City welcomes famous story of hope in desperate times

Sophie Salvesani, Phoebe Pickersgill and Robert Shearer from Les Miserables. Les Miserables is on at Ipswich Civic Centre from September 8th
Sophie Salvesani, Phoebe Pickersgill and Robert Shearer from Les Miserables. Les Miserables is on at Ipswich Civic Centre from September 8th Darren Hallesy

TAKING on a role in what is regarded as the world's most popular musical hasn't phased three local aspiring actors who are up for the challenge of appearing in what is possibly the biggest production ever to be performed in our city.

Sophie Salvesani, Pheobe Pickersgill and Robert Shearer met with the Queensland Times to discuss the challenges and excitement of bringing the production to the Ipswich Civic Centre next month.

After previous years' successes such as Mary Poppins, The Boy From Oz, The Producers and 2016's Wicked, the Ipswich Musical Theatre Company has pulled out all the stops for this one and is up for the challenge, with no less that twenty backstage staff to manage the sets, the props and the production so it all runs smoothly.

"Finding a production that could follow our sell out season of Wicked, meant something big, bold and an audience favourite. What else could it be but Les Miserable," said Ipswich Musical Theatre Company's (IMTC) Artistic Director, Brenda Ryan.

"As well as the talented cast from the Ipswich region, this production has attracted cast members from all over Brisbane, Redlands, Beenleigh and surrounding areas. They are willing to go out of their way to be in what is going to be a huge production on a grand scale."

Since its global premiere in Paris in 1980, Les Misérables has played almost constantly, all over the world, winning multiple Tony Awards, Laurence Oliver Awards and Drama Desk Awards. Set in 19th century France, Les Misérables tells the story of sacrifice, redemption, broken dreams, unrequited love and the passion and strength of the human spirit.

Ex-convict, Jean Valjean, is hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman, Javert, after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker, Fantine's young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever.

The show is running at the Ipswich Civic Centre from September 8th and will feature a live professional orchestra and a cast of local performers all who are donating their time and effort for the love of being on stage.

Heading the cast is Robert Shearer, who has performed many times on the Civic Centre stage, most notably as the lead in The Phantom Of The Opera which played to a packed house every night.

"I was in Phantom of the Opera and Wicked for IMTC previously, and I was thinking about taking a break, but fortunately I got talked out of it," Robert said.

"Les Mis is certainly proving to be fun, and lots of hard work. This is a bigger role than playing the Phantom. My character Valjean is in the first 40 minutes of the show, singing, singing, and singing. It's dialogue through song, but it's not an opera, this is more along the lines of drama with songs. It's driven by the acting, but we're treating more like a theatre piece than an opera.

"I'd love to count how many times I've walked the stage at the Ipswich Civic Centre!"

Robert feels that Les Miserables was the next step for IMTC, and is looking forward to seeing this bold production open to the public.

"Doing Les Mis was the next logical step I think. How do you top Phantom, Mary Poppins and Wicked? There's such a professional team behind this, the calibre of performer is really high. There's no weak link in the chain for this production and I think it will work well. Musical Director Robert Clarke has returned again this year, and he has such a wonderful understanding of musical theatre. Everything he brings he brings with enthusiasm and drive. He gets great singing out of us, and also has worked with us to bring the character through."

Sophie Salvesani plays Cosette in the show, and recently auditioned for Opera Australia. She is excited to be part of such a big show for Ipswich.

"Why I love doing the musical theatre is because I fall in love with the costumes and sets, plus with Les Mis I love the idea of everything being in song," Sophie said.

"I like that, because when we did Phantom I found it easier to sing, due to the fact that when you are doing it with the music, it makes it easier to remember. When I just have lines I struggle a little."

Under Sophie's wing as the young Cosette, is Pheobe Pickersgill, a little girl with a big dream.

"When I finish school I would love, love, love to do musical theatre because you get to perform in front of lots of people," she said. "You also do lots on fun stuff on stage, acting and singing.

"I might get a little bit nervous, a tiny bit on opening night, but I'll be okay. I have lots of people backstage to help me."

Melbourne Director, Chris Bradtke, accepted IMTC's invitation to work with them following a successful season of this show with a Melbourne company earlier this year. Since 1987, he has received an incredible 20 nominations for the Music Theatre Guild's Best Director, taking out the award seven times.

"I have directed Les Misérables four times," said Chris, "and each time I discover something new. This is a masterpiece that you can never tire of."

You can see Robert, Sophie, Pheobe and a host of local talent on stage at the Ipswich Civic Centre from September 8th to 17th for seven performances only. More info online at or phone 3810 6100.

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