Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lawyer presents her case as Cosette in 'Les Miserables'

PLANT CITY — When Ashley Allen learned Plant City Entertainment had won the rights to perform Les Misérables, the Riverview lawyer barely hesitated: She showed up with about 100 other actors and singers for the all-day audition, hoping at least for a part in the chorus.

"It's a classic," Allen said. "If you've grown up in theater, you know the musical."

The show has enjoyed long runs on Broadway dating to the 1980s and last year was introduced to a new generation with the movie starring Hugh Jackman and Academy Award-winner Anne Hathaway, but only recently had it become available to community theaters. Plant City Entertainment won the rights in February and started rehearsals in April.

The company's nine performances are scheduled July 19 to Aug. 3. Tickets are $14.

Allen, 29, plays Cosette, one of four female leads and arguably the most sought-after of the female roles.

The day of the audition, she showed up aiming for Cosette but had doubts after assessing the talent around her also vying for the role.

Allen, who runs her fledgling law practice from home, says that like other actors in the show, her love of community theater started in childhood and never died out. She has no illusions about pursuing an acting career and said the daily juggling — motherhood, her law practice and acting — is worth it once she steps on stage. Allen and her husband, Lyle, who works for the Veterans Administration, have a 2-year-old daughter, Violet.

"It's definitely a commitment to do community theater," Allen said. "After the last show (Godspell, with the Village Players in Valrico), I wasn't sure I wanted to do it again, leaving my husband two to five nights a week to take care of our daughter."

Domin Pazo, the show's director, said he's glad she auditioned.

"She's got pipes," said Pazo, 45, who's been involved with Plant City Entertainment for 20 years.

The role of Cosette came down to seven women, he said. Allen "had an innocent look with a strong voice" that made her stand out.

Performing on stage provides an outlet, Allen said.

"It's a great escape," she said. "It's good therapy to get on stage and sing."

Allen's first musical was in the fifth grade, playing a bit part in Annie. She has performed in scores of shows since then, so many she loses count. A box of memorabilia attests to her love of theater: playbills, photos and miniature framed posters amassed by her parents at her hometown outside Knoxville, Tenn.

"When I was in third grade, Mom enrolled me in a drama class," Allen said. "I've been doing plays ever since."

After a hiatus during law school at Stetson University in St. Petersburg, she returned to acting a couple of years ago with the former Stagedoor community theater, the Village Players and the Frenzie Performance Factory, all in East Hillsborough.

"I've known a lot of attorneys in community theater," Allen said. "When I'm presenting a case to a judge or a jury, having that performance background, being able to speak in front of a large audience, helps a lot."

This will be her first show with Plant City Entertainment, 101 N Thomas St. The musical, which includes a 20-piece orchestra, represents the company's largest production in its 33-year history. The stage was expanded 2 feet to accommodate the sets and actors.

Set in early 19th century France, Les Misérables tells the story of Jean Valjean, a French peasant, and his quest for redemption after serving 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread. Valjean breaks parole and is relentlessly tracked down by police inspector Javert.

Along the way, he adopts Cosette, the daughter of a deceased factory worker. Later, the characters are swept up in the chaos of the French Revolution. Allen plays the older Cosette.

Music Theatre International, which controls the rights to Les Misérables, announced in November that for the first time it would release the rights to community theaters. Plant City Entertainment will be only the second community theater statewide to perform Les Misérables. The first: Northwest Florida State College in Niceville, which opens July 17, two days ahead of Plant City.

Dodie White, a board member for Plant City Entertainment, said she jumped at the chance after hearing the show was being released. She emailed fellow board members and contacted Music Theatre International. The rights became available in January. She sent a $4,000 check to the company the next day.

"I was so excited. Everybody was. We were just thrilled," she said.

Word spread across the region and by the time of auditions, 107 had shown up, the largest turnout ever for Plant City, Pazo said.

"The popularity of the show is tremendous. This and Phantom (of the Opera) are considered the two most popular musicals in the world," he said.

A spaghetti dinner to defray costs is set from 4 to 7 p.m. July 13 at St. Peter's Episcopal Church, 302 N Carey St. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children.

Rich Shopes can be reached at or (813) 661-2454.

>> If you go

Les Misérables

When: July 19 to Aug. 3

Where: Plant City Entertainment, 101 N Thomas St., Plant City

Tickets: $14

Show times and days:

Lawyer presents her case as Cosette in 'Les Miserables' 07/04/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 5:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Shooting sends man to hospital in St. Pete


    ST. PETERSBURG — Police were investigating a shooting that occurred around 4:40 p.m. on Tuesday and sent a man to the hospital.

  2. Police: Man tries to lure child with puppy in Polk County


    Times staff

    HAINES CITY — A man was arrested Sunday after he tried to entice a young girl into his camper to view a puppy, according to police.

    Dale Collins, 63, faces a charge of luring or enticing a child under the age of 12. [Photo courtesy of the Polk County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Editorial: Coming together to reduce car thefts


    The simple, knee-jerk response to the juvenile car theft epidemic in Pinellas County would be to crack down on offenders with an increased police presence and stiffer sentences. Thankfully, local community leaders did not stop there. As detailed in a recent Tampa Bay Times follow-up to its 
As detailed in a recent Tampa Bay Times follow-up to its "Hot Wheels" investigation into youth car thefts, a variety of ideas from multiple directions increases the odds of actually solving the cause and not just treating the symptoms.

  4. Editorial: Floridians' health care now at risk in Washington


    The health care for millions of Floridians is now at risk. The U.S. Senate's dramatic vote Tuesday to begin debate on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act with no idea what will happen is a dangerous gamble with American lives and the national economy. Barring an unexpected bipartisan compromise, a handful of …

    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., dramatically returned to the Senate for the first time since his brain cancer was diagnosed and cast the key vote that enabled Vice President Mike Pence to break the 50-50 tie and allow the health care debate to proceed.
  5. Former Marine from Florida dies fighting for Kurdish militia

    ORLANDO — A former Marine who secretly traveled to Syria earlier this year to battle the Islamic State was killed while fighting for a Kurdish militia, his father said Tuesday.

    David Taylor, with his father David Taylor Sr., was killed earlier this month in Syria while fighting for a Kurdish militia.