Don't MIS out on Les Mis!
By Julia Bartlett and Lydia Prendergast
Les Miserables, commonly known as Les Mis, is recognized throughout history as the tragic story of love and death amidst and after the French Revolution. If not known for that, you may have heard the name through announcements, posters, and social media as Drama Club’s yearly musical.
Following the life of main character Jean Valjean (played by junior Sohil Apte), the story takes place in and around Paris, France from 1815 to 1833. Telling the tale of Valjean’s need to help those around him, he gets arrested for stealing a loaf of bread, serves his time for 19 years, consequently rips up his parole sheet, and starts a new life.
To prepare for such a substantial and emotionally driven role, Sohil Apte, along with the rest of the auditioning students, took part in an acting workshop. Led by music director and head Mrs. Eckersley, actors were able to “sing in front of Mrs. Eckersley and get notes on how to improve”.
Along with this, the actors were given the chance to fully act out, perform their possible characters, and interact with one another.
As Jean Valjean escapes parole, he is followed by an inspector, Javert, who believes that justice can only be achieved through strict law and order. Played by junior David Walker, a role such as this one contained “a sweet spot of easy to learn, hard to master that allows for tons of unique acting choices and flexibility for what I do and where”. Along his journey full of fighting, running, and helping others, Valjean ends up adopting Cosette, daughter of Fantine, a frail factory woman and friend that dies drastically.
Before young Cosette is adopted, she is taken in by the comedic relief of the show, the Thénardiers. Known for their sophisticated stealing and forgery, the Master of the House (played by senior Chad Khalife) and Madame Thénardier (played by junior Coco Stevens) bring a silly side to the otherwise tragic show. When asked what they were most excited for, Chad responded with “I am really excited to work with Coco more in-depth into our pieces,” and Coco similarly replied with “I’m most excited to work with Chad because he’s such a fun person and I think it’s going to be such an amazing experience to have a leading role in this show.”
Once adopted, Cosette matures into a beautiful but sheltered young woman. In order to prepare for a role unlike any other in the show, senior actress Kayla Fitzgerald took “weekly voice lessons” and “prepared all of the songs with my voice teacher for months leading up to the audition.” She also “learned how to use different tones for different characters” and collaborated with others throughout the audition process. As Cosette walks through France with her father Valjean one day, a revolutionary young man, Marius (played by junior Alex Maddestra) falls quickly in love with her at first sight. However, one of Marius’s friends Eponine (also the child of the Thénardiers) pines after
him as he similarly pines after Cosette.
For a role caught in the midst of a love triangle, Alex prepared for this emotionally driven part by “focusing mainly on facial expressions/emotion,” as he already knew Marius’ songs so well. He “made sure to listen to multiple renditions of both songs as well, as to not too closely imitate any one person's sound” and create his own. Eponine, a girl pining for love and unsure of herself, is brought to life by junior Anna Mak. Anna is excited “to take on the huge responsibility of playing such an iconic role in a classic musical, but also for the harmonies I get to sing and the character development I get to go through” As the story follows Valjean’s life, all these human connections and drama continue to ensue.
In order to have a better understanding of the way the musical was going to work, we asked the leads to answer a few questions about their preparation, what some of the workshops were like, what they have learned, and what their most excited about/what their goal is. Each and every one of them responded with practice, working on the roles they wanted nonstop since the summer. Subsequently, their hard work has truly paid off. Les Mis also offers a different side that the other musicals we've done in the past have not had. In this musical, the characters Eponine and Cosette are both shown as younger kids at times in the musical. Along with this, character Gavroche is a smaller child amidst the battles at the barricade. So, instead of high schoolers playing those roles, Mrs. Brobst (the hardworking director) decided to have three fifth graders play them. These children are absolutely amazing and really help bring the musical to life.
Although Les Mis may be different from most musicals you've seen (where the songs are generally used to help carry on the plot), this show is comprised almost completely of music. These types of sung-through musicals leave no room for mistakes, so the cast has had to work incredibly hard to put it all together. Along with this, the crew has been working tirelessly to paint the scenery, costume the actors, and build the well-known, epically challenging barricade (among all the other jobs they have done). With all of the work and riveting storyline kept in mind, you won’t want to miss this beautifully emotional show. We hope to see you there March 14th, 15th, and 16th at 7:00 pm and March 18th at 2:00 pm! Tickets are available now at https://chsdramaclubtix.weebly.com/.