By Julia Barnett
Many of Byram Hills’ most talented actors and singers have been very busy this winter, as they’ve been working six days a week for the past two months to perfect their upcoming performance of Les Miserables. The 86 members of the cast and crew are eagerly waiting for the opportunity to show off their hard work when the show finally comes to the stage this weekend. If advanced sales are any indication, this is a show you should not miss.
This classic musical, based on Victor Hugo’s timeless novel, takes place in the early 19th century in France. The main character, French peasant Jean Valjean, seeks redemption after serving nineteen years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread for his starving sister. Now, committed to making a decent life for himself and others, he is pursued relentlessly by parole inspector Javert. Jean Valjean, who will be played by Charlie Winston, will guide the audience through his journey of finding himself while facing many challenges along the way. Throughout the show, the characters face broken dreams, love, war, and death all set in a nation in the throes of revolution.
Les Miserables is a complicated musical known for having a script composed solely of songs. This makes the already famously complex score hard to successfully perform in a high school setting. When sitting as an audience member, it is hard to recognize how many hours of practice and work the members of the cast and crew have spent preparing for the play behind the scenes. This year’s production is being masterfully directed by Mr. John Lopez. A veteran alumnus having played Jean Valjean himself in a regional theatre, Mr. Lopez describes this multifaceted theatrical experience as, “a huge show that covers a vast array of locations and times. There are 56 cast members, but closer to 120 costumes, there are tables and tables full of intricate props, and a monolithic universal set.” Mr. Lopez further explained, “that the show will be running 34 wireless microphones plus suspended mics, sound effects, monitors and orchestra channels at the sound board. The light plot will contain upward of 200 cues, and the run crew will be changing scenes in front of the audience with no curtain, as the show is through composed, meaning it only stops at the intermission and the end.”
Byram Hills sophomore Charlie Cohen, who is passionately playing the role of Cosette in the show, has really enjoyed her experience in the Les Mis production. Charlie states, “The whole cast has become very close during the production, and we all enjoy the music so much that rehearsals never seem boring or long.” When asked to describe the most challenging part of the role, she explains that, “ It’s difficult to put myself in Cosette’s shoes and imagine myself living in a time period of revolution.” Nonetheless, this is a challenge that Charlie and the other actors and actresses in the performance embrace, as it is part of what makes the show so exciting.
Although this book was written 1862, Director Lopez believes that this enduring musical has a message that should resonate with all parents, teachers, and students. He says,” Les Miserables is about the vast potential of the human mind and spirit. It is about becoming more than we think we can. As parents and educators, this is the message we preach daily to our charges, often with limited success. Hugo has managed to make that concept real and to pull directly into the conflict.”
All are encouraged to attend the Varley Players’ upcoming production to see this special rendition come to life on the Byram Hills stage. Les Miserables will be performed at the high school on March 9th-11th, and tickets are currently being sold online. The cast and crew hope to see all of you there to enjoy the final product of their creative efforts. Again, sales have been robust, so interested theater-goers are encouraged to purchase tickets promptly.