Laney Hoekstra brings heart to role in “Les Mis”
At just 10 years old, Laney Hoekstra is no stranger to the spotlight, but she’ll soon step into her biggest role yet in Places! Productions’ “Les Misérables School Edition.”
“I wanted to audition for this show because I’ve dreamed of playing Young Cosette in ‘Les Mis’ and love watching the 25th concert show from London over and over again,” says the Scottsdale fifth grader, who has already performed in six musicals in her short life.
When the cast list was posted in August, Laney was thrilled to learn she’d won this dream role, a part she shares with Farrah McArthur of Gilbert. And for the last few months, she has been hard at work learning her lines, developing the character of Young Cosette and polishing her solo, the iconic “Castle on a Cloud,” a hopeful and heartbreaking ballad about a life filled with joy and free of tears.
The musical will be on stage Dec. 17 to 20 at East Valley High School, located at 7420 E. Main St. in Mesa, with a second run planned Jan. 20 to 22, 2023, at the Mesa Arts Center.
“Les Mis” is one of the most celebrated musicals in theatrical history. It focuses on the tumultuous world of Jean Valjean, a former convict who spends a lifetime seeking redemption. Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France and the aftermath of the French Revolution, this timeless story of intertwined destinies reveals the power of compassion and the quiet evil of indifference to human suffering.
The role of Young Cosette is central to the story. Valjean adopts the little girl, rescuing her from a life of cruelty and neglect at the hands of the Thénardiers, and changes the course of her life.
“I play a young girl whose mother is unable to care for her, so she sends her to live with some mean innkeepers,” Laney says.
All the passion and drama of the original Broadway production is replicated in the student version of “Les Mis” – especially with a cast like this one. Indeed, despite its weighty themes, Laney and her castmates, most of whom are in high school, are pulling it off with a maturity and talent that bely their youth.
“I think audiences will be amazed by the emotion and voices of these young performers,” says Allison Houston, director and music director for “Les Mis” and founding artistic director for Places! “I hope they will be moved by the message of this powerful piece.”
Tim Mills, the show’s assistant director, is quick to agree.
“This is probably the most talented cast we’ve ever assembled, and we’ve had some very talented casts in the past,” he says. “I think audiences will be deeply moved by our production of ‘Les Mis.’”
Beyond its deep storyline, the musical is challenging in other ways, too. Nearly every word in the two-hour show is sung, every scene is carefully staged, and every performer plays an important role in bringing the story together. This attention to detail can be seen in the set design, costuming, character development, and choreography.
“This was such a fun project,” says the show’s choreographer, Lily Saba. “We really wanted it to look natural so the dances blend in rather than everyone just breaking out in a dance.”
Adds Allison, “We have spent a lot of time going back to the source material, the masterpiece that is Victor Hugo’s novel. We’ve discussed the characters in depth, including their stories not in the musical, and have a wonderful dramaturg, Kasey Ray. Many of the details you see in the costumes, props, set, and staging are from the book.”
“I think the audience will love the show because we are all working hard and my cast mates are really talented,” says Laney. “The details in the show are amazing.”
With music by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, “Les Mis” is famous the world over for its score, which includes beloved ballads including “On My Own” and “Bring Him Home” as well as high-impact ensemble numbers like “Do You Hear the People Sing.”
Tickets for “Les Mis” are $15 and can be purchased at placesproductionsaz.com. The run includes both matinee and evening performances at East Valley High School and at the Mesa Arts Center. Discounts are available for teachers, seniors, veterans, first responders, and students. Group discounts are also available.
Winner of over 100 international awards and seen by more than 70 million people, “Les Mis” has been performed in more than 40 countries and in 22 languages. “Les Misérables School Edition” is specially adapted and licensed through Music Theatre International and Cameron Mackintosh (Overseas) LTD. It is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International. All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI, mtishows.com.
Les Misérables School Edition
Presented by Places! Productions
Dec. 17 to 20: East Valley High School, 7420 E. Main St.
Jan. 20 to 22: Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St.