Les Miserables 101 – “It’s Beautifully Miserable”…

What happens when an event, one single event becomes such a defining factor in how you see something, that it changes how you see that very “something” forever?  I would say that word is brilliant.  ASF’s Les Miserables 2014 school edition couldn’t fall any deeper into this category, than you could possibly imagine.  A few details are in order:

When you arrive (and arriving an hour early is not nearly too early) – you do see glimpses of the Les Miserables banner draping the inner entryway of the Ángeles Espinosa Fine Arts Center, but look closer.  Just as details that are missed can matter, this is the case with the actual items contained on the banner.  You will see key quotes that reflect the commitment, time, and reactions to being involved in such a production, so don’t miss the chance to read these, you won’t be sorry.  Having the opportunity to sign your thoughts in a guest book also invites guests to reflect on this evening, which adds to the openness of this overall production.

Why 2 shows?  is it necessary?  Just as in a film, I always notice aspects I never saw the night before, but in this case, I was just surprised at the raw talent that sometimes was represented in an A and B cast, and sometimes a total different character, but yet equally at talented, would hit me.  Two was not enough believe it or not.

Obviously the image and size of the Les Miserables’ Cosette on the curtain let you feel the importance of what had to be a huge undertaking to put on a production, as completely involved as this.  Having seen Beauty & the Beast as a first production at ASF, and working with the challenges of being a brand new experience then, and a cast that believed in what could be happening in the theatre, I had some excitement on what to expect.  Add to that, seeing Les Miserables on New York this year with some of the cast, and going behind savage to see the set design, tricks about props and more, I felt I was a little more expecting than others and was worried if I set my expectations too high on that May 16th night.

I thought these thoughts as I watched the Orchestra prepping in the pit, and I did not detect any nervousness at all, and felt this enormous wave of confidence. It is hard to explain, but you could literally feel this in seeing the confidence, the professionalism, and the demeanor each member, from the strings to  the woodwinds, to the percussion, you felt this air of something great was about to happen.

Now I know this, I expected nervousness in the actors with the hype of this production, the size of the cast, the whole bit. Nothing prepared me for what I would see.

Curtains lifted after the 3rd call, and it was on.  I mean it was ON.  Some of the lead roles struck me as being nervous yet, they all promoted this air of knowing they were just not on stage, to not just work through a musical, but that they had a message to convey to the audience, something that went beyond the cues, lines, and plot we all have come to know as Les Miserables.  I felt the nervousness fade into the second half of the production, and I have to say – I was floored. I could not believe the amounts of emotion that pulled me into the story and the characters literally developing in front of me on stage.  I saw tears in some of the actor’s eyes, I absolutely could not get the songs out of my head and I laughed and knew, every cast member had me at the very beginning when the curtain was raised.  Some very prominent things to take away with you:

“The Master of the House” refrain is unbelievably mesmerizing and catchy, and you need to take in all that see, because there is MUCH happening that is a story going on while the song has you in it’s grip.  I still am singing and laughing to what I saw due to the energy of the characters in this scene.  Amazing.

The girls that make up the prostitutes are so adamant about their situation, the way they project their anger, disappointment, and convictions come right at you, even at the very edge of the stage, they do not hold anything back.  They are brilliant.

The solo scenes, that involve romance, love, and the theme of despair go beyond that, as each of the lead roles put their heart and soul into every single word – you are having on the moment thanks to them – and you feel the tragedy and sense of loss they try to move across to you.

I am being a little vague, yet, you will see why as I detail some of the strengths each character brought to this amazing production.  Remember, having seen these vert students in the halls, I will never look at them the same again based on what I saw them do and translate to me as an audience member.  SO much so, I could not get up for intermission and had to stay out to soak it all in.

One of the most amazing things, if you remember anything at all due to the overload of exciting moments on stage, is the movement you will see in the orchestra.  If you sit close enough to see the orchestra, watch how you see the emotions of the moment, and the music, flow through each member.  You see their arms, hands, their total being a part of the scenes as they sway and move to the melodies that make this production amazing, this in itself is a show seeing unfold as they too put their heart and soul into the very music that also tells a tragic, yet beautiful story unfolding.

