The long-running Broadway show "Les Misérables" is being brought to Guam next weekend thanks to local theater group World Theater Productions (WTP). For more than six months, WTP and Step Up Entertainment and Dance Company have been working hard to make the local production, "Les Misérables" School Edition Guam, a success.

A whimsical musical, "Les Misérables" portrays desperation, compassion, one-sided love, a moral struggle and much more through featured songs like "Look Down," "On My Own" and "Who Am I?"

Adapted from the Broadway version, the school version of the play has a shorter run time of about two and a half hours, compared to the usual three. The play is rated PG-13, according to WTP.

Bringing the arts to life

"It's one of a kind and I honestly think that this show is what will help bring the arts to life," said Lara Mai Tjernagel, who stars as Cosette in the Guam production.

Although Tjernagel has participated in other plays, including the Academy of Our Lady of Guam and Father Duenas Memorial School's "Beauty and the Beast" production, she is still learning and growing as an actress.

"It's a really good opportunity for me," she said. "Jojo (Urquico, the director) told us that 'acting is not acting.' Before I would focus so much on trying to be something I'm not, but with acting, you are something, and you just need to bring it out."

Stephen Ramirez, a Les Mis actor who plays various roles in the production, including as the foreman and Combeferre, encouraged all theater fans to come out.

"If you want a world-class, high-quality performance from both the orchestra and performers on stage, then we are the ones to go to," Ramirez said.

A pop-up show and preview of the local production was held at the Micronesia Mall center court on Sept. 30. The cast, including many familiar faces from Guam's theater world, dazzled the public audience and left the crowd wanting more after providing a peek into Les Mis.

Familiar talent on stage

The talented cast is made up entirely of students under the age of 18, with the youngest cast mate being just 5 years old!

While Guam-based actors and actresses make up the majority of the cast, talent from Saipan and the Philippines are also featured, many of whom are passionate about performing for the island.

Jojo Urquico, an established Broadway actor, is the director of the local showing. Guam musician Joanne Matanane Sosa takes the lead as assistant director.

"I've always wanted to be an actor since I was 9 or 10," said Ramirez, an aspiring actor. "I feel incredibly blessed and lucky that my first-ever director is Jojo Urquico. The fact that I get to work with him is amazing!"

Tjernagel also expressed her excitement and gratitude for getting to work with all of the amazing directors.

Shelly Calvo and Margarita Dancel are executive producers for the play. Dancel choreographed the local production of "Les Misérables" and is another familiar name on the island after supporting numerous Guam plays, including the successful "Miss Saigon."

Maximo Ronquillo Jr., commander of the 721st Army Band, takes on the role of musical director for the show.

The cast and producers of "Les Misérables" encourage all theater fanatics and music maniacs to come and enjoy Guam's very own Broadway production! Proceeds of the show will benefit the Guam Homeless Coalition.


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