at the end of february, my school put on a production of the classic musical les misérables. that’s a pretty challenging choice for a bunch of high schoolers, but i think we pulled it off pretty well.
i spent most of my time last month working on this show, so i thought i’d write about what that experience was like! i hope you enjoy this peek into a high school theatre department. :)
originally, i had auditioned to be part of ensemble. i sang left behind from spring awakening and it actually went a lot better than i had expected it to. but i ended up not getting cast (the directors made the cast super small this year, which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but oh well), so i decided to work backstage instead. my main job was doing props with one other girl, but i also helped my mom with fixing costumes when i got the chance, because props is kind of boring.
my proudest moment was when i got to carry a potted plant on stage at the beginning of in my life/a heart full of love. that was my one second in the spotlight and i only messed up half of the time!
personally, i didn’t enjoy backstage very much. our crew was entirely girls, and they were all a big group of friends. i only knew two of them from marching band, although i wasn’t very close with them anyway. so i felt out of the loop and a little excluded from crew stuff during the musical. like, they got a professional picture of the backstage girls that i wasn’t in, they bought pizzas during rehearsal without telling me, etc.
crew was seriously unappreciated. we were going over bows at one rehearsal, and when all of the actors had gotten their turn, someone asked our theatre director when crew was supposed to bow. she replied that we weren’t going to because she’d never been in a show where backstage bowed. everyone in crew was outraged, and it made some of the cast upset, too. i understand that in a professional show, crew probably wouldn’t get a bow, but this was just a high school production. crew had been at all the long rehearsals, we’d put in just as much effort as everyone else, and we felt like we deserved one moment of recognition. eventually, our director agreed to let us bow, but i think most of us were still bitter about it for the rest of the shows.
but i’m going to be honest: crew has more fun. while the actors were running back and forth between the wings, fussing with mics and costume changes, we got headsets and sang backstage and danced little jigs during master of the house and the wedding scene.
since i wasn’t close with any of the crew, i spent a lot of time reading by the props table or distracting my actor friends. actually, i ended up making one friend miss a few of her scenes because we were hanging out in a dressing room listening to bob marley. :)
i also talked with my friends in the pit a lot before shows and during intermission. my favorite section leader was playing oboe, and the marching band’s tenor player was doing percussion. i would sit by the stage and chat with them while charging strips of glow in the dark tape with my phone. the bits of tape were all over the stage, and they let crew know where to put big set pieces.
my brother was also in les mis! he played the innkeeper, monsieur thénardier, and he was absolutely incredible. i was so so proud of him. he was an excellent drunkard and he really commanded the stage during his solos. i also really enjoyed seeing madame thénardier get in his face and push him around during master of the house. anyway, it was a huge leap for him to get such an important role after being in ensemble during last year’s show (the sound of music), and since he did such an amazing job, i have hope that he’ll get the lead in our next one.
speaking of my brother, he got a very sweet candygram from this girl from a neighboring school. they talked for awhile after the show, kept in touch, and then they went on a “casual” date yesterday! she helped direct her school’s production of the little mermaid, my brother was one of the leads in les mis . . . theatre couple?? yes please.
i feel like i’ve explained candygrams before, but in case anyone doesn’t know, they’re these little paper cutouts with candy and handwritten notes on them. so in the lobby, musical parents were selling roses and candygrams for the cast and crew. the cast and directors used those fancy plastic dividers that you hang on doors as mailboxes for their candygrams — crew and pit shared an itty bitty bucket the size of a water glass. i got a few notes from my mom, my friend hannah (who played a lovely lady), and also one from my brother’s ex’s mom?
for the most part, the cast was phenomenal, but a few choices made me rather upset. first of all, a friend auditioned with me, and he got in but i didn’t. and that’s not really the part that makes me mad. it’s the fact that his audition was literally the worst one. he sang something from phantom, but he’s a terrible singer, didn’t know the words, and stood still while he performed. he’d never done theatre before and didn’t even want to be in the musical. also, his acting was terrible and he spoke his lines instead of singing them. it just makes me so angry that despite being so undeserving of a role, he got in simply because he’s a boy and the directors wanted more soldiers. there were so many better choices at the auditions: people who were passionate and talented and devoted. but they picked him instead because of his gender. it wasn’t fair at all, and i know it’s been months since auditions, but i’m still upset about it.
i don’t know what musical we’re doing next year, but i’ve heard that the directors are considering newsies or beauty and the beast. between those two, i’m hoping for newsies, because i love that show very much. also, i don’t think anyone at my school wants to do a disney musical.
even though i wasn’t cast in les mis, i’m planning on auditioning again next year, because i do love theatre and want to be in a few more shows before i graduate. but if i don’t get a role, i’m not going to help backstage again. it just wasn’t my thing. i didn’t have any friends in crew, i had to go to long rehearsals where crew wasn’t needed, and it was too much work without any appreciation from the directors. without us, the show would have fallen apart, and the theatre director didn’t seem to be aware of that.
to sum things up: i’m so proud of my friends for putting on a stunning rendition of les misérables. the whole experience was emotionally draining and made me lose some of my passion for theatre. but listening to the abc men belt do you hear the people sing? and our insanely talented marius perform empty chairs at empty tables planted this burning, hopeful, defiant feeling in my chest that has not gone away.
red, i feel my soul on fire! black, my world when she’s not there! (abc café/red and black)