Caleb Schantz loves the theatre. He loves the challenge of taking on a role, pushing that character to its limits, and losing himself in the part to make the performance authentic and believable for the audience. He is no stranger to big parts, having played Harold Hill in OBU’s 2015 production of “The Music Man” and Conrad Birdie in a 2016 production of, “Bye Bye Birdie.”
Yet, as this senior theatre major at Oklahoma Baptist University prepares for the curtain to rise on his next performance, he may be facing the most challenging and heralded role to date in his young career. Schantz will be hitting the stage in the role of Marius Pontmercy in a production of wildly popular and critically acclaimed musical sensation, “Les Miserables.” The show will be presented by Upstage Theatre of Edmond, Oklahoma.
Performances will be held in the Mitch Park Amphitheatre and will take place July 20-22 and July 27-29 at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 7. Tickets are $18 for adults, $12 for students (with valid ID) and seniors (60+) and kids four and under are free. Tickets may be purchased at the door beginning at 6:45 or online at the theatre website www.upstagetheatreok.com/current-season/.
Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and/or blankets for seating. Concessions and food trucks will be available. “Les Miserables” is rated PG-13 and will last about 3 hours.
Schantz learned about the production through his involvement with the theatre last year in a production of “Beauty and the Beast.” Last summer, Schantz starred in the lead role of the theatre’s production of “Bye Bye Birdie.”
For Schantz, the role of Marius has challenged and grown his vocal abilities.
“This is the most challenging role I think I have had, but also my favorite,” he said. “The hardest thing for me has been the voice range of Marius. At the beginning of the process, it was kind of worrisome, but after talking and working with my voice coach, Dr. Louima Lilite, I have become very comfortable in his music. Overall, this music has proven to be much harder than just singing along with a recording, but definitely a great process of learning.”
Schantz is excited to perform one song in particular.
“My favorite song from this show and probably from all musical theatre is ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.’ The amount of emotion and desperation that Marius has at this point is heart wrenching. Being able to connect with the character more deeply has given this song so much more meaning.”
Schantz has played numerous roles in recent years including Harold Hill in the 2015 production of “The Music Man;” Elder Mclean in the 2015 production of “Susannah;” a messenger in the 2015 production of “Much Ado About Nothing;” Andy in the 2016 production of “Star-Spangled Girl;” Doug in the 2016 production of “Gruesome Playground Injuries;” Tony Kirby in the 2016 production of “You Can’t Take it With You” and Bill Livingston in the 2017 production of “Women of Lockerbie.”
Schantz has reached this stage in his career and earned these roles through perseverance and determination, and offers advice to those considering performing.
“For anyone wanting to perform, never let the no’s overpower the yes’s. In this industry, there are so many times you can get discouraged by being told no. Honestly, if you don’t like being told no this isn’t the career for you. You may be told no 10 times for every time you are told yes. But those yes’s are the best things that God can have to offer. They are the roles that you wouldn’t have been able to do if you had been told yes somewhere else. I auditioned to multiple theaters for summer jobs and was really discouraged because I was told no by all of them. That was honestly hard for me since I hadn’t ever auditioned for anything professional. However, had I gotten a job at one of those theatres I wouldn’t be Marius. So, just know that no’s will pay off.”
He credits his time so far at OBU as having a deep and profound impact on his acting and performing career.
“OBU has given me such a deep passion for performing,” he said. “I have also learned how to approach different shows and roles not just academically, but also spiritually, and that is such an amazing opportunity that I get to do in each show. Additionally, OBU has given me so many amazing tools for theatre and music and I am so thrilled to see them in use in my performing life when I am not at school.”
Patrick Towne, director of the show, has only high praise for Schantz.
“Most directors dream about working with actors like Caleb,” he said. “His attention to detail and his ability to immerse himself in a character set him apart from other actors his age. Caleb's portrayal of Marius is full of honesty and he has a vulnerability that brings a new prospective to the character.”
After he graduates, Schantz plans to continue following his dreams.
“During this next year, I plan to audition, audition and audition. As of now, I am hoping to get a performing job at Disney World and do their college program. However, I am also looking at professional theatres and cruise lines as well. I’ve also looked at living in Chicago and New York City. Right now it is really just whatever door God opens.”
For more information on studying theatre at OBU, visit www.okbu.edu/catalog/programs/theatre.