By Bera Dunau Staff Writer
---- — This week’s production of “Les Misérables,” at Cooperstown Central School will be the sixth and final musical co-directed by husband and wife pair Sammy Dallas and Barbara Bayes at the school.
Sammy and Barbara Bayes both have professional theatre backgrounds, an industry that Sammy Bayes still works in full time.
Sammy Dallas Bayes was in the original cast of Fiddler on the Roof and became the go-to choreographer for the Broadway show and its revivals.
Nominated for a Tony Award for Choreography in 1969 for his work on “Canterbury Tales,” he has also directed plays locally for the Orpheus Theatre and the Leatherstocking Theatre Company. Bayes identifies primarily as a choreographer, director and writer.
Barbara Bayes is a dancer, singer and actress. She has performed in Orpheus Theatre and Leatherstocking Theatre company productions, and says she would like to do more theatre work, now that their youngest daughter is preparing to leave for college next year.
The Bayes began directing CCS’ musicals after Alexa, their eldest daughter, entered high school.
“Our kids were very involved with the arts,” said Barbara Bayes, who said the school asked them to get involved at a time that was also good for her and her husband. “I think the timing just worked out.”
“Les Misérables” is the sixth play the Bayes have directed together at CCS. Their previous shows were “Grease” in 2008, “West Side Story” in 2009, “Cats” in 2010, “Fiddler on the Roof in 2011 and “Footloose,” in 2012.
“The challenge is not to go insane,” said Sammy Bayes, when asked what the difference between directing professional actors and high school students was, saying that it took him a few years to adjust to the fact that teenagers and adults work differently.
Nevertheless, Bayes said he still holds the students to the same standards he does his professional actors.
“I rehearse these kids the same I would with a professional company,” said Bayes, saying that he tries to “push them beyond where they think they can go.”
“We’re not your typical high school show,” said Barbara Bayes.
The Bayes realized when they selected “Les Misérables,” as their show this year that it would not be easy.
“We wanted to give them a challenge,” said Sammy Bayes.
One of the challenges inherent in “Les Misérables,” which is set in early 19th century France and explores themes of crime, revolution, love and forgiveness, is that all the dialogue is sung. Another challenge for this year’s cast involves working with the moving set that Sammy Bayes designed. Nevertheless, Sammy and Barbara Bayes said that the cast was rising to the occasion.
“We’re very very proud of the students,” said Barbara Bayes “They’ve really come through like shining stars.”
Indeed, Bayes characterized “Les Misérables” as the best show they’ve done at CCS, a statement her husband agreed with.
“I know that these kids performances will move people,” said Barbara Bayes.
Sammy Bayes said that he’s been very satisfied with the impact that directing the musicals has had on the teenagers involved. He said that parents have come up to him and said that the skills their children learned while acting in musical productions at CCS helped them to succeed later on in college.
Barbara Bayes said that the popularity of the musicals has also increased over time. She said that when they first started out, they had difficulty casting boys. By contrast, this year’s cast has 21 boys in it.
Indeed, the cast of the CCS production of “Les Misérables” consists of 70 students, and that number doesn’t include the students participating in the orchestra. Part of the reason for this is, with the exception of one year, Bayes said that she and her husband cut nobody from their casts. The reason she gave for this is that they want to offer the opportunity of performing in a musical to everyone interested.
One of the advantages of having such a large cast in a show like “Les Misérables” is that it helps out with the show’s chorus.
“It’s powerful, the sound is very powerful,” said Barbara Bayes.
Still, after this production, Sammy and Barbara Bayes will no longer be directing musicals at CCS.
“There (are) other projects coming up,” said Barbara Bayes, who said that with their youngest daughter, Taylor Bayes, graduating from high school next year, they’ve decided to step down.
Indeed, two opportunities have recently come to fruition for Sammy Bayes. He has gotten funding for “Rhinestone Cowboy,” a play he co-wrote with the writer of the song of the same name about songwriters in New York City in the 1960’s and 70’s and “One Man’s War,” a one act play about the experiences of the first marines to see combat in the Vietnam War.
The Bayes’ will be leaving, however, with good memories of their time directing at CCS.
“I think we’ve accomplished what we’ve sent out to do,” said Sammy Bayes.
“The kids have been so special over the years,” said Barbara Bayes, “It’s been incredibly rewarding for us as well.”
She also praised the CCS administration and the production team that has worked with them since they began directing musicals at CCS: musical director Tim Iverson, instrumental director Peter Daum, costumer Betsy Beisler, art director Kristen Karasek and set construction person Dennis Hascup.
“They’re amazing,” said Barbara Bayes.