Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Tribute to Les Miserable

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

If you like my stories, please tell me in the comments section below.

27 comments:

  1. You captured it perfectly! The kids were awesome

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  2. Very well said!!! The show was amazing!!! Shawnee students have extreme talent!!! Here we come Julliard>>> Bev

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  3. So happy that it went so well for Melissa and her castmates! You must have been thrilled!!! How exciting!! Sending love!

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    1. Kathy it really was thrilling! We saw the show 3 times and I never got tired of it! Thanks so much!!!

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  4. What a wonderful experience and life memory for Melissa and your family! My family saw the last show and felt that this production was much more professional and memorable than the one done by Surflight Theater last summer. We left Surflight during intermission. Their show did not capture us the way Shawnee's did. What a talented group of students (and adults too)!

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    1. Thank you Anita! We saw 3 of the 6 performances, including the last show. I couldn't agree with you more!

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  5. No matter how I watch it (television or theater), I always get emotional. It's great your daughter participated it.

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    1. It really was a special experience for her. Thanks Barbara!

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  6. To take on a project as complex as Les is admirable; to nail it the way you've described is inspirational. No matter what path these kids take in life, this experience will give them a memory of conquest that isn't easy to come by.

    Kids are cool.

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    1. Kids really are cool. They don't get enough credit. I watched the cast work so incredibly hard! Thanks so much Eli!

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  7. What a great experience to see your daughter act in one of your favorite plays. Congrats to her and her classmates on a job well-done!

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  8. Wow, congratulations to your daughter! Sounds like a wonderful experience. I too have an actress daughter. I'm sure she'd love to be in Les Mis someday!

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    1. You never Lisa, maybe she will. Tell her to keep acting and to follow her dream!

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  9. This is really incredible! And for a 7-year-old to be moved by the show is really something. Is your niece a Highly Sensitive Child? She sounds wonderful. And congratulations to your daughter!

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    1. I think my niece is highly sensitive, that may explain it!

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  10. What an awesome endeavor for a group of high school students! I had the privilege of seeing Les Mis on Broadway when my choral group traveled to New York (oh so many years ago). The production was truly breathtaking. "I Dreamed a Dream" will always remain my favorite musical number.

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  11. Lisa, it's wonderful to see that kind of commitment to such an undertaking in our youth. How exhilarating and how uplifting it must have felt like when it was all over. Like a dream come true!

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    1. It was a dream come true Monica! And now they are just back to being high school students!

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  12. My heart soars when I see youth given the chance to reach their highest self. My daughter is playing Lily in the musical Secret Garden starting next week. Her high school is excellent in motivating the students to excel in the fine arts.

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    1. The Secret Garden is such a beautiful show! Good luck to your daughter! I wish more schools supported the arts. Music is so wonderful for students, for so many reasons!

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  13. I'm so impressed that a 7-year-old was able to feel the emotion and passion being presented on the stage. Sounds like it was a great experience for everyone!

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    1. It really was Emma, thanks for visiting my blog!

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