Les Misérables and the Very Lucky
I just finished a run of Les Misérables with the Franklin Performing Arts Company! Actually, it was over a week ago but I feel as though I'm just now beginning to catch up on work, personal relationships, practicing, planning the never ending "next" audition, life in general and not to be forgotten...sleep. What a concept.
I'm not complaining, of course, just trying to be funny as usual. It's really ironic. I remember riding around with my pop in his pickup truck and he was always "trying to be funny". The pickup truck wasn't the only place that dad tried his hand at the craft of humor. He was at it all the time. I guess the red chevy (that I later totaled...oops!) is the place I remember his routines the most probably because it's where my pop and I were the closest in proximity to one another and therefore, impossible to escape from or ignore. And now, I find myself doing and saying the exact types of things that I used to silently, though lovingly smirk to at my reflection of the passenger's window. Remarkably, I now believe him to be one of the funniest people I know. Truly. If I have any luck on my side, a similar fate awaits me.
Back to the story.
After many round trip drives to and from Franklin, MA and months of rehearsals, the company finally arrived at opening night for it's rendition of one of the world's most loved and well-known musicals, Les Misérables! I was originally cast as The Innkeeper's Wife and then also later as Whore #3...certainly, my breakout role. The production itself was a new re-imagination of the story. I try very hard not to have any opinions about my director's choices but even I was a little nervous about some of the ideas we were putting into play. I thought to myself, "half the world thinks Les Mis is a perfect work both musically and theatrically. I have no problems with experimentation because creating is what I strive to do but what about your average theater goer? Won't it shock or maybe even anger them if you mess with their understanding of perfection? Les Mis has a near cult following with it's most heavy members knowing every word of the show from beginning to end. I mean, that's pretty deep, right?
So, what was so different? Well, instead of a presentation style theater experience where performers act/sing and everyone else predicts every moment and then claps, we created, with liberties, a little part of Paris, France in a warehouse about the size of a football field cut in half. Imagine "theater in the round" on steroids and that was the brainchild of director, Nick Paone. There were 5 raised stages where most of the major solos took place and the rest was on the floor, among the audience. In fact, the actors sat with the audience in character, blending in and out of the scenes and action, transforming into performers by adding costume pieces here and there until we were in full pre-victorian garb, switching mic packs with other actors just in time for a musical feature. I can easily say that it was the first time that I have acted and sung the entire duration of a single show. No hanging 'round back stage eating terrible snacks for me this time around. ;) The level of engagement required of the actors and audience was truly fantastic.
In hindsight and as always, any initial fears I had were a waste of time. And, as it turns out, it's exactly what the audience and performers needed to breathe life into something that has become grossly predictable due to it's popularity. That is an unbelievable task and not one I would ever want to take on myself but feel incredibly grateful to be apart of nonetheless.
Not to get all sassafrasy...I have no idea what I mean by that but it's my story, yo...but it's funny to be playing 1 of 90 miserable people while singing such incredible music. I would actually forget to be miserable. Honestly, I found myself singing such lines as "at the end of the day, you're another older and that's all you can say for the life of the poor" with flippin' smile on my face. Obviously, you have to be acting when you're doing this sort of work; that's not the point I'm trying to make here. After an already long day of work and the general stresses of life and knowing that it takes 3 minor miracles in order for one thing to go right just to get you to the next tedious task just to end up in 2 hours of traffic on the mass pike, well, one can get dark. And then you realize that none of it really counts as the moments that actually define your life and you're realistically and incredibly charmed. When I'm in rehearsal or on stage, I remember that I'm one of the luckiest people in the world, spending my time creating something for myself and others. Don't get me wrong, I'm rarely enlightened in this way but I do feel it every now and then. These days, I'm shooting high. I don't want any good thing to pass me by only to realize later just how very lucky I was back in the day. It's my hope for myself or anyone, for that matter, who gets to do what they love to know just how well they have it...
I mean, I was at least a decade behind understanding my pop's humor. It's time to get it together.