat, Ashley Fox, Maggie Cohen, Lexi Patterson, Andrea Rapetti, Natalie Frantz, Matt Brennan, John Lopez, Jordan Geigel, Angela Capella, Brandi Aldredge, Brianna Gargione, Juliet Melnik, Miranda Muniz, Molly Deibert, Sandy Hambel, Sarah Heintz, Sophia Turrano and Nicole Marmolejos-Cepada.

The cast isn't as large as for previous productions, and many students play more than one part. Adding to the high school cast are six local elementary school students who are playing the children's roles.

Abby Murphy, Reilly Hall, Mackenzie Hackney, Victoria Williams, Emily Deibert and Calli Jack have all done a great job of performing in the play, Garrison said.

Contact Lucia C. Drake:

609-272-7295

If you go

What:

'Les Miserables'

When:

7 p.m. March 21, 22

Where:

Performing Arts Center, Absegami High School, 201 S. Wrangleboro Road, Galloway Township

Cost:

Tickets subject to availability, $12 adults, $10 senior adults, students

More info:

Call 609-404-2073, ext. 3502, or see absegami.net.