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Company Theatre co-founder Zoe Bradford talks living a dream and Les Miserables

It’s been a dream years in the making. Not only is the ‘Company Theatre of Norwell’ celebrating their 35th season this year, but anticipation is high to launch the premiere of what co-founder Zoe Bradford calls the dream musical production of her adult life, ‘Les Miserables!’

From L to R:  Company Theatre co-founder Jordie Saucerman, co-founder Zoe Bradford, Music Director Michael Joseph, and Company Manager and Choreographer Sally Ashton Forrest
From L to R: Company Theatre co-founder Jordie Saucerman, co-founder Zoe Bradford, Music Director Michael Joseph, and Company Manager and Choreographer Sally Ashton Forrest
Courtesy of Michelle McGrath and the Company Theatre of Norwell

‘Les Miserables’ will premiere on Thursday, July 24 through Sunday, July 27 and continue Wednesday through Sundays through Sunday, August 17 at the Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts.

Visit companytheatre.com for more information and here for tickets! See slideshow for early production photos.

I had the honor of meeting with Zoe Bradford, co-founder of the Company Theatre about the Company Theatre’s beginnings, the future of the Company Theatre, and their upcoming production, ‘Les Miserables.’

What is your reaction to 35 years? How are people feeling?

The environment is excited with anticipation not only going on successfully starting from a rags to riches story, but we’re looking towards another 35 years. We want to keep the theatre going long after we’re not here anymore. I think our board of directors, our staff, everybody is so proud that as a nonprofit, we have been able to not only survive but really do well. We’ve been able to obtain our building and purchase it which is a dream I’m sure for many, and we were able to make it a reality.

We have come through a lot of hurdles in our career and in our goals, and I think there will be many more challenges in the future. People feel like it’s a time of change and growth.

Thirty-five years is such a milestone, it feels gigantic. I was only 24 when Jordie and I founded the theatre. I didn’t know it was going to be this big, but we had big dreams.

You have to follow your passion. That’s what I tell people who are starting out or trying to figure out what to do. If you wake up in the morning and you go to bed at night thinking this is what I want to do and I’m passionate about it, you make it can happen, but you have to be dedicated.

The 35th season been fantastic so far. You’ve had a wide range of musicals, from the unconventional comedy in ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ to the daring piece, ‘Spring Awakening.’ How did you decide what shows you’d be putting on each year, even with the concerts this year?

The concerts are always challenging, because I consider it a little bit like gambling. You’ve got to know your audience and guess what they like. We try to keep our concert season in the winter because the ‘South Shore Music Circus’ and other things are competing with summer. We had a really tough winter, so that was a little hard, but usually very successful. We really analyze and figure out what people are going to want to see.

When we did ‘Spring Awakening’ and ‘Drowsy Chaperone’ back to back, ‘Spring Awakening’ is a little more edgy to say the least, but also very important, beautiful, moving, and contemporary in its thought, but traditional historically in its content. I love that combination.

The young people in the cast took a great journey of discovery, self-discovery, discovering how it was in the 1890s and how it is today with youth. All the problems kids face today are the same things they were facing back then so a beautiful experience, but we knew that would have a limited appeal for our audience.

We offered ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ as a lighter fare, but really found a kind of quirky comedy. That went very well too. When we do something a little daring, we like to offset it with something that I would say is more for the average theatergoer, the people who just want to be entertained as opposed to thinking. Some people want to think, and some people just want to sit back and let it pour over them.

‘Les Miserables’ is the nugget. When it first came out in the 1980s, Michael, Jordie, Sally, and I all said, ‘Oh my god! When can we do les Miz?’ By the 90s we said, ‘We don’t know if we’ll get to do ‘Les Miz’ in our lifetime, they’re never going to release that puppy. Then it’s the 2000s and we’re still singing that song!

Now it’s 2014, they’ve finally released it to high schools and then let it out! We’re one of the first organizations to do it. I know many are going to be doing it, but I will tell you this. We broke all records with our audition process.

I heard that the computer crashed.

It did! It was horrible because we had 238 auditioners and we had made the technical decision to only have body mics. No overhanging mics and we only have 31 channels, so we could only cast 31 people. That was tough because I wanted a cast of 50.

I could have cast it over and over again with the talent that came in. I had to let people go that I adored. However, we brought in some very talented young men who didn’t get in who are going to be barricade boys and are going to do a couple numbers to really enhance the battle scenes. It should be a real spectacle.

Jordie had said the talent is just knock your socks off. It’s just so good.

It’s like that commercial they used to have where the speakers were coming at you and your hair flew back. It was so wonderful to have all that talent to choose from.

The show has changed a little bit if you saw the new production with the new sets. Will you be sticking to the original piece itself or are you going to be using different parts of both?

That’s a great question. Different parts of both and totally our own. We love to put our Company Theatre stamp on things and I’ve been thinking about the challenge of the sets for a long time and finally put pencil to paper and I’ve got a lot of thumbnail sketches. James is helping develop in particular the barricades.

James Valentin is our technical director and set builder here. He’s a great artist. We know what we want it to look like. We’ve already gotten a lot of walls built that will be flying in and out, rolling, moving around.

I love it because I’m good at rustic. That’s kind of my forte, the old weaponry that we’ll be using. I’ve been collecting guns for years for ‘Les Miz’ so the rifles will look really authentic. I’ve been collecting for a long time, some imitations, and some things that don’t fire. You just have to make it look right. I’ve got this cannon that I’ve had in storage for over 20 years. I’ve been waiting to use it. Now with ‘Les Miz,’ they get to come out.

It should look beautiful, it sounds amazing. Jordie’s a great coach and the show is so brilliantly written. It is such a masterpiece you could easily just go in there with good singers and everybody would love it, but because I’ve waited my whole life to do it, literally, my whole adult life, I want it to be greatness up there.

Visit companytheatre.com for more information and here for tickets!