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Published February 23 2013

Moorhead High grad performing with ‘Les Miserables’ number at tonight’s Oscars

LOS ANGELES – On the eve of the Oscars, Ben Gunderson was feeling anything but miserable.

Gunderson, a 2005 graduate of Moorhead High School, is a cast member of the 25th anniversary touring production of “Les Miserables” and will be performing live with a special ensemble at tonight’s Academy Awards.

The 2012 film adaptation of “Les Miserables” is nominated for several awards tonight, including best picture, best actor and best supporting actress.

Gunderson and the “Les Miserables” group, which includes Oscar-nominated Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, will take the stage at the end of a tribute to movie musicals. The program begins with performances by Catherine Zeta Jones and Jennifer Hudson.

Reached Saturday night at his Hollywood hotel, Gunderson, an alumnus of the Trollwood Performing Arts School, said he was told that the tribute would take place just more than an hour into the broadcasts. The Oscars kick off at 7:30 p.m. on ABC, Channel 6 in Fargo-Moorhead.

Gunderson has been with the touring production of “Les Miserables” for 2½ years. He’s earned the title of dance captain, which means that he’s in charge of maintaining the show’s choreography.

He was asked by his associate director a few months ago to be a part of the Oscars ensemble, which he calls “an absolute honor.”

“It was definitely a vote of confidence for me,” he said. “It’s pretty exciting.”

Tonight he joins a handful of members from the touring production as well as alumni of the U.S. tour and the Broadway revival. The group has been in Los Angeles for the past week rehearsing.

Gunderson says he’s not a major part of tonight’s production but still calls the experience “pretty incomprehensible, pretty unbelievable.”

Even though millions of people are expected to tune in for the broadcast, Gunderson isn’t too nervous. The traveling “Les Miserables” cast appeared on “America’s Got Talent” a year and a half ago, which gave him experience on television.

“This is not too different, except the scope is huge and security is high,” he said.

Not to mention his live audience will be a little bit more famous than he’s used to.

“I’ll be standing directly in front of where Christoph Waltz and Daniel Day-Lewis will be sitting,” Gunderson said. “That’s pretty exciting for me.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535

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