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VCU's David Leong choreographs epic scenes of military conquest for "Napolean: The Musical." 

Preparing for Battle

Are you short, dark and handsome? Then listen up. The call is being sounded 'round the world for just the Mr. Right to play Napolean Bonaparte in "Napolean: The Musical." The show is slated to open on the west end of London eight months from now, but Richmond's David Leong is already hard at work. Leong, chairman of Virginia Commonwealth University's drama department, will choreograph the production's battle sequences. The show's seasoned creative team also includes world-renowned opera director Francesca Zambello as director. In a show about a brilliant military guy, you can count on plenty of fights. "Waterloo and The Crossing of the Alps are the two real biggies," Leong says, with anticipation (and is that glee?) in his voice. "The final sequence [Waterloo] is about 10-12 minutes long." A peek at Leong's production notes reveals one concept for staging the Waterloo sequence: A set of moveable platforms "enable small battle vignettes to emerge and 'float' across the battlefield." The platforms would afford the audience both a large, full-stage view of the battle, and a focused, intimate perspective on the more personal moments between characters. Leong details small and large battle images he'd like to create onstage, from "Josephine coming to Napolean" to a full-court "English Cavalry charge." "It's a musical, but it's grand," Leong says. "It's almost like opera in terms of production values." He compares the set design (by Michael Yeargan, head of stage design at Yale School of Drama) to that of "Les Miserables," which was complex and inventive. "It's very cinematic," he says. "The show never stops, the scene just transforms ... there are only two blackouts in the whole production." What might Leong's involvement mean for VCU? "It's a major international credit," he says. "It will bring attention to VCU on both
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