Courtesy Photo

As led by Artistic Director Janet Adderley, the Santa Barbara Youth Ensemble Theatre (SBYET) has developed a reputation for giving young performers the benefit of professional production values and high artistic expectations. Long known as the city’s primary incubator for those children talented enough to turn pro before they graduate, SBYET this season can claim another title as a place where seemingly unbearable trauma can be treated and from which survivors like Lauren Cantin can rise again to let their voices be heard.

Cantin, who lost most of her family in the Montecito mudslides and was herself buried alive until firefighters rescued her on live television, next came to the public’s attention at the Kick Ash Bash as the girl who sang “God Bless America.” Despite the savage difficulties she faced in the weeks after January 9, 2018, Cantin persevered with her training at the Adderley School on lower State Street, and, thanks to her own fortitude and the faith of both her mother and her teacher Janet Adderley, she has made the decision to be part of the show she committed to back before any of this happened, the classic musical of love and loss, Les Misérables.

Talking with me about what informed that decision on Cantin’s part to continue with the show, Adderley recalled the first time she spoke to her after seeing the rescue on television. “I asked her how the responders knew where she was, and Lauren said to me ‘I screamed so they could find me,’” said Adderley. “And then I said to her, ‘Lauren, you used your voice. Your voice is what saved your life.’” Since that day, many others have found something life-affirming in the middle schooler’s voice. For one, Katy Perry has asked Lauren, along with the rest of the cast of Les Mis, to join her onstage at the Santa Barbara Bowl for the chorus of her hit “Fireworks” when she performs a benefit there on Saturday, May 19. Despite the excitement, it’s likely the kids will sleep well that night, as they will already have performed two shows that day at the Lobero, one at 1 p.m. and the other at 5 p.m. Sunday’s performances are at 2 and 6 p.m. For tickets and information, visit or call (805) 963-0761.


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