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 [email protected] 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. Review: Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald team up to cool down the Clearwater Jazz Holiday


    A cool breeze swept through Coachman Park Saturday night. Couple of them, actually.

    Kenny Loggins performed at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday on Oct. 21, 2017.
  2. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start


    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  3. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Ryan Callahan spent a lot of time last season rehabilitating his injured hip alongside Steven Stamkos, who was rehabbing a knee after season-ending surgery. During those hours, Callahan noticed two things about Stamkos: his hunger and his excitement to return this season.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy


    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  5. Funeral held for soldier at center of political war of words (w/video)


    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102