Production could be Belgian 'Les Miserables'

A big-budget musical adaptation of Oscar-nominated Belgian movie “Daens” goes into rehearsal this summer, preparing for an Oct. 4 opening.

With its 19th-century setting and a plot mixing young love with social upheaval, the production has all the makings of a Belgian “Les Miserables.”

Set in the Flemish town of Aalst, the story concerns radical priest Adolf Daens and his battle to improve conditions in the textile industry.

With the workers speaking Flemish and the mill owners speaking French, story is set to resonate with audiences in a country still divided by language. The musical will be bilingual, with subtitles covering the changes in spoken language.

Production company Studio 100 is refitting an old mail-sorting depot on the outskirts of Antwerp to host the production. It expects an audience of 100,000 over the six-month run.

The movie “Daens” was nominated for 1992’s foreign-language Oscar. Original helmer Stijn Coninx is artistic adviser on the stage production, while the film’s score composer, Dirk Brosse, provides the music.

The stage show will be directed by Frank Van Laecke, who has written lyrics with Allard Blom.

Lucas Van Den Eynde will play Daens, a role taken in the film by Jan Decleir. The love interests will be played by Free Souffriau and Jelle Cleymans, both veterans of Studio 100 stage and TV productions.

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