‘Les Misérables’ continues through Sun...

‘Les Misérables’ continues through Sunday in Tucker Theatre (+VIDEO)

Some tickets are still available for this week’s MTSU Arts production of the Oscar- and Tony-winning musical “Les Misérables” in Tucker Theatre.

Performances are scheduled Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 19-21, at 7:30 each evening, and one matinee is planned at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 22.

You can buy tickets online at or at the Tucker Theatre box office before showtime.

General admission tickets for “Les Misérables” are $10 each. MTSU students, faculty and staff with valid IDs will be admitted free.

“Les Misérables” is the largest musical theater production staged to date at MTSU and is one of the first university-licensed complete Broadway versions presented in the country.

“It dwarfs anything we’ve ever done before,” musical director Raphael Bundage, a professor of vocal performance in MTSU’s School of Music, said of the two-act operetta. “We’ve had large casts before, but the ensembles and principals in this production bring the total to 52.”

The cast includes MTSU students and alumni as well as members of the surrounding community.

A crew of 25-plus and an 18-piece orchestra complete the team recreating the Paris Student Uprising of 1832 on a minimalist set with characters who’ve become household names from Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel: Jean Valjean, Inspector Javert, Fantine, Cosette.

You can watch a video from rehearsals below.

Some cast members are playing dual roles, while others are sharing their roles with colleagues over the four-night run. The full cast returned to MTSU two weeks before fall 2013 classes started for a daily eight hours of “musical boot camp” to prepare for the physically and vocally strenuous production.

“Eight hours a day gave them a real summer-stock, professional experience. They worked, and are working, so hard,” said director Kristi Shamburger, a Department of Speech and Theatre professor who also directed MTSU’s productions of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “Guys and Dolls” and “Into the Woods.”

“It’s amazed me to witness how hard these students are working,” added Alice Matlock Clements, a 2001 MTSU vocal performance alumna, professional singer and vocal teacher who’s portraying the doomed factory worker Fantine. She’s alternating the role with senior theater major Lindsey Mapes of Murfreesboro.

Professor Kristi Shamburger

“They’re all so talented. I know everyone who sees the show will enjoy it.”

Clements’ 8-year-old daughter, Caitlin, a student at Middle Tennessee Christian School, is sharing the role of the abused orphan, Little Cosette, with 12-year-old Sarah Oppmann, a student at Blackman Middle School.

Shamburger said the production is “very blessed to have Tucker Theatre as a space to present this.”

She added that the set design, which was created and implemented by the department’s production manager, Justin Durham, keeps everything the cast and crew needs on stage during the performance.

The design not only allows the cast to move set pieces but keeps the rapidly paced musical moving forward without pauses for set changes.

“Professor Shamburger has done a magnificent job of appointing that stage,” Bundage said of his producing partner. “We have big crowd scenes and lots of intimate chamber scenes with soliloquies, and every one of them works in the space.”

Shamburger noted, however, that the effort is a companywide one.

Dr. Raphael Bundage

“When a show is as epic as this one, and you don’t have a Broadway budget, you have to rely on magic a lot,” she joked, pointing out the stage lighting by MTSU alumnus Richard K. Davis, president of the Nashville-based Ardee Design Group and a lighting designer who’s worked from Las Vegas to Japan and from Nashville’s Circle Players to CNN Washington.

Sarah Upchurch of Smyrna, who’s sharing the ingénue Cosette role with fellow senior Kayla Holt, said she’s enjoying the opportunity to sing the songs she’s been singing since the long family car trips of childhood.

“‘Les Misérables’ is my favorite musical,” said Upchurch, who is majoring in vocal performance and vocal music education and wants to continue teaching music in a high school or elementary setting.

“It has a wonderful redemptive story that I love to hear.”

Junior vocal performance major Bill Hennings, who is MTSU’s Javert, said he loves the show for the same reason. He’s performed the role of the judgmental, dogged police inspector before and his character resonates strongly with audiences.

“You can’t look at life and at others with a narrow mind,” Hennings said. “You’ve got to get to know people.”

Spencer Miller, an MTSU vocal performance alumnus who now works at Naxos Music in Franklin, Tenn., is Hennings’ roommate and has the same love for the show. He has two roles: Bamatabois, Fantine’s violent “customer,” and Enjolras, the leader of the student uprising.

“I heard about it because all my friends were auditioning for it,” he recalled, adding that he and Hennings convinced their other roommates to audition, too.

“They’re not even musical people,” Miller said with a laugh, “but we got a very simple song and drilled these four or five guys on it for hours for two or three weeks straight. We came down and auditioned, and all of them got parts in the chorus.”

General admission tickets for “Les Misérables” are $10 each. MTSU students, faculty and staff with valid IDs will be admitted free.

“We’re just thrilled to be able to offer this production to the community,” Bundage said. “There are so many partnerships that brought it together through MTSU Arts, but we’re most proud of the preprofessional experience we’re offering these students. They are professionals in every sense of the word.”

For more information about the show, visit and click on the “Les Misérables” banner. You also can call 615-494-8810.

— Gina E. Fann (

A few cast members from the MTSU Arts production of “Les Misérables” pose for publicity photos on the Tucker Theatre stage before rehearsals. Shown on the front row are senior Sarah Upchurch, who portrays the adult Cosette; McFadden School of Excellence student Charles Shamburger, who plays Gavroche; alumna Alice M. Clements, who portrays Fantine; Middle Tennessee Christian School student Caitlin Clements, who plays Little Cosette; and senior Stephen White, who portrays Marius. Standing behind them on the “barricades” are, from left, MTSU junior Bill Hennings, who plays Inspector Javert; senior Drew Jenkins, who plays Jean Valjean; junior Abbey Kairdolf, who portrays Madame Thénardier; and sophomore Ben George, who plays Monsieur Thénardier. Performances are set Sept. 19-22. (MTSU photos by J. Intintoli)

Inspector Javert (MTSU junior Bill Hennings), left, argues with Jean Valjean (senior Drew Jenkins) over the body of Fantine (alumna Alice M. Clements) during rehearsals for the MTSU Arts production of “Les Misérables” in Tucker Theatre. Performances are set Sept. 19-22.

Cast members for this week’s MTSU Arts production of “Les Misérables” rehearse a scene in the “pub” on the stage of Tucker Theatre. From left are junior Abbey Kairdolf, who portrays Madame Thénardier; sophomore Ben George, who plays Monsieur Thénardier; and Middle Tennessee Christian School student Caitlin Clements, who plays Little Cosette.

MTSU theatre professor Kristi Shamburger, right, offers stage direction to alumna Alice M. Clements, center, who is portraying Fantine in this week’s MTSU Arts production of “Les Misérables” in Tucker Theatre. At left is senior Drew Jenkins, who plays Jean Valjean.