Emmys choreographer tapped to helm La Cañada Playhouse production of ‘Les Miserables’

Sunday night was showtime for choreographer Orlando Alexander, who led a team of 12 dancers through a live performance before a star-studded audience at the Los Angeles Convention Center’s Governors Ball — the official after-party of the 69th Annual Emmy Awards.

Monday afternoon, however, found Alexander playing a different sort of lead role at La Cañada High School, where he has been tapped as director of the school’s spring musical “Les Miserables.”

Alongside LCHS choral director Dr. Jeff Brookey, the Pasadena-based choreographer and director conducted a round of call-back auditions to help cast student performers in the production scheduled to run April 19 to 22.

“The professionalism and the work ethic here is amazing,” said Alexander, whose CV includes teaching stints at Burbank’s John Burroughs High School and Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. “I don’t know what they put in the water here, but there’s so much talent, and it’s a regular high school!”

The show isn’t Alexander’s first foray onto campus — he’s choreographed past productions for the La Cañada Playhouse, including “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Music Man” and the school’s last performance of “Les Miserables” in 2010 — but his helming this year’s production marks the first time the theater has invited a guest director to the stage.

Justin Eick, theater teacher and chair of the school’s fine arts department, said he decided to call for back-up remembering the difficulty he had eight years ago trying to handle everything on his own for a show as large and multifaceted as “Les Miz.”

“It definitely has a reputation for being a monster of a show,” Eick said. “The costumes, the set, the props, the sound effects are overwhelming for a high school for sure.”

So he called on Alexander, a longtime personal friend and colleague at Glendale’s Centre Theatre, to take the reins and help stage the production. Planning started nearly a month ago, but work had to be halted temporarily to accommodate Alexander’s rehearsals for three Emmy Award performances — two for the technical and creative arts awards ceremonies and Sunday night’s prime-time awards show.

“On the rehearsal door, there was a sign that said ‘Emmys rehearsals,’” he recalled. “It’s funny how you just put up a sign and everything changes.”

Interestingly enough, Alexander secured the notable gig precisely because of his connection to La Cañada High School.

Michelle Lynskey, a live events director and mother to La Cañada Playhouse star senior Anthony Crehan, was looking for choreography help for the Governors Ball and called Eick for a recommendation. The teacher immediately recommended Alexander, who created ensemble dance numbers for Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” and Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September.”

“It was really special — just surreal,” Alexander said of the Emmy night performances. “And it’s all because of right here in La Cañada.”

The La Cañada Playhouse 2017-18 season officially begins Sunday at 7 p.m., with the free performance of the John Patrick comedy “The Curious Savage,” running through Tuesday. “Les Miserables” will run April 19 through 22 and tickets are set at $20. For a full listing, visit lacanadaplayhouse.org. To learn more about Orlando Alexander, visit orlandoalexander.com.

sara.cardine@latimes.com

Twitter: @SaraCardine

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