Attending high school musical productions often means sitting through yet another version of Anything Goes, Oliver! or West Side Story. Not anymore. Since Les Misérables — the "School Edition" — became available, over 900 high schools throughout the U.S. have secured the rights for the international hit, which is still playing Broadway's Imperial Theatre.
Music Theatre International, the dramatic licensing agency that specializes in Broadway, Off-Broadway and West End musicals, now offers a specially adapted version of the Alain Boublil-Claude Michel Schönberg musical for high school students. Approved by the authors and producer of the musical, this version runs just over two hours — its Broadway counterpart is nearly three hours in length. There are, however, several provisions for schools that wish to stage the famed musical. According to the Music Theatre International website, Les Misérables School Edition may only be presented at schools if the entire cast is 19 years of age or younger. The entire cast must also be comprised of full-time students (high school, middle school or elementary school) who are amateur performers and who are not paid any salary. And, the production may not offer more than ten performances over a consecutive three-week period.
About the Les Miz frenzy, Freddie Gershon, the chairman of Music Theatre International, told the Denver Post, "It's a staggering response, beyond the high end of how the best musicals do at the high school level." In fact, the requests for Les Misérables are double those seen by Guys and Dolls and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, two oft-performed shows on the high school level. MTI's director of creative development, Tim McDonald, added, "This is bypassing all traditions, because the first-class, original production is still alive, and it's never been licensed to professionals . . . It's incredible, really, to think that many of the high-school actors who will now be performing the show were not even born when Les Miz opened on Broadway.
Produced by Cameron Mackintosh, Les Misérables opened at the Broadway Theatre on March 12, 1987, and moved to the Imperial Theatre Oct. 17, 1990. Based on Victor Hugo's famed novel, Les Miz features a book by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, music by Schönberg and lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer. The original French text was written by Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel with additional text by James Fenton. Tickets to the Broadway production are available by calling Telecharge at (212) 239 6200.
Those schools interested in producing Les Miserables School Edition should call (212) 541-4684. For more information, visit the Music Theatre International website at www.mtishows.com.