Barely back from spring break, a group of La Cañada High School students is working overtime rehearsing for a spring musical that combines the talents of the choir, instrumental and theater departments in the dramatic tour de force "Les Misérables."
Running April 19 through 22, the colossal production features an ensemble cast, choreography and live music that will be synchronized with choral performances. Though guided by director and choreographer Orlando Alexander and assistant director Zoe Bright, the show is entirely run by students.
With close to 80 students participating, the musical is one of the largest student-produced events at La Cañada High, according to theater director Justin Eick.
"It's a big show," he said. "The last time I did this show (in 2010) I threw my back out."
The epic production is a fitting send-off to two LCHS seniors who've risen to the top of their respective fields and who happen to be playing the two male leads Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert — Anthony Crehan and Finn Sagal.
Crehan joined the theater class as a freshman and has appeared in more than a dozen Playhouse productions. He said he and Sagal had hoped this year's musical might be "Les Miserables." They were thrilled to discover earlier this year their hunches were right.
"Last year in math class we were like, 'What if we did "Les Mis?"' Crehan said of the selection made by Eick, choral director Dr. Jeff Brookey and music director Jason Stone. "It's really cool that it happened that way."
Knowing Sagal was leaning toward the role of Javert, Crehan tried out for Valjean and snagged the part. It will be Crehan's last high school production before he heads off to UCLA's Theater Department, a competitive program that accepts just 20 students each year. He's excited to continue his craft.
"The medium doesn't matter as much to me," Crehan said. "What I love is being someone else for a little while and portraying someone else through my body and my actions."
Eick shared his thoughts on Crehan's exceptional talents.
"He has a work ethic that is indefatigable, and he truly cares about how other people are doing," Eick said. "He's one of the most humble and generous people you'll ever see."
Sagal joined the choir freshman year, but only recently discovered his passion for vocal performance might guide his future career. Last August, he won "2017 Great American Songbook Youth Ambassador" offered by Emmy and Grammy Award winning-artist Michael Feinstein and has since appeared in several high-profile performances.
He auditioned for Eick's advanced theater program last year and was accepted.
"He has a natural charisma and an honesty that makes him unbelievably watchable," Eick said. "You forget he's acting and get sucked into the story, which is rare to find in someone so young."
Sagal was eager to land the villainous role of Javert, known for its challenging vocals. But he's also looking forward to all students getting their moments in the spotlight, including female leads Nicole Reynolds (Fantine), Sarah Lee (Cosette) and Lisa Son (Eponine).
"One of the great things about this show is everyone gets to shine," he said.
Accepted to UCLA and Northwestern University, Sagal has yet to make a final decision but knows he wants to study voice. Still, the thought of a last performance at LCHS is tinged with sadness.
"It's very emotional, especially with a show like this that's so moving and so powerful," Sagal said. "It's going to be very difficult from this point on, where everyone I'm working with isn't my best friend."
For times and ticket prices, visit the La Cañada Playhouse online.