When the lights go down and the story of "Les Miserables" unfolds on Pine-Richland High School's stage this spring, all the audience will see is what happens on the stage.
That moment in Pine-Richland High School auditorium will be the culmination of thousands of hours devoted to ensure a successful performance.
Ever since October, house manager Carole Rost has been working diligently behind the scenes to reach opening night slated for March 18.
“I grew up with this. My mom was the drama teacher at Taylor Allderdice High School, so I knew what went into a show,” she said.
A retired teacher with the Pine-Richland School District, this is Rost’s 21st show with the district.
“I guess I know what I am doing by now,” she joked.
Rost works with director and choreographer Christen Braun to choose the musical and get the gears in motion.
“We look to see what kind of talent we have and choose a musical to best suit that talent,” she said.
This year, the musical "Les Miserables" was chosen and the large cast of 50 students was selected in November, Rost said. She starts coordinating volunteers for costumes, set design and other duties, and then once the New Year starts, they all hit the ground running.
“We start the rehearsals in January and tracking down costumes,” she said.
Rost oversees the costumes for the actors, a job that takes about 20 volunteers to tackle.
“They have a variety of skills – some can only cut out costumes, some can do hand sewing and some put [the costumes] together,” she said.
In addition, the set designers and musicians start their roles. The stage scenes are built, music learned and lights figured out.
“We have another 25 to 35 kids working on things behind the action and on crew,” she said. That number does not include student musicians, which is another 35 or so, according to Rost.
For Braun, this is her first year as the director, although she is in her ninth year as the choreographer.
“I can do both roles because the choreographing duties for this show are really minimal,” she explained. “Plus, I know these kids and with their level of talent, I knew they could help me.”
Because Rost and Braun worked with many of the students in years past, they knew they had the skills and talent necessary to undertake a difficult musical as "Les Miserables."
“We figured if we were going to pull this one off, this would be the year to do it. This is an incredibly capable cast,” said Braun.
A Pine-Richland graduate herself, Braun was in the musicals when she was in high school. Now a ninth grade English teacher in the Shaler Area School District, she enjoys the work with the students, even though she finds little free time these days.
“I pretty much said good-bye to the rest of my life January 3,” she joked.
The students are putting in about three to four hours of rehearsal a night, Monday through Thursday, depending on their roles in the show, said Braun.
“Some days, it’s just the lead vocals who practice, other times it is full cast,” she said.
Pine-Richland High School is well known for the quality of its musicals, last year earning 13 nominations out of the 13 categories for Pittsburgh’s CLO Gene Kelly Awards for school theatrical productions.
“That is unheard of,” said Rost.
The musical "Children of Eden" won awards for Best Musical Level III, Best Costume Design, Best Lighting Design and Best Direction.
This year, when the lights go down and the songs begin, there will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 17,000 volunteer hours put into the production.
“We figured it out one year, and that is about what it takes,” said Rost, “It is really a production of love.”