Alex – Never before did I envision Alex as a lead in a musical or a play, yet, while he seemed in the first night he held back in the first half a little, by the time the curtain lifted for the second half, you could sense his conviction and confidence and he owned every bit of what Marius comes to stand for and stand up for – it was exciting see Alex grow into his role within the first night, and the second show from the very beginning, Alex showed he could move Marius in the direction he needed to go.

Alexa R. – Can I say up front, I never, EVER realized how amazing a voice  Alexa had, ever.  I was dumbstruck at the very first moment I heard her bring Eponine to life, and you will be too.  Her smile, confidence, and ability to make you tear up and want Eponine to be noticed is overwhelming a times, and she brings a total wreck to your emotions with the intimate way she represents Eponine an at the end, well, I have to say, you feel everyone’s loss through the acting Alexa is able to pull off.

Alice K –  Being biased and knowing Alice  – I loved seeing her put her anger, frustration, and smiles into so many scenes, from the prostitutes to the barricade, if you can ever feel the passion put into Les Miserables, you can feel it from watching Alice through this musical.  Her conviction and belief in tho story is impossible to miss if you watch her role.

Alonso I – There is NO DOUBT anything you see Alonso doing as M. Thenardier will be stuck in your memory forever. Master of the House, literally, his mischievousness, evilness, and the fun he has while doing it, along with the expressions he deals out like the pockets he picks, is AMAZING.  He is undoubtedly made for this role andI will never look at Master of the House the same, or in a more positive note, thanks to Alonso.  

Alvaro A. as Brujon and Joly – What is really difficult to sense is how many places Alavaro is throughout the musical, unless you see it more than once.  He is able to be and perform a variety of roles and in so many places, from the gate at Cossette’s home to one of the members of wanting change in society and doing it with a smile, and an optimism that will win over every single viewer, well done.  Versatile and a part of so many aspects of this musical, he is SUPERB.

Ana Go. – Ana is able to connect so many aspects that interact with the plot, from deadlines with Fantine to representing a major aspect of the poor versus rich – and does it with confidence. Ana is able to also contain this confidence with a number of other actors that sucks you right into what is happening each step of the way.

Ana Gu. – I can’t get out of my head the intensity in one picture Ana brings to the plight of the prostitute.  Her frustration, intensity, and delivery is great and I keep thinking, she is so QUIET in the halls, how does she pull this off?  She pulls it off and THEN some, and never hesitates to show what is means to need something more.

Ana I A – Additionally, Ana’s influence and role in bringing the intensity to the message and life of the women in this musical comes out super strong.  Thanks to images I have of the show, I can’t picture anything but her ability to bring this intensity and conviction of the women to everyone watching the show  – she never falters in doing this.

Andrea – The tenderness and doubts of Cossette, and doing so remarkably well had me in total grips with the musical the first night. Andrea beings what Cossette is experiencing to heart and you feel this, right, in, your heart.  She maintains an amazing ability to sing Cossette right into everyone’s heart and she stole the show as far as what I was expecting Cossette to be after seeing the film and On Broadway version, she disappoints on NO level.

Camila  – On the second night, I was just, I can’t even put into words what I felt.  I knew how amazingly Andrea did the night before and seeing Camila project a totally different yet, mesmerizing Cossette, again, I was just blown away by the way her voice hit the high notes and brought Cossette to live. Having been lucky enough to see what Camila can do from Open Mics we have had with Repentino., this just floored me to see what she did with the role of Cossette.  You will feel greatness when you see her as Cossette and absolutely will think, of you are lucky enough to see both the A and B cast, I need to see this one more time.

David – Knowing David is just – well you are amazed at what he can bring to music and the same is true of the stage.  His involvement from all aspects of the musical are fluid, and you need to pay attention from the factory, to the brigade to many many other places and I noticed how his confidence builds, from one show to the next.  Initially, I sensed some nervousness but then starting with the  last 2 scenes of the first half, in the fist night, BAM!  David was back!  and his ability to appear like a bully yet also support the cause at hand comes flowing through.  He brings to to the audience members a trust and steadiness that only he can do through his characters.

