Meet the Cast of Dakota’s Les Mis!

Emily Gottlieb, Writer

Dakota’s Theatre program presents: Les Misérables! If you haven’t done so already, get your tickets soon! This production is sure to be a hit, as Dakota productions always are. I interviewed several members of the cast to not only find out about the show, but also other very important and interesting topics.

Each year, Dakota productions bring in thousands of people to see the musical. Andrew Deacon, a Junior, explained why people should come out this year, saying that “it’s not only a phenomenal story with great music, it’s just an important story. It’s about redemption, and how people can redeem themselves. It’s really heart-warming and tear-jerking at the same time.” Deacon is playing Javert, who hunts the main character, Jean Valjean, throughout the musical. Zach Burnham plays Valjean, and is a senior. He explained why there is such a huge draw for audiences to see productions at Dakota. “We’ve built up a reputation of putting in the time and having the resources. Whether that be the teachers or the instrumentalists in the pit. There is, however, many months in between [auditions and the show] where we are rehearsing and getting together and making sure that everything we do is ready for the stage. We have vocal coaches for Les Mis, which we haven’t had in other productions. We’re taking our time making sure that what we put out there is something that people will remember and that’s why people come back.”

Dakota Theatre has been putting out high quality productions for many years. The director, Ms. Schmidt is also a  geometry teacher at Dakota High School. When asked if she had ever considered creating a geometry-themed musical, she said she had only considered it “as a joke, never really serious!” So sorry folks, but the productions will continue to be non-math themed. Still, Ms. Schmidt has plenty of experience with putting on productions. She said that she has been “dancing, performing, directing and choreographing for most of my life in some capacity or another since age 4.  I’ve been part of the musical theater scene since my Freshman year of high school. I believe that this is my 37th show on stage or behind the scenes.”  She also said: “I became a director a few years after I was performing in college and teaching dance and choreography starting at the age of 17. I believe I directed and choreographed my first show at 21.” She is one of the many people responsible for making sure that this production is the highest quality possible, along with Ms. Wygocki, Mr. Walker, Max Pagano and Tech Crew, the Theatre Parents, and Mr. Makarewicz and the pit. 

This production is full of students with various different roles. Brooke Pacifico and Nina Koos are the Dance Captains. Koos explained that her job is being “someone that another student falls back on. We help Ms. Schmidt, who is our choreographer, clean up dances, make them look better, [and] make things run a little smooth after she’s choreographed it and run it for us.” Pacifico added that “we don’t exactly make up the dances, but we definitely help her with that because she has a million other things to do. We’re just kind of in a leadership position helping others clearing questions and just being there for others.” “Just being someone for the other kids to watch if they need any help while we’re learning or anything else like that,” Koos added. 

Jessica Lenkevich, a senior, is playing Cosette. She explained that she started doing theater at Dakota in “ 8th grade in Mary Poppins, so that makes it five years. Dang.” Many of the seniors have been doing theater for most or all of high school, and are incredibly devoted to the program. Lenkevich talked about her dream role, saying that she would want to be in “Bonnie and Clyde, and I would love to be Bonnie. I love that show and I love the idea of being someone who is like the literal opposite of who I am, and that is a psyco-murderer. I love all the songs in it the like old blues feeling. I just love that show.” Nina Koos explained her opposite gender dream role: “The Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland because that character is so fun and so crazy and would be definitely something different than I’ve ever played before.” Ms. Schmidt gave a different point of view, saying that “I am right where I belong at the moment.” She did however say: “I Love being in the ensemble numbers where you typically dance more than any leads,” when asked about a dream role. 

Both Colin Johnson (senior, Marius) and Katherine Wanamaker (senior, Old Woman) explained their favorite scenes from the show. Johnson said “when Eponine (Bianca Cabarios)(*SPOILER ALERT*) dies, when she gets shot I feel like that’s just a very like breathtaking kind of scene.” Wanamaker said “the scene that stands out to me the most  is in “Lovely Ladies.” 

Trevor Markwood, a senior playing Thénardier, gave a perspective on what it is that draws him to doing musical theater: “The thing that I love most about musicals is you just get to find a family around you and and just have a lot of fun with them. You get to go out and stage you just get to sing your heart out, you get to act your heart out, you get to dance your heart out, and you’re surrounded by people who care about you and who want you to succeed. It’s gonna be one of the best experiences of your life because there’s nothing better than just going out on stage and showing the true you to everyone around you.” 

