October 2018 (Milwaukee, WI) — Divine Savior Holy Angels High School is giving women a bigger role and a louder voice in the upcoming stage production of Les Misérables.
The musical, based on the popular novel by Victor Hugo, features 52 female cast members and an all-female production and technical crew from DSHA, an all-girls Catholic school on Milwaukee’s northwest side.
Twelve male actors from several high schools and 13 students from 10 local middle schools will also fill roles in the production.
“The moments in this show that grab me, that haunt me, are when large groups of women are on stage,” Rhonda Schmidt, DSHA’s theatre director, said.
Amplifying women’s voices in a production that’s historically lacked them meant finding ways for Schmidt to give weightier roles to the female students she’s working with. Schmidt said the plays feature “a mix cast of both men and women — not women playing men, but women fighting alongside of men — in a time where young people were standing up for their rights and what they believed to be just.”
The role of Madame Thenardier (played by DSHA senior Isabella Falci), for instance, has traditionally taken a backseat to the character’s husband, Monsieur Thenardier (played by Audubon Technology and Communication Center High School senior Thomas Sullivan). But Schmidt said she’s worked to balance out both roles’ speaking parts, giving the female a more prominent role than would normally have been the case.
The shows also feature ballads by female characters Cosette (DSHA senior Madeleine Keane), Fantine (junior Mary Elizabeth Stern) and Eponine (sophomore Riley Halpern).
The play follows ex-convict and main protagonist Jean Valjean (Marquette University High School senior Richard Becker). Other prominent roles include Javert (MUHS junior Andre Canseco) and Marius (MUHS senior Christian Spaay).
Three DSHA students (including seniors Alyssa Arnold and Emma Sedgwick and junior Alejandra Razo) are serving as assistant directors – taking on leadership roles typically given to working professionals, such as marketing, stage blocking, and more.
“Les Misérables is a story of redemption, of human rights in respect to workers’ rights, women’s rights and the rights of the poor,” Schmidt said, noting a play highlighting social movements in 19th-century France fits well with DSHA’s current students and with modern audiences.
“They see this connection,” Schmidt said, “of speaking up as a young person for human rights and being heard.”
Showtimes and special features:
Showings are scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 2-3 and Nov. 9-10. Matinees are scheduled for 2 p.m. on Nov. 4 and 11. All performances will be at the DSHA Robert and Marie Hansen Family Fine Arts Theatre, located at 4257 N. 100th St., Milwaukee.
A Les Misérables Carnival — an exhibit of French culture including food, art and a photo booth — will take place at 1 p.m. before the Nov. 4 and 11 shows. And “Family Fun Night” events — which will include pizza — will be at 6 p.m. before the Nov. 2 and 9 shows.
For tickets, visit dsha.info/tickets or call 414-616-2813.