Erik D – Being Montparnasse is no easy task, and yet the sinister and criminals aspects required are delivered by Erik.  One of four criminals, His ability to make the gang seem ever more threatening and his ability to work as a team of criminals, – well done.

Ian A – Being Claquesous and also a part of the four criminals, you sense the ability to make a pact of criminals even deadlier when Ian smiles.  He supports the threat the four bring to society, and also supports the four very strongly when it comes to trying to pull off a crime.

Isabel C – I have to say, again, seeing Isabel in the hall and then seeing her on stage being AMAZING when it comes to the jibes and comic relief she provides on M. Thenardier’s behalf, HYSTERICAL.  Her hair I mean her hair was HUGE and perfect and those TEETH? – no absolutely no way she could have been any better and the she just ROCKED this role – LOVED.

Ivan G – As a pimp and Jean Prouvaire, he does an amazing job. I am used to see him smile, and see him in school with no idea he could show the energy, emotion, and support of a cause as he does in the musical  This was awesome to see him be so involved and active in the many causes that come up in Les Miserables.  VERY impressive.

Jacinta S – Although I never pictured Jacinta as an actress or in a musical, if yo watch her closely, she plays her part exceptionally well.  Not a lead – it would be easy to say ah, she is a supporting role, nice job.  She did a GREAT job and always looked as if she was in the middle of something you need to know about more.  She did a GREAT job and I look at her differently seeing her being involved with a group that believed in this musical, so maybe  listed as Woman 5 – but she does bring Woman 5, alive (sorry for the rhyme!)

Jamie E – Seeing Jaime in a variety of acts at Open Mic and the lead of Beauty and the Beast, you want to jump on stage an join him at the brigade. The Strength, power and confidence he brings to the role as Enjorlas is infectious, and the feeling he brings to a patriotic event does go right through you.

Javier C – As Fauchelevant and Feuilly I didn’t realize  what a turning point character he was, and somehow on the second night, I felt Javier did even more to jump out at me, and he did.  Maybe he did seem more confident the second night, which yes, I think he did seem so.  Yet seeing him also in the “Drink With Me Scene” and especially the second night, It was exciting to see him grow even more into his role and feel comfortable with it.

Jeronimo R – I LOVED seeing Jeronimo as Babet and seeing him beso active and vocal of the cause for independence.  Trust me, seeing him in school, and being very quiet when I see him, this role was a shocker and I loved every minute of seeing him be much more vocal than I ever knew he could be.  He played this role perfect and well!

Jorge – As Javert I of course knew the New York and film production, and just see this as being such a strong character.  I saw an amazing growth of confidence, going from nervous to bringing it to the audience by the end of the first show and full of bravado and confidence by the second night, and you will not be disappointed by his voice quality at all.  I truly could see a rise in the confidence between one show to the next, and it only got better.

Juan P L – Wow.  Again, first night, I sense this wave of nervousness and felt his voice and projection could possibly be stronger and slightly more confident, yet by the third/fourth scene it did become more of a dominant factor  and he did have the confidence I would expect of Jean Valljean.  I especially noticed the way he was able to perform his lines while Javert sang his lines back to Valljean when needed for emotion.  You get lost in his ability to show compassion to the characters around him, while evading the tragedy hovering above his head, and I could not stop thinking of how awesome of a guy Juan P Lis in school as well, a great guy and his solos at times were perfect and just – right on track, it all clicked. Loved him in this role and it was a perfect match.  His relationship with Cossette was fluid and wonderful as well.

Juliana G – There is absolutely something mesmerizing about the initial song little Cossette sings, and Juliana causes that hair to stick up on you neck as well when you hear it.  Sad, depressing, yet just PERFECT – she brings this initial song home representing Cossette to the T when we first see her.  Her facial expressions when Valljean comes to intervene and get her way from her situation was GREAT.

Lara G – ohmygosh. I mean yes, yes yes.  The blackened teeth, the relationship she has (if you call it that) with Cossette, it is played PERFECTLY and I fell in love with the Master in the House scene immediately.  You will too, she complements M. Thenardier and the way she tries to hug Cossette?  HYSTERICAL! This set the tone amazingly for the first night and she was GREAT – WOW.

