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See ‘Les Miserables’ in Grand Junction for the holidays

Sharon Sullivan
ssullivan@gjfreepress.com
Joey Stafford and Dylan Cox rehearse their roles as The Thénardiers in the upcoming musical "Les Miserables," produced by High Desert Opera.
Sierra Rode |

GO&DO

WHAT: Four performances of epic pop-opera “Les Miserables” by High Desert Opera

WHEN: New Year’s Eve — Dec. 31; Friday and Saturday, Jan. 3 & 4; Saturday, Jan. 11. All performances at 7 p.m.

WHERE: Grand Junction High School Auditorium,

COST: $39, $29, $19 and $10; Plus, senior/youth discounts available

INFO: HDO box office: 970-523-9605 (Hours Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) or Highdesertopera.org

Tickets also available at Roper Music, 136 N. 5th St.

Tickets are slightly higher at the door.

Although we don’t live in New York City — or Denver — fans of the performing arts can still attend a fully staged Broadway musical production in Grand Junction thanks to former Broadway actor James Werner.

Werner and his wife Marnie founded High Desert Opera in Grand Junction 10 years ago. What began as a New Years Eve gala concert in 2003 eventually evolved into Broadway productions, including “Man of La Mancha,” “Sound of Music,” “Camelot,” and “I Do! I Do!”

On New Year’s Eve (Tuesday, Dec. 31) and the following two weekends, High Desert Opera will present “Les Miserables” — a story about nineteenth century France based on the epic Victor Hugo novel.



“‘Les Miserables’ is one of the most produced and seen musicals of all time,” said Lee Borden, who portrays the opportunist, pick-pocket innkeeper Thenardier.

Rights to produce the fully staged Broadway show have only recently been released, which makes the upcoming Grand Junction performance a historical event, Borden said. Prior non-Broadway productions have been musical presentations only — not the complete fully staged show,



Werner dropped everything to secure the production rights once it became available, High Desert board member Marnie Benson said.

“It’s been one of his dreams to produce this show,” she said. “If you’ve never seen a High Desert show, you should catch this one. It’s an incredible production.”

Werner directs and stars as the lead Jean Valjean. Another principal, the character Javert, is performed by both Greg Watts and Jeffrey Randall. There are 53 people in the show, with some roles double-cast.

Jack Delmore, a music professor at Colorado Mesa University, portrays the crooked innkeeper along with Borden and Dylan Cox, who all take turns appearing as Thenardier.

“This is a really big show,” Delmore said. “It’s a French musical that’s been translated into lots of languages (including English).”

Werner elicited a diversity of talent, including professional performers, church choir singers, private voice students and CMU music students, Benson said.

Juli Jacobson — who portrays Madam Thernardier, the innkeeper’s wife — graduated from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City. After a recent dress rehearsal, Jacobson said she experienced “goosebumps” hearing it all come together for the first time.

“It is so beautiful, so impressive,” she said.

The musical is performed to a live orchestra conducted by Scott Betts.

The story of “Les Miserables” is about the poor, starving and destitute street people of 1800s France. A student uprising explodes on the tail of the French Revolution, after there was no change in the plight of the poor.

Cast members auditioned in May, and have been rehearsing since June. In the past three weeks, performers have been rehearsing up to four hours a day, three times a week.

“Jim Werner has an amazing ability to direct, teach, cajole and encourage to get the absolute most out of all these people,” Benson said.

“It’s a tremendous show. Victor Hugo’s novel is amazing, and for the composers to be able to convey as much of the story as they did is remarkable,” Borden said. Plus, “the music is unforgettable; very powerful.”


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