Livid Productions celebrates 10th anniversary with Les Miserables

Once upon a time, a brand new Border theatre company struggled to pull together 10 performers for its first show.

But now Livid Productions celebrates its 10th anniversary with a cast of 70 in its biggest musical yet, Les Miserables.

Friday sees the first of six performances over two weekends at Albury Entertainment Centre and the culmination of a logistical effort that began almost a year ago.

Set in 19th century France and based on Victor Hugo's 1862 novel, Les Miserables tells the story of Jean Valjean (Jason Campbell) upon his release from prison after 19 years.

When Valjean breaks his parole, the police inspector Javert (Jason Parker) is determined to hunt him down, no matter how long it takes.

Also key to the plot are the factory worker Fantine (Lauren Schmutter) and a group of students planning to stand against tyranny.

Audiences familiar with Livid shows will recognise Campbell, Parker and Schmutter from past leading roles, while many other former cast members have also returned.

But some newcomers appeared among the 150 people who auditioned in May, wanting to join a show that has been a worldwide hit since its first London performance in 1985.

The final cast comes from a region that includes Albury, Wodonga, Mount Beauty, Yackandandah, Beechworth and Wangaratta, representing a wide range of ages and professions.

Family connections have been central to the volunteer company ever since founders Liz Kolisnyk and David Todd combined their first names to create Livid Productions in 2006.

Todd is directing Les Miserables - as he also did on the Border 15 years ago - while Kolisnyk is represented in this show by her daughter, Lauren Schmutter, part of the production team as well as filling the role of the tragic Fantine.

The performers and crew include parents and children, couples, siblings, four members of one family and three generations of Parkers, with Jason joined by his mother Narelle in production and daughter Victoria on stage.

Dianne Prince and Mali McKie, who recently became engaged, play the roles of Cosette and Enjolras respectively.

“Cosette has always been something I wanted to play ever since I was a little girl,” Prince said.

Fifteen years ago she auditioned, unsuccessfully, for the part of young Cosette.

“So to come back and actually play her as an adult is really awesome,” she said.

Prince persuaded McKie to attend his first singing audition and the pair have enjoyed sharing the Les Miserables experience.

“It’s been such a cool thing to do together,” Prince said.

Sean Lee, cast as the Bishop of Digne, is also new to the stage and will be acting alongside three of his eight children.

David, 17, and Anthony, 15, play students Courfeyrac and Joly while Sean, 12, shares the part of Gavroche with Freddy Simpson.

“I just like the crowd, like applause, laughing, all that stuff,” the younger Sean said. 

Les Miserables rehearsals began in June, but building the stark black set and imposing barricade started almost as soon as Livid's 2016 production Annie ended last November.

Livid spokeswoman and cast member Natalie Schrickker pointed out the barricade contained parts of many previous Livid sets, for example the coffins from Sweeney Todd (2015).

“It’s almost like a set graveyard,” she said with a laugh.

Schrickker said the production team felt excited and relieved this week as Les Miserables came together, as well as pleased many new people had joined the journey.

The mother of a baby, Schrickker said she, like others, still couldn’t pass up the chance to be part of such a well-loved musical.

“I made myself do it because it was Les Mis,” she said.

“It stirs people.”

THE LOWDOWN

What: Les Miserables

When: October 13, 14, 19, 20, 21

Where: Albury Entertainment Centre

Tickets: from $32