Lucia S – As Fantine, for the first night show, I was expecting some faltering, some nervousness, Lucia brought this role HOME, and then some. WOW.  I can’t put into words how I fell into Fantine’s role so fact, but I know it was due to Lucia’s strength in this character, hands down, no doubt.  You can even tell from the pictures.  Seeing her in the Shakespeare competition leaves you no wander at how talented she can be in her singing and acting, and she does not disappoint at all.

Luis d l R – You are going to fall in love with him from the very beginning.  Hands down everyone in the audience did.  His gestures that sometimes were just hysterically bash, to the amazing ability he has to catch everyone with that smile, to the confidence he exudes in every, single, line – dead ringer success.  Amazing talent and he was PERFECT – I MEAN amazing.  LOVED, and just devastated when the bad comes to his life as well – and you will too.

Maria I O – Wow.  I was so impressed with Maria, from her participation in the prostitute scene to fighting at the brigade,  in the bar, Maria brings her full energy with the other girls – 100% and it shows.  Keep your eye on her, she is full of emotion and lets it run right through her and right to you every step of the way.

Maria I – As little Cossette, B cast the same feeling of loneliness and isolation hits you when you first see her. I felt her nervousness when she first began, yet her confidence as well changes within a few moments and she was able to bring Cossette to live for me no doubt.

Marianne O – I just sensed the confidence and power of what she brought to the brigade and to the women scenes from the very beginning.  I have seen Marianne not he field and one of herbert qualities was going after the ball and not being passive.  I felt she did the same with this part and just brought everything that we were meant to feel to her character – very well done.

Natalia Flores  – After the first night, I was like, there was no way Eponine could be played better the what I saw.  I was wrong.  It wasn’t better, it was just a totally different character I saw andI LOVED it.  Her smile, her voice, her personality was just a totally different Eponine, and I can’t explain it except say, it worked and she did it so well anther voice did complete justice to the different Eponine I saw, no disappointment at all.  I had a little trouble hearing he at the gate when she saw Marius and Cossette interacting for the first time in the gate scene, but I think this was not at all due to her voice but technical – I just anted to hear her voice on a louder scale more, and her voice and acting absolutely do NOT disappoint.

Nathalie Z – Again, I am still amazed at the collective power, energy, and enthusiasm that are brought to the scenes of the women, and I sara he confidence boost from the first night to the second night in Nathalie’s performance.  I want to hear her voice ten louder as it tended to be soft yet I could tell she was in to her role and not afraid to represent her portion.  I like the fact that you sense she is not going top back down and she is going to representer part well, which she definitely does.

Nicholas K – I have to say – WOW – doing his part as Courfeyrac supporting the overall group towards indepedence worked well and he did with the right expressions and demeanor – yet – literally, what takes the cake is his role as major Domo – I mean EVERYONE was on the FLOOR laughing and he is great – no – PERFECT  – on this – it was the funniest 3 minutes I can recollect and it is picture perfect  :)

Paola M – Seriously, it is what you also know outside of this role that adds to Paola’s role here as Fantine – other than being just amazing at keeping you affixed to what Fantine is going through, a stellar and powerful voice of emotion up and down the roller coaster of emotions, knowing she is an unbelievable artist in many ways outside of this musical, you see the artist in Paola immediately, it hits you like a freight train.  If you do not mind hanging on every word she sings – you stumble away saying, A and B cast – I mean WHOA!  They are amazing and Paola will leaving you wanting so much more or to see it all over again – she was beautiful in voice, demeanor and her confidence – PERFECT and memorable.  Add to that her energy at the Brigade AND as Fantine – and I mean, she gives it her all and her all is everything!

Paul K – No offense Paul, but I loved you as the priest in this role.  LOVED.  You brought a calmness and gentleness to the priest that I had no idea you could deliver in a role. A priest?  You? Paul?  Seriously?  I mean you did it effortlessly, did you ever think that might be your calling?  After seeing you be this role, the audience members will think he indeed is – very convincing and very in the role, it worked so WELL!

