Kevin Hauge has long dreamed a dream that Children's Musical Theater San Jose would defy expectations for a children's company.
Over the years, the 45-year-old troupe has tackled such challenging fare as "Candide," "Sideshow" and "Miss Saigon." CMT now is tackling Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg's blockbuster musical "Les Miserables," just before the much-ballyhooed movie version starring Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe hits the big screen.
It's one of the company's Marquee productions, which means that this production of the sweeping 19th-century saga is built around adult performers, many of whom are alumni of the program.
Hauge, the artistic director for CMT, recently took a few minutes to chat about how the company became the first regional theater to score the rights to the full-length version of the musical, which first stormed Broadway in 1987, and why this particular trip to the barricades will be something special.
Q How were you able to secure the rights to do the show?
A We have a relationship with Musical Theatre International. They like us to be the ones to test shows out and see what works. They know our work. So they are really our friends. We also had to wait until the tour closed in August, because as long as the tour was out there, they wouldn't let anyone else do it.
Q How is this version different from the production you did seven years ago?
A There are small
Adam Campbell is coming back. He is the real thing, just as good as it gets, as Jean Valjean. Sarah Statler is coming back to play Fantine. She is someone who is always working in New York, but she wants to come home, see her folks and give back a little. These are performers who can hit the notes but also capture the emotions. It's very touching to watch them come together. It's a little like a reunion for us.
Q It must be gratifying that so many kids who get their start at CMT go on to become professionals.
A It's amazing when that happens. Just recently, we had seven CMT alumni on Broadway at the same time. It's really great for the kids here to have role models like that so they can see what is possible.
Q Are any kids who were in the show the first time returning for this version?
A Yes. Hayley Steele is back playing Eponine, and my son Kyle is doing the show again. He is playing one of the students. Really, what we have here is a lot of top dogs in the same room. The best of the best want a chance to do 'Les Miz."
Q Just how epic will this production be? Will you do the revolve?
A Yes, we are doing the revolve, although I think the show would work without it. But there have been some cuts made. It's still epic, for sure, but your butt isn't quite as numb at the end. It's still a very big show, and it's crazy that we were able to do it for $125,000. That's really nothing but this organization is all about committed volunteers who are truly dedicated. We know how to make it happen.
Q How do you explain the enduring appeal of the musical?
A This is that rare show that everyone loves. Even people who don't know musicals know this show. They know the music when they hear it.
But the great part is that it hasn't been overexposed, not yet, anyway. I think a year from now, when everyone is doing it, it may be, but right now is the perfect time. We think that the buzz around the movie will also be good for the production. It's selling really well. It might even sell out.
By Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, based on the novel by Victor Hugo
Through: Friday through Dec. 9
Where: Children's Musical Theater San Jose, Montgomery Theater, 271 S. Market St. San Jose
Tickets: $30, 408-288-5437, www.cmtsj.org