Stage Cats work hard in preparation for musical, Les Mis

“You who suffer because you love, love still more. To die of love is to love by it.” The popular Broadway musical Les Misérables will now be shown in Westminster’s very own Kellett Theatre. Based on the book of the same name by the French novelist Victor Hugo, the musical covers the life of former prisoner Jean Valjean and his struggle raising a young orphan girl named Cosette. Valjean had been a prisoner for many years but was recently released by prison officer and cop Javert due to his good behavior. When Valjean is released, however, he breaks parole and uses stolen silver to become the mayor of town. Valjean’s return to his thieving ways angers Javert and so he vows to see Valjean brought to justice. This ultimately makes his job of successfully raising Cossette extremely problematic. As you can most likely tell, the drama and plot which drives Les Mis is both emotional and inspiring, providing reason for the musical’s worldwide popularity.

This popularity, however, does not come without a slew of difficulties. The cast has a size of almost 65 students, making it one of the largest productions Westminster has put on. It is close in size to the famous Titanic which Westminster has performed before.

“It’s a large play with a lot of moving parts,” said senior Ryan Costley, actor for Jean Valjean.  “There have been times where we have done large productions in the past, but Les Mis definitely takes a lot longer to come together. We just need to be willing to put in that extra effort to see it come to fruition.” 

This extra work is easily identifiable in the cast’s rehearsal schedule, which consists of three-hour rehearsals, five days a week. These intense rehearsals must be utilized as effectively as possible due to how difficult the musical’s content is.

“Ninety-nine percent of the performance is singing,” said freshman Charlie Zacks, who will be acting as both the understudy for Jean Valjean as well as Legles and Convict 3. “That aspect in combination with the massive amount of people who have to be focused at one time increases the difficulty of getting each part right.”

The people responsible for the difficult task of managing so many students are this year’s student and teacher directors. The student directors for this year’s Les Mis performance are junior Sang-Mi Lee and sophomore Aditi Pande. Their positions entail many jobs which are vital for both rehearsals and performances to run smoothly.

“We’re in charge of taking role, directing the scenes and getting people where they need to go, as well as providing people with all the information Ms. Morgens wants them to see,” said Lee.

Directing scenes is arguably the most difficult of these jobs, and it is where the directors get to exercise their knowledge of theatre.

“When I direct scenes, I listen to the song a couple of times and then find recordings of Broadway performances and other high school performances,” said Lee. “I use these to see if their blocking would fit with what I want to put in the scene.”

The two directors’ jobs would be much more difficult without the guidance of the teacher directors.  Kate Morgens, the performing arts department chair, is head director of this year’s Les Misérables production. Meanwhile, Chris Walters, Jason Maynard, and Scott Stewart are in charge of the production’s music. These four teachers as well as the two students coordinate plans for each rehearsal day so the cast and crew will be prepared for their performance.

Students across all grade levels are extremely excited about the play and cannot wait to see their hard work pay off.

“I’m really excited for my first performance in the Upper School,” said Zacks. “It’s a lot of work, but I’m excited to see the payoff and grow as a performer.” 

The talented cast, crew, and directors of Le Mis have been putting a tremendous amount of time into this show, and it will surely be a huge hit around campus.

“I just think it’ll be a great musical overall,” said Costley. “It’s a large cast so there are a lot of people that you wouldn’t expect who are involved in it. And also, it’s a really popular play that we haven’t done in a couple years, so the intrigue is there.”

He’s certainly right about the intrigue, and if you would like to witness Westminster’s production of Les Misérables, check it out on October 19-21. Au revoir!