Ever since Central Floridian Davis Gaines announced during his cabaret series at The Abbey that he would be playing Javert in Orlando Shakespeare Theater's "Les Miserables," I've been wondering who would play Jean Valjean.
The Shakes announced this morning that another Florida actor — Michael Hunsaker — will take on the musical's leading role. Born in San Jose, Calif., and raised in South Florida, Hunsaker received a bachelor's degree in musical theater from Florida State University.
Among his career highlights: He's one of the narrators on the American cast recording of Stephen Schwartz's "Children of Eden." He was part of the cast at the Paper Mill Playhouse production, which set the template for future stagings. He also played Younger Brother on a national tour of "Ragtime" and toured in "Chess."
Hunsaker has numerous off-Broadway and regional-theater credits, as well, including another turn as Younger Brother in a "Ragtime" production at Raleigh's North Carolina Theatre that starred Eatonville's Norm Lewis. He is currently studying for a master's degree in film production at Full Sail University in Orlando.
"After a national casting search, we are thrilled that these two brilliant artists grew up right in our own backyard," says Jim Helsinger, artistic director of the Shakespeare theater. "We want our 26th season to be incredible, and having Davis and Michael's awesome vocal power and Broadway following is a great way to kick it off."
DJ Salisbury will direct "Les Miserables," which he choreographed and staged for the Riverside Theatre in Vero Beach. Salisbury has artistic roots in Central Florida: In the 1980s, he danced and choreographed for Southern Ballet Theatre, the forerunner of today's Orlando Ballet. And he performed in, choreographed and produced local plays and musicals, as well.
Since those days, Salisbury has directed and choreographed for theaters nationwide. Among special projects, he directed Disney composer Alan Menken's solo concert at New York's Lincoln Center and served as choreographer for ABC's "Dancing With the Stars Road Trip."
Orlando Shakespeare Theater will present "Les Misérables" from Sept. 12-Oct. 12. For tickets or more information, call 407-447-1700 or go to orlandoshakes.org. The show will be staged in the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, 812 E. Rollins St., Orlando.
"Les Misérables" is presented through the support of the Bryce L. West Foundation. Additional supporters include John & Rita Lowndes, Ken & Trisha Margeson, Albert & Lisa Prast, Kathryn Chicone Ustler, David & Lyn Berelsman, Suzanne Gilbert, Harriett Lake, and Frank Santos & Dan Dantin. Corporate supporters include Massey Services, UCF College of Arts & Humanities, and UCF Office of the President.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun