Sandy Creek HS gets 6 award nominations for 'Les Miz'

From left, are Marius and Cosette (Anthony Spezzano and Shannon Joyner) and Eponine, Valjean, and Fantine (Stephanie Earle, Jesse Alexander, Feleecia Thompson). Photo/Special.

The Sandy Creek High School Chorus and Drama Production of “Les Miserables School Edition” received six nominations in the 2010 Shuler Hensley Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theatre.

The Sandy Creek High School Chorus and Drama Departments have produced an annual spring musical for the past 16 years. This is the first time they have entered their production in the Shulers, which is only in its second year, sponsored by the Cobb Energy Centre for the Performing Arts.

The “Les Miz” production received certificates of excellence for Stage Crew and Technical Execution and Supporting Actress – Feleecia Thompson (Fantine).

The six nominations are in the following categories: Best Overall Production, Best Chorus/Ensemble, Musical Director – Millie Turek; Best Lead Actor – Jesse Alexander (Jean Valjean); Best Lead Actress – Stephanie Earle (Eponine); and Best Supporting Actor – Paul Merrill (Javert).

The awards show, modeled after Broadway’s Tony awards, will be held at the Cobb Energy Centre on April 13 at 7 p.m. The entire cast of 52 SCHS students will perform a number from the show, “One Day More”, with a live orchestra during the show. The lead actor and actress will perform in a medley with the other five nominees in their category. Three SCHS seniors, Jesse Alexander, Stephanie Earle, and Brianna Gilliam, who plan to major in music in college, have applied for one of the three $1,000 scholarships to be given away that night. Two cast members, Julianne Slaton and Andre Allen, were chosen from the chorus of the show to perform in the opening and closing production numbers.

The SCHS Chorus and Drama musical production is an extracurricular activity open to all students enrolled in a Fine Arts class at Sandy Creek. Competitive auditions were held in the fall and rehearsals began in January for the March performances. In addition to the 52 SCHS students, the cast included two students from the middle school that feed into SCHS. Justin Duhon, from Bennett’s Mill Middle School, and Janina Monk, from Flat Rock Middle School, played the roles of Gavroche and Young Cosette. Seven SCHS students volunteered to work the tireless and often thankless job of stage crew.

Turek, SCHS choral director/fine arts department chair, stated “we are truly blessed to have such an abundance of hard working, dedicated, and talented students who have chosen the fine arts as part of their high school experience.”

The musical staff included SCHS drama teacher, Kathy Andersen, who worked the technical aspects of the show – set, lights, and costumes. “Kathy spent hours and hours personally sewing costumes to outfit this large cast! And did it with zero budget,” said Turek. Local choreographer, Jonsie Pollock, agreed to try her hand at directing this “non-dance” show with amazing results. Because Mrs. Pollock is not employed at SCHS, she was ineligible for the awards nomination.

Additional staff included Turek’s student teacher from the University of West Georgia, John Martin. “Mr. Martin went way beyond the call of his student teacher duties putting in extra hours as a vocal coach and working sound for the production,” said Turek. Two SCHS musical alumni, Erin Burnett (2004) and Savannah Turek (2008) returned to high school to volunteer their talents in multiple aspects of the show as stage crew, rehearsal assistants, publicity, and acting coaches.

The annual musical production enjoyed the support of the entire school. Upon entering the lobby, patrons were introduced to the “world of Jean Valjean” by stepping into displays presented by the Advance Placement Literature students. English teacher Rosemary Barnes added the book to the AP class’s study list for this year. Stephane Allagnon, French teacher, who teaches the classic French novel by Victor Hugo each year to his advanced French students, provided ushers greeting the patrons in French as they entered the theatre. Allagnon even gave lessons in French cooking as he personally made chocolate croissants for the French bakery concessions served at intermission.

Funding for the musical is provided through the leftover money from ticket sales of the previous production and the profits from the Madrigal dinners presented annually in the fall by chorus and drama.

“Kathy Andersen and I feel strongly that musical theater is an important part of our culture and American musical heritage,” said Turek. “The long hours and personal sacrifice are worth it to see what the students are able to accomplish and learn on that stage. The community support and volunteer efforts of the parents help to make our creative dreams come true.”