By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A Brooklyn actress will be able to step into the role that won Anne Hathaway an Academy Award, thanks to Jeff Samaha, a Bay Ridge-based theater impresario. His theater company, Jeff Samaha Theater Productions/Ridge Chorale, has done something that local theater troupes would die to do – win the licensing rights to mount a full-scale production of the musical “Les Miserables.”
Samaha’s company was recently granted the rights by the licensing firm representing the musical’s creators.
The company will be holding open auditions for the show on Saturday, June 15, and Sunday June 16, at Bay Ridge Prep, 8101 Ridge Boulevard, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. “We’ve already had 90 people sign up to audition. There’s a great deal of excitement out there about this,” Samaha told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. The show itself will take place in September. The tentative production dates are Sept. 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, and 22. The performance venue has not yet been announced.
Based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel of love and redemption in 19th Century France, “Les Miserables,” opened on Broadway in 1985 and played for several years. It was made into a movie in 2012. Hugh Jackman starred, playing Jean Valjean. Hathaway won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her turn as “Fantine.”
“We are thrilled and humbled to produce ‘Les Mis’ in the Bay Ridge community,” Samaha said. Samaha has been a well known musician, conductor, vocal arrangers, and theater director in Bay Ridge for decades. He is the founder of the Jeff Samaha Singers, a popular group that attracted large crowds when it performed Broadway show tunes and pop songs at street fairs and at summer concerts in parks. The Jeff Samaha Singers became the full-fledged theater company that Samaha directs today.
Jeff Samaha Theater Productions/Ridge Chorale is one of only a few dozen theater companies across the country to be granted the rights. “Were the only ones in Brooklyn granted the rights,” Samaha said. “I think a small part of this is that we have a history of doing good shows with excellent production values,” he said. Over the years, the company has presented “West Side Story,” “The Producers,” “Miss Saigon,” “Ragtime,” and other shows.
Licensing companies representing creative artists are usually very selective as to who they grant performing rights to. There are also territorial issues to consider. For example, if a show is currently playing on Broadway, no theater group within the five boroughs can mount a production.
The licensing company for “Les Miserables” has in the past granted partial rights to schools, meaning that the students are allowed to perform truncated versions of the musical with fewer songs and a smaller number of musicians. But Samaha’s company will be mounting a full-scale production of the show, complete with a full orchestra, lavish sets, and parts for dozens of performers.
“Les Miserables” has been seen by an estimated 50 million people worldwide.
The musical numbers, including "I Dreamed a Dream," "Bring Him Home," "One Day More" and "On My Own,” are considered classics in the Broadway musical canon.
The show will be directed by Samaha, who will work with assistant directors Kathy Valentine and Frankie Caiati. Samaha and Anne Rebold will serve as musical directors. The show will be produced by Karen Tadross, along with Associate Producer Sara Steinweiss.
Actors seeking to audition for parts in the show can find a detailed description of the audition requirements on the group’s website, www.jeffsamaha.com or on Facebook at Jeff Sahama Theater Productions/Ridge Chorale. All roles are open.
For more information, contact the company at [email protected].