Les Mis Hits The Show Biz
Candace Brinkley ‘12
Les Miserables, by title alone, may seem like a morbid, depressing play. But though the plot consists of deaths and heartache, the characters sprang to life by the brilliant skill of the actors. After months of hard work, the Bishop McNamara production of musical Les Miserables which opened on November 12, was a success.
This was the first fall musical I attended at Bishop McNamara and it did not disappoint. As everyone took their seat, the air was full of anticipation and excitement. The pit orchestra began to play and the curtain opened to reveal a beautiful, rustic set that transported the audience to 19th century France. Each character introduced possessed their own distinct personalities that resonated with the audience.The prop design and costumes alone transported the audience to 19th century France. Les Miserables was directed by Mary Mitchell-Donahue.
My favorite quote comes from the scene when Javert, the inspector played by Michael Mathes ‘11, after a lifetime of looking for Valjean, decides to take his own life: “ To owe life to a malefactor…to be in spite of himself on a level with a fugitive from justice…to betray society in order to be true to his own conscience that all these absurdities…should accumulate on himself. This is what prostrated him.” Javert only sees the law in black and white and is torn by his relationship to Valjean and following the letter of the law. In the end, this confusion is too much for him to handle and he commits suicide.
One character that really stood out for me was Eponine, played by Briana Barber ’12. Eponine was the spoiled child of Mr. and Mrs. Thenardier, the greedy innkeepers. In her adulthood though, her selfish persona changes with the love of another. Barber expertly portrays a character who has experienced several years of heartache and lost. In the scene, “A Heart Full of Love,” Barber’s character Eponine suffers through the agony of knowing the love of her life is interested in the beautiful and wealthy Cosette. Through her singing, the audience could easily empathize with her pain.
The performance of lead Austin Holmes ‘12 was extremely impressive. Jean Valjean, the main character, is followed from his days in captivity in jail for stealing a loaf of bread, to his respected position of mayor of a small town, finally to his life as an adopted father. Holmes’ commitment to his character was outstanding. He acted with a maturity that is not expected of a high school student.
Mary Mitchell-Donahue, director and costume director, selected the fall musical. During the four year time period, she wants to expose students to diverse types of plays and musicals by alternating between modern and traditional. Les Miserables was selected for many reasons. This musical has many great characters, solo parts, and a good balance between males and females roles. After bringing the idea to Mr. Anthony Conto, band director, and Mr. Dominic Traino, vocal director, Donahue learned they were really inspired to take on the challenge.
The pit orchestra, directed by Anthony Conto was the icing of the cake, providing the appropriate atmosphere to the different scenes. Each song melded seamlessly with the actors’ scenes. From the violinist to the percussionists, each member demonstrated an impressive level of professionalism. The music eloquently melded into the scenes and the actor’s songs.
The staging, lightning, and props really brought the play together. Mr. John Shryock, sound designer, headed all of the behind-the-scenes action. The tech crew, dressed in all black, moved quickly to transform scenes.
Les Miserables is based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel of the same name. Passion, humanity, death, and love fills this story as Jean Valjean, a fugitive, escapes captivity from Inspector Javert. Les Miserables is the winner of over 50 international theater awards, including eight 1987 Tony Awards (two of which were for Best Musical and Best Score).
“To love another person is to see the face of God.” Even though this play is shrouded in heartbreak, death, and unfortunate circumstances, the theme is love. With love, these miserable people have found a reason to thrive.