Susanne K – I recognized hername, yet was not quite sure I saw Susanne before and yet, you will remember her after seeing her role.  As the factory girl, she totally leads her role with confidence and conviction and never falter.  It’s funny, when you see roles like “factory girl” or “Woman 10″ you expect someone to kind of be in the background, yet everyone of these roles, and in the case thanks to Susanne, bring a level of importance and character to the overall musical, and Susanne definitely does all around.

Tamara K – Again, ditto above, and not because she is listed as woman 11, but because she is confident throughout all the scenes with the women involved.  ALL.  She just brings it home and shows the audience she is important to the musical, and you to ally sense this when you see Tamara on stage.

Ximena V – She played the part perfect as the bishop’s sister and one of the women overall.  Confident, not hanging back it seemed at all, what might seem to some as a minor role was not because she acted so confident in all she did, you are very content with her being there on stage, as she contributes 100% percent – go ahead, watch her and you will see, she has earned the right to be there and then some.

Yair G- No offense but I loved Yair as Bamatabois and Grantaire, always present, and he did bring some surprising strong vocals that I did not know he could provide, then you take into account how much time he spent on the earning and fundraising and publicity and still to see him so involved on stage as well?  It is no reason he wants to be drunk on the stage, lol, but honestly he brings the role of these two to reality without even a blink – and seeing him so attentive to the characters around him even more intensifies his roles as a whole.

As if these above did not contribute enough, the Orchestra and the combination of the above actors, did cause emotions to go RIGHT THROUGH YOU. It feels like waves of the revolt, the fight, the struggles, every step of the ay worked through you as an audience member, then you realize, whoa.  Wait.  School musical, seriously, you are that sucked in.

I can’t say enough about what an undertaking this is, and how much is involved to bring such a production to you – and it happens.  I mean full force it happens, and when you look around and see how many people surround you – how many seats are empty? (none) – the emotions of not wanting it to be over, and wanting to see everyone above one more time – has you realize how amazingly lucky you where to see such major contributors put together one amazing emotional representation of a giant in Broadway right now.

When you think of how amazing the Theatre Tech Club led by Alexander D W is, and then the stage manager, Marcela, her dream coming true with so much talent in the crew, how amazing they were in changing scenes effortlessly, and the amazing accommodations by the Fine Arts Center made up of Teruhi and Hugo, the details applied by the stage crew, and whoa, the feeling of the musical seen through the way the Orchestra flowed with the music (Mr. McCabe, Lucia, DO Hee, and many more that just astound you with the music at their fingertips), standing back and seeing how the parents helped support the next production with the French cafe, down to how great the volunteers with programs, how well the lights were during the show, to just how amazing it is when you out this all together -

If you wanted a show that you want to live on and on in your memory – this is it.  DO NOT MISS THIS for the world; the raw talent I saw, both nights, and trust me 2 nights is not enough – will stick with me for years from now.  That is something that truly, “Beautifully Miserable” as so well stated by Alice.

Having the amazing luck to see each of these individuals in the halls of ASF, their talents and abilities, and what I expected of them or in some cases was surprised by what they DID bring to the stage, just blew me away.  I am still not sure I can find, or have found the words to say exactly, how proud it is to see ASF represented with them on that stage in the Fine Arts Center, but, you will will the exact same way when you see this production, I feel the best musical I have seen for countless reasons, and you will feel the same.

It seemed like yesterday when I remember seeing the early stages of a practice on stage -

Initial practice

 

 

to the amazing spirited call of energy here found with a flag that represented so much:

 

IMG_4058

 

 

truly makes this a huge success!  It makes it that rich, that much harder to say goodbye as some of the graduates do become graduates,  I am not sure I can ready myself yet for that step – and I haven’t even had them as students in the classroom!

About Harry Brake

Employee of ASF in Mexico City, Librarian, Media crazy! :)
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One Response to Les Miserables 101 – “It’s Beautifully Miserable”…

  1. Saskia says:

    I am very proud to be a miserable mom!!! Not only for my child, but for all the members of this remarcable play. Not only for their talent as artists, but most important as a group that support their friends. You must feel very proud of what you have accomplised, you have made us cry, laugh, learn, etc. I hope you realize how BIG this. Congratulations to everybody that made it possible, Armando, Miss Cesarman, etc. Thank you for a wonderful experience!!!

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