For both Paul Hustoles and the regular patrons of Minnesota State University Theatre and Dance productions, "Les Miserables" is one of the most anticipated shows in the department's history.
As chair of the department, Hustoles surveys season-ticket holders every two years for the shows they'd most like to see at MSU. For the last 29 years — which amounts to 14 surveys — the musical based on Victor Hugo's 19th-century masterpiece has retained the No. 1 or No. 2 slot. On Hustoles' personal wish-list that he has maintained for 40 years, "Les Miserables" has been a fixture since 1987.
Production rights, however, have not been available to collegiate theater departments — at least not until late in 2012. (An edition for K-12 schools was released in 2001.)
Hustoles is on an email alert for theater production rights so he knows the instant that shows become available for staging. When his assistant ran into his office with the alert for "Les Miserables," he didn't waste any time.
"Within two weeks, we were the first college in Minnesota to book it," he said. "For me, ever since I arrived at MSU, I've wanted to do this show. I think our Mankato audience is anticipating it as well."
When MSU opened season ticket sales for this year's Mainstage and Studio seasons, Hustoles said the number of buyers topped 1,000. In addition, he said, the department doubled its single-ticket sales record when single tickets went on sale Sept. 9.
Although this year's theatre season is attractive for both the diversity and novelty of its lineup — the Mainstage season includes three musicals, Shakespeare's "As You Like It" and a visit from MSU grad and acclaimed founder of the Penumbra Theater Lou Bellamy while the Studio season includes a night of original short plays by MSU students — "Les Miserables" figures to be its most memorable.