Based on what is considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century, the musical “Les Miserables” tells a story that delves into questions of law and justice, religion and philosophy, history and politics and, of course, romantic and family love.
Although Victor Hugo’s historical French tome was first published in 1862, the themes still resonate today, as evidenced by its many adaptations. The musical version proved a fan favourite, the score composed by Claude-Michel Schönberg, the original French lyrics by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel and the English lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer.
As she usually does, Oak Ridge High School Visual and Performing Arts Program Director Kate Rolls took an ambitious bite. With its biggest cast ever, Rolls is thrilled to see the program grow. “The majority of them have never been in a production here in Oak Ridge before,” she revealed. “We have wonderful children that I didn’t know. They just came out of nowhere. That’s great. I love it.”
“Les Miserables” was last performed on the Oak Ridge stage in 2005, when Rolls herself was a student. Although a smash and complete nightly success, Rolls insists the cast is even better this time around. “We show off this amazing vocal talent that our students here at Oak Ridge have,” she said, praising vocal director Natalie Fletterick for preparing the cast for the demanding score.
The musical is all sung, which was a sticking point for junior Jacob Duong-Tran, who plays Jean Valjean. “I didn’t really want to do the musical. My mother said if I didn’t audition I would be punished,” Duong-Tran admitted, mostly discouraged by the lack of dancing and conversation. “It was only the singing part and the songs were harsh and depressing.”
With a long background in music but little in singing, Duong-Tran said he was mostly self-taught. After wearing a T-shirt over his head and playing the role of a woman for his audition, he ended up landing the lead role – a role he now cherishes.
“What I love about his character is that he literally speaks on the wrong side of the law, but he has the right moral compass,” Duong-Tran explained. And despite having difficulty memorizing some of the songs, he came to embrace the process. “I appreciate that a lot more than I thought. I had fun because these people are all so welcoming and because they are all different. Most of my good friends now are friends I met through theater.
Another unlikely actor is junior Miriam Mathew, as Éponine. A novice in musical theatre, she struggled with episodes of stage fright. “At first I was shaking while singing in front of people,” she said. “I was worried about how I was going to be received, but everyone is so friendly, open and encouraging.”
Having taken lessons since third grade, Mathew is no stranger to singing and is a lifelong fan of musical theatre, with “Les Mis” being a favorite. “There’s something about the atmosphere and the mood that the songs create,” she reflected. “I’ve always wanted to be in a musical because it sounds so fun to come up and be someone you’re not used to being. I thought I might might as well try because I can sing.
For junior Madeline L’Engle, “Les Miserables” is her first Oak Ridge production, but she brings 10 years of El Dorado musical theater experience to her role as Fantine. Despite the dark turn of the character, L’Engle said Fantine’s was inspiring. “She has a cool story,” L’Engle said. “It takes courage to do what she ends up doing on the show.”
L’Engle said she started singing and dancing after seeing an EDMT show and insisting that her mother sign her up. And although she didn’t play many dramatic characters, she rose to the challenge of experiencing new emotions. “Performing this character has been fun,” she said. “His song is beautiful. It is one of the classics of the series.
Working behind the scenes since her freshman year, stage manager Lexi Gandelman not only builds the set, but also moves it. “I think it’s because we have such a good team this year that everything has gone pretty well,” she said, adding that her only setbacks are due to having to exercise authority. on his peers.
“I’m friends with a lot of cast and crew, but when it comes to the show, I can get very bossy so they don’t really know how to react,” she laughed. “It usually ends well.” She is quick to credit Rolls for the camaraderie within the group. “Ms. Rolls is like a best friend to me. She’s more than just a teacher.
Rolls is grateful to Christine Martorana for handling costume design, Andrew Fiffick for set design, and Jason McCarty for sound design.
Performances, on campus at 1120 Harvard Way in El Dorado Hills, are at 7 p.m. Nov. 5-6, Nov. 11-13 with matinees at 2 p.m. Nov. 6-13. To purchase tickets, visit gofan.co/app/school/CA22583_2.