It's always nice to catch up with a local actor who returns to their stomping ground as part of a big production. With"Les Miserables,"playing through Sunday at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, there are actually two.
Weston Wells Olson, who plays Courfeyrac in the show, originally hails from South Dakota, but after attending Chapman University for three years, he feels like this is a big homecoming.
"I especially loved the nighttime beach pit fires at Huntington," he told me. "And so coming back here in a show like 'Les Miz' is a real thrill. I've invited friends and even some old Chapman teachers to come see the show."
Wells also told me that the day they arrive in a new city, like the day he and I spoke, they must be at the theater two hours early on opening night to get used to the new space and learn the lay of the land.
He also shared a bit of advice for other local actors and actresses: "There will always be dry spells in this business, but don't ever give up. Do what you love — as long as you can make ends meet and you're doing what you love, you're doing something right. You have to have lots of patience in the business, but if you're good and you work hard, it will usually pay off."
He added, "I'll get nervous sometimes and wonder what will be next, and then something like this comes along and I know that I'll be working and traveling for months, which is really rewarding. But I still think about what comes next after this."
Wells has managed to stay busy since getting out of Chapman several years ago. He has performed at Segerstrom before — as a member of the Chapman choir. In his young career, he has also been a soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Boston Pops.
Rachel Rincione, originally from Denver, also attended Chapman and wound up spending quality time here in Huntington.
"Best beaches anyplace," she laughed. "They turned me into a California girl."
She's part of what is called the "swing" in a production, which means she fills in for select members of the cast depending on scheduling and a variety of other factors.
"It's interesting," she told me. "I'm required to know eight sets of blocking, solo lines, costumes and props for eight ensemble rolls. And I must be available at a moment's notice, with my hair in pin curls with a wig cap, always ready in full makeup just in case I have to jump into costume. Maybe a cast member has other plans, or they might get injured — whatever happens, you have to be ready."
Rincione is also the understudy for the Factory Girl role, which involves knowing a lot of fight choreography. Beyond the dream of being in a show this popular, Rincione relishes the steady work, too.
"This is an amazing thing to have in show business," she said. "That is, it's really steady work in a show I absolutely love. It's the best full-time job in the world for now, but you always have to be thinking about what comes next. It's just the nature of what we do as performers."
As far as what it is about this epic show that keeps the audience coming back, she told me that in her opinion, it's the fact that the themes never get old — that redemption and love will always bring the people in. And of course, with songs so memorable and a story so brilliantly told, it all adds up.
The New York Times calls Cameron Mackintosh's 25th-anniversary production "an unquestionably spectacular production from start to finish." It features all-new staging and dazzlingly reimagined scenery inspired by the actual paintings of Victor Hugo. This new production has been breaking box office records wherever it goes, and it recently landed right here in Orange County.
A new film version of "Les Miserables" comes out soon, but for the next few days, you can experience the spectacular stage version not 20 minutes from here — along with a pair of young actors who are thrilled to be back in the area, if only for the couple of weeks that the gypsy train of show business allows.
For ticket information, call (714) 556-2787.
CHRIS EPTING is the author of 18 books, including the new "Hello, It's Me: Dispatches from a Pop Culture Junkie." You can chat with him on Twitter @chrisepting or follow his column at http://www.facebook.com/hbindependent.