Les Mis set biggest ever

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PACKING IN: Set co-ordinator David Bleach is among volunteers getting the Les Misérables set ready.
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The mammoth task of packing in the huge set for Les Misérables is done.

The Variety Theatre of Ashburton production opens at the Ashburton Event Centre next week.

Centre manager and set designer Roger Farr said a team of 12 had been working on the construction of a replica 18th century French village since January. This had been off-site in a rented shed at Talley’s and in another shed at a commercial workshop.

Farr said the set was the biggest ever constructed by Variety Theatre members for any show in its history.

‘‘The set’s so big, it’s almost its own city,’’ Farr said.

Set co-ordinator David Bleach said it had been good to see all the hard work come to fruition at the weekend, when the set pieces were shifted into the event centre.

‘‘Once it stood up and stayed there, we felt quite good,’’ Bleach said.

It comprised a permanent show backdrop which would be transformed by lighting, movable set parts and props for the various scenes. It involved $17,000 worth of polystyrene, which was carved out and painted.

‘‘It’s a completely new construction method, we have never used anything like this before, it was a lot of trial and error. The beauty of polystyrene you can put a lot of effect into it,’’ Farr said.

When Variety last staged Les Misérables in 2009, it hired the set from a consortium of theatrical societies. But that set was no longer available.

The set was built according to a model constructed by Farr. Putting the finishing touches and packing in had involved 12-hour days over the last three weeks.

It was testimony to the huge behind the scenes effort going into the Les Misérables show. There is a cast of about 35, while 150 people work behind the scenes.

READY FOR ACTION: Les Mis set co-ordinator David Bleach (left) and set designer Roger Farr, with the set model.

Director Regan Jackson said he was excited about opening next week so he could showcase the skills of the ‘‘really talented’’ cast.

Later this week it would be the phase of sitz probe, meaning the first time cast members would sing with the show’s 15-piece orchestra.

‘‘This is where the overall vision starts to come together, which is really exciting.’’

Les Miserables follows the story of Jean Valjean, played by Luke Glendining, a well-meaning thief turned factory owner.

Inspector Javert, played by Aaron Boyce, is Valjean’s nemesis as he tries to help dying single mother Fantine, played by Briar Patrick.

Painting under way prior to pack-in, courtesy of (from left) Wiremu Keefe-Paul, Peter Muir (in the background), Tamsin Cartney, Emily-Jane Farr, Summah Ralston, Jessie Thompson, Renee Pickles, Justine Hanrahan and Teneille Booth. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Valjean rescues Fantine’s daughter Cosette from dismal circumstances. The child Cosette is played by Eva Wells and Amarlie Fletcher, while the adult Cosette is played by Kimberley Fenton.

Les Misérables is a story of broken dreams and unrequited love, sacrifice and redemption. Songs include I Dreamed a Dream, On My Own, One Day More and Do You Hear the People Sing.

* Les Misérables will stage at the Ashburton Event Centre, May 17 to 25. Tickets, available via asheventcentre.co.nz, adults $95, gold card $60, children 12 and under $55. Fees apply.