WEST PORTSMOUTH — For the first time since its’ inception in 1988, the Portsmouth West High School Musical Theatre Department will present its spring production on a newly constructed outdoor stage.
The “Free to the Public” event will feature the iconic music from Les Misérables. The one-night event will begin at 8 p.m, Friday, May 21, at the PWHS stadium.
“We have not had a public performance since December 2019, so this is all brand-new territory,” explained Linda Tieman “but it became my mission, my goal to bring it back. We had to find a way.”
The Portsmouth West High School Administration stepped in to help make the outdoor venue possible with every precaution being instituted to ensure the safety of the students and the public. The final approval came shortly after Easter and the theater department went to work.
“The students voted on a production and they chose Les Misérables’, a story that is largely told through the music,” Tieman said. “It’s been a challenge to pull it together in five weeks when we usually have five months, but it is working, the students are making it happen.”
Ryan Thompson, a PWHS senior and theater veteran since age six, will be portraying Javert, one of the leads. Les Misérables is his favorite musical, and he is excited to be performing in this year’s production.
One of the longest-running musicals in the country, Les Misérables is told through the music and lyrics, depicting a period in history when overcoming adversity and challenges, second chances, loss and redemption are paramount. These are all messages that resonate still today, especially since the COVID pandemic.
The last 18 months have been difficult for students involved in the arts throughout the county. Sophomore Abigail Hazelbaker, cast as Cosette in the musical, is excited to be back doing what she loves. “I am absolutely happy to be back. I really missed doing something I love.”
Xavier Camden, lead cast member, reiterated his excitement to be returning. “I missed the structure it offers. I know it takes a lot of time, but we choose to do it, and to support each other.”
Jacob Bays (Marius in the musical) has missed the heart and soul aspect of the Arts. “We are a family.” A message that is echoed in their Theater Department motto “All for One and One for All.”
“Over the past year, there was nothing to look forward to,” senior and castmate Zoe-Hanna Rawlins remarked. “Les Misérables was the first musical we were exposed to as freshman and as a senior, it feels good to be doing it again for the public.”
The “free to the public” musical event will be performed at the PWHS stadium with a cast and choir totally some fifty-four (54) students and choir. The 40×40 outdoor stage constructed by Ed Ingles and Gary Tieman will be highlighted by the backdrop of the Kentucky hills and the music echoing through the expansive seating area.
Lead cast members include Ryan Thompson, Taran Willis, Hayden Runyons, Zoe-Hanna Rawlins, Ashlynn Pfau, Abigail Hazelbaker, Haven Hileman, Evan Green, Anna Lovins and Jacob Bays in addition to the Portsmouth West Chamber Choir.
Tieman, who is well-established in music theatre has been very successful at Portsmouth West High School and her students learn the love of music and music theatre and are always enthusiastic when speaking of what they have learned from her teaching. Recent studies by the Find Your Light Foundation have shown that students who take four years of arts and music classes average almost 100 points higher on SAT scores and graduation rates increase from 78% to 96% nationwide.
Many of these students are awarded scholarships and advance to college with a solid foundation. That has been especially true in the Portsmouth West School System, with dozens of alumni continuing their advanced education at universities across the country.
Reach Kimberly Jenkins (740)353-3101 ext. 1928
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