do you hear the people sing? | my les misérables experience


hey, guys!

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!

the theatre tech class made hundreds of these for the show

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.

part of crew @ the barricade. look at our gorgeous, hand-painted background!

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?

b&w view of the barricade

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)

xo apollo

musical theatre tag

i started listening to musicals last year, and now i’m a bit obsessed with them. when did i last play a normal album instead of a soundtrack? who knows.

none of my friends are really into musicals, which means i have no one to gush about them with. but i do have some theatre-loving internet friends who have recommended shows to me, so this one’s for you: a musical theatre tag i found in the depths of the internet. :)

| questions |

1) when did you start liking the performing arts?

probably when i was in my first musical, something called living inside out. the homeschool co-op i was in did one every other year. i played one of the main characters, zoe (originally zach), the star of the basketball team who twists her ankle before the big game. it was a truly terrible musical, but it did get me into theatre.

2) ever been in a musical?

i’ve been in two: living inside out, and messages for refugees. no one’s ever heard of them, and i’m thankful for that, because they were really, really awful. i complained about them in this post, and i’m sure i’ll gripe more in the future.

3) what was the first musical you listened to?

that would be dear evan hansen (thanks for the recommendation, kath). it’s really emotional and has a powerful message, and it’s one of the only musicals i can listen to around my mom. :)

4) what musicals are you dying to see?

i would love love love to see spring awakening, because it’s one of my favorites and maybe the lyrics would make sense if i had some context. but for that to happen, it would need another revival, so who knows.

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5) if you could be any female character in any musical, who would you be and why?

probably heather chandler from heathers. i want to do the candy store choreography, sing “dang dang diggity dang-a-dang, and *spoiler* die. *end spoiler*

or wendla from spring awakening, because that show is freaking fantastic and i would kill to be in it.

(also: zoe from dear evan hansen, veronica from heathers, and katherine from newsies.)

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6) which male character?

michael mell from be more chill would be fun, as i also sometime cry in the bathroom during parties and love my bff.

or gabe from next to normal — i’m alive is a bop, and i can relate to his mother thinking that he’s a cocaine-snorting pole dancer.

(also: moritz/melchior from spring awakening, conner/evan from dear evan hansen, and davey/crutchie from newsies.)

7) what musical character are you most like?

possibly mortiz from spring awakening? i mean, he got a bad grade and decided that the best way to escape his problems was by running away to america. but i’m also a combination of michael (bmc), evan, and conner (deh).

8) what showtune describes your life?

bad idea from waitress, of course.

i can’t pick just one, so here are a couple:

all of waving through a window and words fail from dear evan hansen.

the mirror-blue night // spring awakening: and there’s no one who knows and there’s nowhere to go; there’s no one to see who can see to my soul.

michael in the bathroom // be more chill: i could stay right here or disappear, and nobody’d even notice at all. | memories get erased and i’ll get replaced with a newer, cooler version of me.

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9) what do you think is the most underrated musical?

guess who’s going to talk about spring awakening some more.

i love that musical!! it’s packed with emotion and has a song for almost anything. want to cry? listen to the mirror-blue night and those you’ve known. full of angst? listen to mama who bore me (reprise) and don’t do sadness. want to be loved/in love? listen to my junk and touch me. want to spend the rest of your life wondering what the lyrics mean? listen to the song of purple summer.

also, the characters have stolen my heart. the girls are so sweet and innocent, while the boys are just . . . vessels of sin. and i love them anyway.

10) overrated musical?

don’t hate me for this, but . . . hamilton. i haven’t listened to the whole thing, and i don’t really plan to, because the fandom just seems so weird and cringey?? (i know there are tons of people who like hamilton who are lovely and don’t bring it up in every conversation — just the fandom as a whole is kind of annoying.)

11) what musical made you cry?

i’ve been listening to dear evan hansen practically every day for m o n t h s, and i still sob every time i hear words fail.

and sometimes i cry when i listen to newsies. the part near the end of once and for all where they sing “there’s change coming once and for all” at the top of their lungs gets to me. yes, please give us change, our world kind of sucks.

Image result for falsettos album cover12) what musical made you laugh?

falsettos is pretty funny. lines like “father homo, what about chromozones?”, “get thee to a psychiatrist!” and “i’d rather die than dry-clean marvin’s wedding gown” catch me off guard and then make me laugh.

also: heathers is literally about killing people, but it’s so funny?? especially big fun, blue, and my dead gay son. i can’t sing those with a straight (ha) face.

13) are there any musicals you saw and hated?

my fair lady. i saw a high school version of it, but it wasn’t the quality of the performance that made me hate it — it was how disgusting mr. higgins is. he’s so gross and sexist and abusive?? his character just ruined the whole thing for me.

14) favorite film adaption of a musical?

les misérables! it’s such a powerful story, and it’s got aaron tveit, so . . . also, i cried during the finale when you saw everyone *spoiler* who died at the barricades singing. *end spoiler*

15) what musical do you want to see as a film?

(like half of the musicals i like are already movies, whoops.)

be more chill could be a great movie, i think. it would be interesting to see how the squip is incorporated — would he follow jeremey around, or would he just be a voice? and i want to sob to a version of michael in the bathroom that isn’t a blurry bootleg.

16) any movie or book you think should be turned into a musical?

i’ve suddenly forgotten every book that i’ve ever read.

i feel like a dead poets society musical could be really interesting? (they could just reuse the song seize the day from newsies . . . you know, since jack kelly and co. won’t be needing it anymore.)

as for books, maybe lucky few by kathryn ormsbee? it’s about some homeschoolers who help their friend complete a list of 23 different ways to fake his death.

17) list all your favorite musicals.

these are listed in the order that first i listened to them in, plus a short, lightly sarcastic description of each one.

– dear evan hansen (*insert the why you always lying vine*)
– be more chill (don’t do drugs, kids)
– heathers (yay, murder)
– spring awakening (teen angst)
– waitress (a baking metaphor)
– next to normal (the true Dysfunctional Family™️)
– newsies (the youth rebel against the government)
– les misérables (the youth rebel against the government 2.0)
– falsettos (just really gay)

Image result for evan hansen fan art

18) out of those, which is your all-time favorite?

dear evan hansen is always going to be my favorite because it’s the one that got me into theatre, but spring awakening is a close second. the lyrics rarely make any sense ((*cough* the song of purple summer *cough*), but when they do, they hit close to home.

| nominees |

julia @ julia’s journal
kathleen @ dolls and dance
mckenna @ alternate galaxy
mckenzie @ space child

important announcement: i cut my hair yesterday!! it was pretty long, maybe halfway down my back, and now it’s about two inches past my shoulders. it’s so bouncy and fluffy and i just love it so much?? anyway, once it was done, i spent probably an hour trying to take an artsy selfie . i did finally manage to get one that i think is sort of cute, but since i can’t put pictures of my whole face on here, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

it’s sort of like this, but better centered and with my face showing all the way. :)

also, i’m going on another trip today! two of my friends and i are staying in d.c. for the weekend, so look out for another travel diary soon.

have a good day! listen to some musicals for me!

xo apollo