This year, the students with Immersion Youth Repertory are taking on what could almost be described as a musical marathon: Les Misérables.

While their version of the show is the school edition, not that much has changed and the students are rising to the occasion.

"It's really big topics for kids, you know – it's revolution and death and war and love," said Misha Johnson, co-founder of the theatre group and executive director. "It's all these really big themes that are happening in this."

In the musical, a group of students rise up to defend their ideals. Johnson feels that her students will be able to take experiences from their own lives and think about what fires them up to "jump on the barricade."

The students are rehearsing hard, she said. With only two weeks on stage, many of the students had to prepare during the rest of the summer to have all of their lines memorized for rehearsal. Which is very similar to what a professional would have to do, according to Johnson.

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"We call ourselves 'immersion,' because we do immerse the kids in all-day musical theater bootcamp," Johnson said.

After only a week of rehearsal – 9 a.m. till 4 p.m. – the musical was fully staged and the students had already run through all the music.

Both the on-stage cast and orchestra are made of high school students. Southeastern Minnesota Youth Orchestras (SEMYO) will provide the soundtrack for the just-over-two-hour musical.

While it may be hard work preparing such a large piece of music, for Johnson, watching the students get into it makes the labor worth it.

"We just (rehearsed) Éponine's death yesterday, and it's just so emotional, you know this piece is so emotional," Johnson said. "But it is so great to have the kids finally connect to their characters."

Johnson started Immersion Youth Repertory with Lindsey Blackhurst in 2016, and since then the participation has grown rapidly. The first production they did had 13 students, but this coming performance will include 40 students.

Les Misérables will be the largest production put on by the group to date, and Johnson summed it up in one word: epic.

"Our (production) definitely focuses on the struggles we all face with our own shadow and our own demons, about who we are and who we want to be in the world," Johnson said, "and how we rise above those guilts that we have."

The larger production is also paired with a larger performance space – Presentation Hall at Mayo Civic Center.

"We are so excited, and Presentation Hall holds like 1000 people, so people can pack it in there," Johnson said.


Immersion Youth Repertory's Les Misérables, school edition


7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 26 and 27


Mayo Civic Center, 30 Civic Center Dr. SE, Rochester


$15 adults, $12 students and seniors,