For Franny Anunobi, this isn’t her first time playing a man’s role. Anunobi, a senior at Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bellevue, is playing Jean ValJean in the school’s production of “Les Miserables.”
Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart is an all-girls Catholic, independent, college preparatory school that educates students grades 5-12.
Marianni Groves has been the school’s theater manager and high school drama director for nearly three years.
She said she hasn’t let the fact that her casts are all girls prevent her from producing any plays or musicals.
“It’s such a classic and relatable story,” she said. “This is a story for youth to tell. Every role is affected by the story, and it’s all about unrequited love, fight for justice, loss and companionship.”
While “Les Miserables” is a male character-heavy musical, Groves said the story and the characters are for youth — any youth — to tell.
“Girls would never get the chance to do a show like this and play the roles like this,” she said. “It’s important because they can do it — they get the chance to find the warriors in themselves.”
According to Groves, casting students for the roles wasn’t a challenge. Anyone who auditioned for the show was cast in the show.
“It was a no-cut show — we wanted anyone who auditioned to have a part in it, and it’s worked out well.”
For Anunobi, playing Jean ValJean, one of the lead characters, has been enjoyable.
“I was a bit shocked when I learned I got the part,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of fun playing [Jean] and it’s definitely been a period of discovery.”
She said her role is vocally demanding, as she is not used to singing in a lower register. However, the music was altered slightly to accommodate for an all-girl cast.
Heather Kramer, the show’s music director, said she’s impressed with how well the students have been able to sing to the music.
“What they’re doing is amazing,” she said. “We did change some of the music to fit the actors, but it’s still the music everyone knows from the story.”
For many of the actors, the show has been challenging.
“This show has been the most challenging one I’ve been in so far,” Anunobi said. “Aside from singing in a lower register, the show demands a lot of emotional work.”
Sarah Dayley, a sophomore, plays Javert in the school’s production of “Les Miserables.”
Like Anunobi, Dayley said tackling the wide-range of emotions in the show was challenging.
“Trying to capture the emotions while learning the lines and singing all at the same time was kind of hard,” she said. “I went line-by-line to get it right. It’s important to capture the emotions in this show.”
The February snow storms didn’t help make production go smoothly either. Due to canceled school days, the cast and crew had about five weeks to rehearse the show. Despite the setbacks, Groves said she and the cast are excited to present “Les Miserables” on April 26.
“These girls are amazing and so supportive of one another. They celebrate any success anyone makes,” she said. “I’ve really loved seeing their ‘a-ha’ moments and seeing them dive into these roles… We’re the girls on the hill and we’re making noise.”
Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart will present Les Misérables School Edition on April 26 and 27 at 7 p.m. and April 28 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $9/$13 by purchase online or at the door, at The Lee Theater, 4800 139th Ave. SE.