If you are currently aged between 30 to 40 years, and you’re a fan of musical theatre, then you are likely to have grown up with Les Misérables. This iconic show, penned by Boublil and Schönberg, had its world premiere performance in French in Paris in 1980, and five years later, it made its way to the West End for the English premiere production.
Since its genesis, the hit musical has enjoyed two memorable anniversary concerts – the 10th anniversary being in 1995, and the 25th Anniversary in 2010. With each celebration presentation, the audience continues to grow, and more productions are mounted by both professional and community companies.
And, of course, if Les Misérables happens to be the first musical you ever see as a kid, well, it could well be the beginning of a lifelong love affair. “I was hooked from the start”, says Kirra Young, who plays Fantine in CLOC’s 2017 staging. “There was something about the music and the characters that captivated me even at such a young age. As a child I was impressed by the music, costumes and general drama of the show. As I became older I also became more aware of the complex characters and powerful themes. Each time I’ve seen the show I’ve taken away something new. I think it’s one of the many reasons people see Les Misérables countless times”.
Like Young, Emily Morris also saw a production of ‘Les Miz’ as a child, so when the opportunity came up to audition for the role of Cosette for CLOC, she did not hesitate. “I saw [CLOC’s} Wicked and Jesus Christ Superstar, and was so impressed with the talent and professional production values”, says Morris. She was attracted to working on Les Misérables because of “the incredible stories told by Victor Hugo, revealing both humanity’s [best] and worst virtues. Nothing is sugar coated, it challenges both actors and audience and I think many of the themes are still relevant today”.
For so many music theatre performers, ‘Les Miz’ is a dream show which needs to be ticked off the ‘bucket list’ of shows. With that wish can come the pressure of expectations from the audience that a much beloved character should look, feel, and sound a certain way. When the role you are rehearsing has notably been performed be the likes of Patti LuPone, Ruthie Henshall, and Lea Salonga, there is a lot to live up to. “Fantine has been played by some extremely talented performers. Anyone who has watched the show before will have a favourite performer in mind – I know I do – and it’s very easy to compare; [but] my character research and interactions with other casts members in rehearsals have helped me find my own honest interpretation of the role”.
Morris, also, is only too aware of how Cosette has been portrayed and perceived in the past, and is seeking to put her own stamp on the role. “I feel connected to Cosette in many ways. She is a young girl who is coming of age, and is curious about life outside of the world she knows. She’s optimistic, and although she doesn’t know exactly what she wants, she’s not afraid to strive for something more in life. She pushes boundaries and has burning inner strength that I admire and relate to. […]The main thing I strive for is to give Cosette strength and depth in her character”.
CLOC cast their upcoming production in November 2016, so they team have had a good amount of time to get to know each other. “The CLOC team make the rehearsal area a safe space where everyone encourages one another. The whole cast and production team are very supportive”, reflects Young. “I’m so proud to be a part of this cast. They’re so amazingly talented and a pleasure to work with”.
CLOC’s Les Misérables opens on May 12, with performances playing through until May 27 at the National THEatre, St Kilda. Tickets are available from http://www.lesmismelbourne.com/