After more than 16 years on Broadway, and an even longer run in London’s West End, there’s no doubting the popular appeal of Les Misérables. When a three-hour musical based on an even more dauntingly long 19th-century French novel captures the hearts of so many theatergoers, something special must be going on. David Holmes, the San Marcos teacher who is directing the school’s upcoming production of the show, knows just what that something is: “I didn’t completely appreciate the quality of the writing in the musical until I read the book,” he said last week during rehearsal. “It’s my favorite novel, but it has passages that you slog through because you know if the effort will pay off in the end, whereas the musical achieves a spectacular condensation of the action.”
This enthusiasm for the way song can tell a complex story is just one of the things that Holmes has shared over his three decades of leadership in the theater department at San Marcos High. Another of his most cherished principles, student ownership of the show, can be seen in the enthusiasm with which current Royals are embracing their roles in front of and behind the curtain; there will be no adults backstage during these complex and expensive shows, just high schoolers.
There’s also an additional element that’s sure to get everyone’s attention: the new revolving stage. Veteran craftsman Dave Johnson created the carousel that’s so crucial to the Les Mis experience, and Holmes would like nothing better than to see it revolving all year round. “At 18 feet across, it will fit on every stage in Santa Barbara,” Holmes said, “and it’s not for rent because I won’t charge for it. It can only be borrowed, and I like to think that it will become a community asset. It would make me feel really good if it did.”
Les Misérables opens at San Marcos High School Theater (4750 Hollister Ave.) on Thursday, May 1, and runs through Saturday, May 10. Call (805) 967-4581 or visit shopsmroyals.org for tickets and info.