While watching a production of the Broadway classic Les Miserable, I stole a glance at my 7-year old niece Amy, sitting two seats away. Although she is a creative child who loves to dance and sing, I still had doubts she would understand the complicated tale of love, loss, revolution, and redemption. What's more, the 3-hour show, devoid of spoken dialogue, tells the entire story through song.
Yet, as I studied the expression on her sweet, young face, I knew, then and there, that my niece had fully embraced the experience. Amy's wide, innocent eyes glistened with tears as she watched the show's tragic heroine Eponine sing tender words of comfort as she lay to rest in the arms of her unrequited love.
Don't you fret M'sieur Marius
I don't feel any pain
A little fall of rain
Can hardly hurt me now
You're here, that's all I need to know
And you will keep me safe
And you will keep me close
And rain, will make the flowers grow
Amy was not alone.
I too, felt my cheeks wet with emotion as many in the audience wiped tears from their eyes.
I had seen Les Mis countless times - the Broadway production in New York City, the national touring production in Philadelphia, and of course, the movie version starring Hugh Jackman. I knew about Eponine's heart-wrenching destiny. I knew every word of her final song. I cried each time she drew her last breath. Yet this time, this time....the tears that flowed were more than tears of sorrow. They were tears of wonderment, of pride, of joy. For I simply could not believe that the actors whose talents struck such an emotional chord with their audience were high school students!
Yes, high school students! Shawnee High School students, to be exact.
Last year, when my teenage daughter Melissa told me her school planned to tackle Les Mis, she could barely contain her excitement. Like her parents, she had also seen both the stage and screen version and had fallen in love with the story, the characters, and the music. For over a year, Melissa and her friends analyzed their high school's decision to produce such a difficult show.
She was thrilled to be a part of something so special, cast as an onlooker with a solo in the cart crash scene, and lending her sweet vocals to the "Girlfriends of Students" ensemble.
After countless late afternoon and weekend rehearsals, opening night had finally arrived! My husband Bob and I sat in the audience, waiting with anticipation for the lights to dim, excited but still unsure that high school students could pull this off.
I am happy to share that those kids, those high school students, proved us so very, very wrong!
We. Were. blown. Away.
The actors poured every ounce of their passion, energy, enthusiasm, and talent into bringing the characters to life.
It was, by far, the best production of Les Miserable that I have ever seen!
Congratulations to the entire cast, crew, and Jim Sheffer's orchestra. And a special tip of the hat to music teachers Gina Kehl and Rob Joubert who had the faith and confidence in their students' ability to shine!
|Melissa with Bob and me following her performance in Les Miserable