The musical cast has a chaotic and full schedule while getting ready for the show. Zach Burnham explained how he manages this. “The musical runs for a pretty large amount of time of the year, and then sometimes we do a play later on in the year, which takes up even more time. It’s a lot of just being self-disciplined and knowing that I have to get stuff done when I don’t have things going on. For me, it’s been  learning time management and how every second or minute is kind of precious when youre devoting hours of your time to practicing at home as well as practicing at school. It really just comes down to knowing yourself knowing what you can get done and planning things out. I make a lot of lists of like to do and everything. You just gotta make sure that you do it within the time period you have and youll be good.” These students don’t have much free time, but Colin Johnson said “for my free time, which I don’t have a lot of, I like to do other activities. I do student government, I’m on the executive board for that [and] currently, we are planning the fourth largest leadership conference in North America, so that kind of takes up a big chunk of time. Other than that I love movies. Me and my friends go to a movie at least once a week to Tuesday $5 matinees, those are the best. Any chance I get I love to sit down and like watch a movie whether its doing homework with it or just kind of going out.” 

When most of us think about performing in a musical, we think about how absolutely terrifying it must be to be up on that stage in that setting. Brooke Pacifico said “I do not get nervous because I mean, this is what I love to do so if I’m so certain about this like I don’t see a reason to get nervous, you know.” Even if you don’t get nervous, however, things can still always go wrong. Colin Johnson recalled the time “during Beauty and the Beast opening night my pants split open and mic fell out and it was swinging like in between my legs during the tango. I had to run off stage and it ended up breaking so they had to get me a new mic and then I had to go put on my emergency pair of pants because I ripped my pants because I was kicking too high.”

Zach Burnham talked about how he gets all his energy. Surprisingly, it’s not caffeine. “Contrary to probably popular belief, I do not drink that much caffeine at all actually. Pepsi used to be my favorite drink but I just stopped [drinking] it one day because I was like ‘oh that’s probably bad for me’ and you know turns out it was because after I stopped drinking pop, I just felt healthier. I guess I just have energy because that’s who I am. I’m energetic just as a human being I always have been even without the pop.” He also talked about his ideal vacation, which would be “a tropical island because you cannot go wrong with tropical island. I like my warm weather  I like my beaches and my water. I’d [also] want to go to a European country. I’m a big fan of like the German culture. I’ve taken all four years of German at DHS so I’d love to go to Germany and speak German with them.”

I decided to get the opinion of the theater kids on several topics. The reviews on the Cats movie have been mixed, so I decided to ask Andrew Deacon for his opinion, and he did not disappoint. “My opinion on cats: I love it. It was atrocious to watch in theaters. I saw it like first weekend it came out. If you go in looking for a story or any sort of like plot or anything, it’s gonna be horrible for you, but if you take it for what it is: people who are CGI’d to look like cats singing good songs, then it will be really fun for you. It’s like, you’re just being dragged along for this ride that you have no clue whats going on, and the main character does not know anything. [He] knows just as much as you, which is absolutely nothing, so I just think it’s a great experience, contrary to popular belief.” I also asked Trevor Markwood for his opinion on Baby Yoda, and he provided a more controversial opinion. “Personally, I have not watched the Mandalorian, but I thought Baby Yoda started off good. I saw him like once and I thought, oh that’s kind of cute. and then  I saw him again, and then I saw him again, and now he’s everywhere on my twitter feed. I think it’s just honestly very overplayed at this point.  I think Baby Groot is far superior and overall, not a fan.” Brooke Pacifico explained her views on whether Evan Hansen( from the musical Dear Evan Hansen), is a good person or not by saying: “I believe no, I mean, nobody should lie their way into like getting friends because that’s just not showing who you are. If I wanna be your friend, I wanna know who you are as a person. If I [were] to befriend you through a lie, then I wouldn’t be able to trust you. I don’t think that he shows [trust and loyalty].” 

The musical is opening tonight, February 6th, and performances will be on the 6th, 7th, 8th and 13th, 14th, and 15th.  Tickets can be purchased during all lunches or via the link below  This is sure to be an amazing production that you won’t want to miss! Break a leg, Les Misérables Cast!

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