‘Les Miserables Jr.’ comes to the Panida

By Priya Sullivan
Reader Contributor

Sandpoint Waldorf School takes a new twist on a timeless classic. Each year at SWS every class puts on a play, and this year the seventh and eighth grades have come together to create a stunning musical performance of “Les Miserables.” The play will be directed by class teachers Kelly Kietzman, Sarah Shaffer and drama teacher Molly St. Pierre. 

The cast and crew of “Les Miserables Jr.” which will play at 6:30 p.m. on March 27-28 at the Panida Theater.

“Les Miserables has been one of my favorite plays ever since I was a little girl,” Kietzman said when asked what inspired the pick. “Though much of the subject matter went over my head when I was six years old, I fell in love with the songs and characters. Directing it as an adult has given me an even richer understanding of what this masterpiece portrays.”

“Les Miserables” is a novel by Victor Hugo that takes place in 19th-century France following the story of the peasant Jean Valjean. Valjean served 19 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread for his sister’s starving child. He is put on parole for life, but decides to break it after a bishop teaches him forgiveness with an extreme act of kindness. As a result he is tirelessly hunted by Javert — a police inspector who believes everyone’s first duty is to the law. Jean Valjean adopts a girl named Cosette, as a last promise to her dying mother. Valjean and Cosette start a new life in Paris, though they are still pursued by Javert. Many characters from the French Revolution become entwined throughout the story, as the revolutionaries are trying to overthrow the government.

The Sandpoint Waldorf School’s production puts a new face to this classic. 

“I am really excited for our portrayal of this story, as it diverges from the original,” Kietzman said. “Historically, the play is set in post-revolutionary France, with the backdrop being the “student revolution,” which protested the lingering gap between rich and poor. We have designed our play’s time and space to be left up to the individual viewer: it could be two hundred years ago, present day or futuristic. The socio-economic injustices still exist, but our revolutionaries are not exclusively male, but mostly female. We also intentionally cast Jean Valjean as a woman who harnesses both the masculine and feminine throughout the play. Our hope is to portray and honor the strengths and challenges of both genders.”

Putting on a play of this level has been a major undertaking, Kietzman said: “It has truly taken a village to create this play. We have three co-directors, 25 teenage actors, an administrative dream team, a talented musical director/accompanist, a vocal coach, a professional set designer/builder and his team, costumes from all over Sandpoint and the support of our historic Panida Theater.”

Don’t miss Les Miserables at 6:30 p.m. on March 27 and 28 at the Panida Theater. To purchase tickets, go to www.panida.org, Eichardt’s Pub, or Sandpoint Waldorf School. General admission tickets are $7.

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