In terms of sheer numbers, "Les Miserables" has an outstanding track record: 16 years on Broadway, 1986-2003, followed by a national tour that ended only last year. What's more, a revival of the musical opened in New York in March.
The stage version of "Les Miz" has been seen by thousands since its Paris premiere in 1980. And then came the movie in 2012, which pushed the audience into the millions.
All those highlights present something of a challenge for any community theater attempting a production of the beloved musical. And Brent Rochon, director of Stars' production of "Les Miz," is well aware of the obstacles he faces in staging the show that opens Friday.
"We have a lot of expectations to live up to," he said. "But Greg Mansi has done a great job building the set -- it's on several levels -- and Gabe Urena has done an incredible job with the lights."
Vocal director Brenda Baldwin credits Rochon with fitting a show that has a cast of 31 and multiple settings onto a stage that's much smaller in comparison to those in larger metropolitan areas.
"It's been a creative challenge to bring it to a small stage," she said, "and so much of the scaling down Brent has done."
The music itself is a major factor in the show.
"This is an absolutely demanding show in terms of vocalizing," Baldwin said. "We've been in rehearsal for seven weeks, and we spent the first two weeks learning the music."
Rochon, noted for his skill as a choreographer and dancer in previous shows, has a different kind of challenge in this production.
"It's more movement than choreography," he said. "It's more fluid because the music keeps going -- there's no time to pause in between."
Theatergoers will find several new faces along with veteran performers as they sing and dramatize the musical, based on the 19th century novel by Victor Hugo.
For instance, Ken Burdick portrays Javert, the cruel policeman who's determined to kill or capture Jean Valjean, a former convict played by Kevin Trueblood, and Jennifer Resolme is Fantine, the prostitute who's trying to support her child, Cosette, played by Tessa Ogles.
Among the newbies are James Rowlee (Marius) -- in real life he's the owner of a dance studio in Delano --and Izamar Olaguez, (Eponine) a Bakersfield resident who recently won the title of Miss San Bernardino County.
Live music will be provided by a five-piece ensemble that includes two keyboards. "Les Miz" continues at Stars through Oct. 19.
BCT academy's recital
For its first show since its founding in July, the Bakersfield Community Theatre's Academy of Arts will present "A Night at the Movies" this weekend.
"This is a recital showcase of what each class has learned over the past 12 weeks," said Kenneth Whitchard, artistic director. "All of the teachers have taken the (movie) theme and used their imagination to create something for their class to perform."
Those studying dance and vocalizing will perform music from different types of movies. The "access to acting" class wrote the script. All the music is prerecorded, but the students will sing live. Running time for the show is about one hour.
"This is our first academy production, and I am beyond proud of the students and my staff," Whitchard said. "I would like to see more young people in our program. This past trimester there were 14 students, and I'd like to see that double or triple this next trimester."
Three new classes have been added to the next 12-week series of instruction. These include improvisation, clogging and theatrical makeup.
Teachers are Moddie Mena, dance; Kara McDonald, acting; and Hannah DiMolfetto, voice.
Registration is being taken now for the instruction, which begins Oct. 19 and ends with a recital on Jan. 24-25. Fee for each class is $100 with a $20 registration fee.
Dust Bowl talk
Members and guests of the 60 Plus Club will get a preview of Cal State Bakersfield's yearlong celebration of the 75th anniversary of the publication of "The Grapes of Wrath" on Oct. 3 in the Icardo Center.
Richard Collins, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, is guest speaker. He will focus on some of the events CSUB is planning and their connection to Kern County, said Ted Murphy, club president.
John Steinbeck's novel about the migrant labor camps in Kern County during the Dust Bowl era of the Great Depression was published in 1939 and made into a movie starring Henry Fonda in 1940.
Considered "uncomplimentary" to the Central Valley, it was banned by the Kern County Board of Supervisors but won a National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for Steinbeck, and led to his Nobel Prize for literature in 1962.
The first event on Oct. 13 is Cal State's way of welcoming the artists and writers of the National Steinbeck Center, based in Salinas. The group is retracing the journey the fictional Joad family took from Oklahoma to the Weedpatch Camp near Arvin.