SULLIVAN — Therese Kincade of Charleston gets to have fun being comically mean in her role as an innkeeper in the production of “Les Miserables” that is scheduled to begin tonight at The Little Theatre On The Square in Sullivan.

One of the main targets of Mademoiselle Thenardier’s meanness is her young employee Cosette, played by 7-year-old Piper Countryman of Mattoon. Cosette has been turned over to the Thenardiers in 19th-century France by her financially destitute mother.

“She is this sweet little girl. The audience is absolutely going to melt when they see her,” Kincade said of Piper. “Then I come out and start being nasty to her.”

Piper, who made her Little Theatre debut last December in “Home for the Holidays,” said she is not fazed by Kincade being mean to her on stage in “Les Miserables.”

“I like acting with her. I know that she is pretending,” Piper said matter-of-factly. For her part, Kincade said, “We are buddies off stage. We laugh and talk together.”

Both Kincade and Piper said they are excited about taking part in the production of “Les Miserables,” a popular musical that has gained an even higher profile this year thanks to the Oscar-nominated, hit film version. “Les Miserables,” based on a novel by the same name by Victor Hugo, opened on Broadway in 1986, becoming one of the longest-running musicals in Broadway history.

“Les Miserables” is the story of Jean Valjean, who serves 19 years in jail before breaking parole to begin a new life. He is relentlessly tracked by police inspector Javert. Valjean and a variety of other characters are subsequently swept up in a revolution in France, where a group of young idealists make their last stand at a street barricade.

Kincade said the story’s message of forgiveness, redemption and, most importantly, love has struck a chord with audiences, adding that this is her favorite musical. She noted that Mid-State Tank President Gery Conlin signed his Sullivan-based company up to sponsor this production because “Les Miserables” is his favorite musical, as well.

“Les Miserables” is the biggest production that The Little Theatre has taken on in a long time, Kincade said. The musical will be performed there by a 14-piece orchestra and a cast of approximately 30 actors on an extended stage. Kincade, who has been director of youth programs at the theatre since September 2011, said the musicians and actors, Piper included, have done justice to a musical that is both grand and intimate.

“The voices in this production are absolutely wonderful, powerful, and then to have it staged in an intimate setting like The Little Theatre. I see it in rehearsal and I get chills listening to them singing this music,” Kincade said. “That is what music should do, bring you out of yourself and make you feel this emotion.”

Piper, the daughter of Troy and Andrea Countryman, said performing in “Les Miserables” has been “super fun,” adding that she hopes to continue acting and singing. Piper, who attended the theater’s Broadway Bootcamp children’s program last summer, said she has made a lot of friends with her fellow cast member and some of them even attended her recent costume birthday party.

“I am just over the moon excited for her,” Andrea Countryman said. “We feel blessed that she has been given the opportunity to do this.”

Kincade said she feels blessed to be able to put her lengthy experience acting in community theater, directing Charleston High School musicals, teaching speech communications classes, and running her family’s What’s Cookin’ restaurant in Charleston to work full time at The Little Theatre. She said she feels especially honored to play such a comically nasty character role in her favorite musical.

“It does feel like I am living a dream because I never could have imagined doing this work at the level I am doing it (at The Little Theatre),” Kincade said. “I just feel so excited about what I do because I get to use all the things I have learned.”

Tickets for “Les Miserables” can be purchased online at thelittletheatre.org or by calling the box office at 217-728-7375.

Contact Stroud at rstroud@jg-tc.com or 217-238-6861.

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