Amidst cheers and chants of “Viva La France,” Connellsville Area High School musical director Michelle Harbaugh and her production staff recently revealed this year’s 49th annual high school musical, “Les Miserables School Edition,” to a crowd of students.

Director Michelle Harbaugh said she loves the excitement building up to the announcement each year.

“It’s like Christmas morning for them,” she said. “I like doing that for the kids.”

Jersey Boys, West Side Story and a few others were among the possibilities for this year’s production, but Harbaugh said she settled on Les Miserables because there are so many different roles available for the students.

“There are many leading, supporting and ensemble roles, which will provide stage experience for all of our students,” she said. “The music is spectacular and the sets and technical aspects will provide new and wide ranging hands-on experiences for our crew.”

Senior Anthony Pouliot said this show is really something the students themselves wanted.

“Most of the kids I asked just really wanted to do this musical,” he said. “I’m surprised and excited that it’s actually the show we’re doing. It’s very near and dear to all of us, and we are excited to have the opportunity to share it with the community.”

Senior Parker Carte, who played the phantom in last year’s production of “Phantom of the Opera,” said he’s wanted the school to do the show since he was a freshman.

“I think that this show could be one of the best shows Connellsville has ever put on,” he said. “This year is going to be a special one.”

Set in early 19th-century France, “Les Misérables” is the story of Jean Valjean, a French peasant, and his desire for redemption after serving 19 years in jail for having stolen a loaf of bread for his sister’s starving child.

Valjean decides to break his parole and decides to live his life walking the straight and narrow after a bishop inspires him by a tremendous act of mercy.

Despite his life changes, he continues to be relentlessly tracked down by a police inspector named Javert.

Along the way, Valjean and a significant amount of other characters are swept into a revolutionary period in France, where a group of young idealists attempt to overthrow the government at a street barricade.

“It’s an uplifting story, which is familiar to many from its many years on Broadway, and it gives everyone a chance to shine — singers, actors, dancers, orchestra members and crew members,” Harbaugh said.

While there are some risque parts in the Broadway version, Harbaugh said the school edition version is a little more scaled back.

“We’re doing the school edition, which still has a few things — it’s not G rated — but it is written to be performed by high schools, so it is high school approved,” she said.

Some of the familiar songs in the show include: “I Dreamed a Dream,” “Castle on a Cloud,” “Bring Him Home,” “Master of the House,” “Stars,” “A Heart Full of Love,” “On My Own,” and “Do You Hear the People Sing.”

Harbaugh said for the next three months, she and her production staff will put their lives into the show.

“Some of us have been doing this together for so long, that we’re like a family,” she said. “We just all love it. It’s one of the best things that we do. To be able to pass on that love of musical theater to the student is rewarding.”

Armstrong Cable is again sponsoring the musical this year. Any other business interested in sponsorships can contact Harbaugh at the high school at 724-628-1350 or by emailing her at mharbaugh@casdfalcons.org.

Anyone interested in being a donor to the musical can send donations to Connellsville Area High School, Attn: Michelle Harbaugh, 201 Falcon Drive, Connellsville, PA 15425.

Checks should be made payable to “CAHS Musical Club.”

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