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Families to the rescue

Les Miserables succeeds with family participation

June 28, 2013
Chris Bieri - Tribune Editor , Pierce County Tribune

Zach Miller's summer memories from his childhood are full of Village Arts productions.

From the time he can remember, he's been on stage singing and acting in plays, many directed by his grandmother Glory Monson.

"I remember a few of them," said Miller, set for his junior year at Rugby High School. "Once I was old enough, I was in them."

Article Photos

Submitted photo
A number of families have multiple members cast in the Village Arts production of Les Miserables. Zach Miller, Steve Mueller (far left) and Erik Foster, Alaric Skjelver, Janikka Miller, Madalyn Pretzer, Maria Mack, Kyler Odden, John Mueller, Elizabeth Skjelver act in a scene during a rehearsal.

Miller isn't alone.

The Village Arts plays are generally driven by full family participation and this summer's musical, "Les Miserables," is no different.

Steve Mueller is a veteran of Village Arts productions, but it was his son John who was the driving force in getting the Mueller family into this year's production.

John Mueller plays Gavroche.

"At first, my dad didn't want to do it and I wanted to do it," Mueller said. "So he said ok, I'll be in it for you. (Younger brother) Timmy decided to be in it after that and my mom has been doing hair (in the productions) forever. Sometimes we get on each other's nerves, but it all straightens out in the end."

The Pretzer family has all four family members in the show.

But it was the family's dad, Mike Pretzer, who took the initiative of getting the whole crew in the play.

"My dad surprised my whole family," said son Matthew Pretzer. "He just signed us up without asking us. We weren't really happy at first but now we really like it. It's a lot of fun."

The Skjelvers also have a big part in the play. Alaric and Elizabeth join father Jeff Skjelver in the production. But it doesn't end there. Jeff's sister, Jaque Marum, plays the part of Cosette, and Marum's daughter Aria plays little Cosette.

The Mack family also has a big impact on the show. Galen and Glenda Mack are joined by daughters Theresa, Rachel and Maria Mack onstage and Elizabeth plays in the orchestra.

For the family, it's been closer to decades that years that they've been involved, going back to 1988.

"The kids have been in musicals since before they could walk," Galen Mack said. "Elizabeth, we carried her on at like six months, she was on stage being carried around. Families do different things, one of our family things is the theater. It's the challenge of doing it."

With members of the family busy with work and other activities during the day, the play is a place for everyone to catch up.

"It's nice," Theresa Mack said. "We don't see each other onstage or even backstage that much. We really don't see each other that much (during the day) anyway, so this is a place where we can hang out."

Brothers Benji and David Miller are part of Thenardier's gang in the show, as well as filling other roles.

Like for the Macks, the Miller brothers have a chance to hang out with David being away at college during the winter months.

And even if they start to get on each other's nerves, "we just ignore each other," David says jokingly.

Both have been in the productions for a number of years, and like many of younger actors, have grown from children's roles to adult roles.

"You still have to do the same things, it's just repeating everything every year but different songs," David Miller said.

Like the other families, the Millers got initially involved when their parents were in productions.

Benji said he was more involved in kids productions, so once he hit high school, the adult productions were an easy transition.

"I didn't do big things like this," he said. "I did children's theater. I did bigger parts in those."

Zach Miller's entire family is involved too, from acting with his sister on stage to his parents, who work on the technical side.

He said it's a great atmosphere, and has enjoyed being in a play his grandmother has always wanted to produce in Rugby.

"It's nice to have your family with you," he said. "If you ever need help my grandma or mom are there to help. They've been waiting for this for a long time, so it's fun to be involved in it."



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