The voices of two dozen students singing echo throughout the halls of the first floor of Chalmers, evoking the revolutionary atmosphere of Paris 200 years ago. The music is coming from the dance studio, where rehearsals for the fall musical “Les Miserables” are well under way.
Rehearsals began Sep. 12, and the musical will feature 44 students. Performances will be Nov. 4-6.
Set in post-revolutionary France, “Les Miserables” is based on Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name. The musical tells the story of former convict Jean Valjean as he creates a new life for himself after being released from prison. He is being chased by Inspector Javert, hell-bent on capturing Valjean. He and his adoptive daughter Cosette become involved in the Paris Uprising of 1832.
The cast rehearses six times a week, from 3 to 6 p.m. on weekdays and from 1 to 6 p.m. on weekends. These rehearsals are required, and students have to manage their schedules around these times.
While the rehearsals may seem tedious, most cast members believe that the positive aspects of rehearsing are worth the time and dedication.
Jack Nordstrom ’19, who will be playing the role of Marius, finds that the rehearsals helped him meet new friends and upperclassmen.
“[The rehearsals] are not that intensive,” Nordstrom said. “Everyone’s just hanging out. You have to do work, but it’s not really strict. Everyone’s just friends with each other and working together.”
Henry Platt ’17, who will be playing the role of Jean Valjean, said the intensive rehearsal schedule is necessary since “Les Miserables” includes many specific demands that can only be met with many rehearsals.
“We have to be very diligent about the rhythm because, if the rhythm gets messed up, it can destroy what’s trying to be said,” Platt said.
This year, all those who auditioned received a role. Performing Arts Teacher and Director Ted Walch attributes this to the fact that the show will be entirely sung, which requires a large cast and extensive vocal ranges.
Platt said he appreciates the inclusiveness of this year’s cast despite the schedulling challenges that may arise.
“I’m glad that everyone was cast because everyone has a lot to offer,” Platt said. “Rehearsals are harder to coordinate because they have to get a lot of people to be at school for a long amount of time, but I think that more people enhance the show. This creates a better environment.”
Walch also believes the decision to include everyone has led to a more positive and friendly learning atmosphere.
“I hate to think of auditions ever as people winning something,” he said. “This gave us a chance to use a lot of people, give everybody something to do and to have fun with it.”
Because “Les Miserables” has more characters than most musicals, actors must work hard to understand their characters. Many cast members said they feel they can personally connect to their roles or have performed songs from “Les Miserables” since their childhood.
Maya Hinkin ’18 was five when she performed her first song, “Castle On A Cloud,” which is sung by a younger version her character, Cosette.
“When they announced this show, this was immediately what I thought of because that was my first singing memoryand when I decided I liked to sing,” she said. “So now being ‘Big Cosette’ is really cool.”
Elizabeth Gaba ’17 auditioned for the part of Eponine, a role she strongly relates to and has coveted since she was thirteen.
“It was really really exciting because I’ve been dreaming of playing this role since I sang ‘On My Own’ at my Bat Mitzvah,” Gaba said. “I connect to her a lot, and I feel like I’ve definitely experienced that idea of unrequited love.”
In trying to portray Jean Valjean, Platt found similarities between himself and his character. He wishes to convey to the audience Valjean’s internal struggle to stay on the path of moral righteousness.
“I understand sometimes that it’s hard to do the right thing, something that Jean Valjean struggles with a lot throughout the show,” Platt said. “I can also relate to his capacity to love because the most viable thing that he gains is the ability to love.”
As he delved deeper into the rehearsal process, Platt said he found himself discovering more and more about Jean Valjean’s character.
“He’s a hero, but he’s not a typical hero in the sense that he’s not a perfect person,” Platt said. “Even though he has imperfections and he has done wrong, he can redeem himself and still live an honorable life.”
Not only are the characters of the musical relatable to the actors, but the musical itself can resonate with audiences through its many parallels to current-day issues. Walch said he and Performing Arts Teacher Michele Spears chose “Les Miserables” specifically because of this connection.
“If you turn on the news right now, there are people marching in the streets,” Spears said. “This is a story of when people that have no power try to rise up against those in power.”
Ben Pimstone ‘18, who will play Javert, believes “Les Miserables” relates to the recent controversies facing America’s law enforcement.
“There is a lot of that with the election right now and with all of the police issues, like are the police on the right side of the law or are they on the wrong side,” Pimstone said. “I think in that regard, [the show] relates a lot to the state that America is in at the moment.”
Platt, too, believes the show includes many scenes that relate to the turmoil and violence occurring today.
“There are little things here and there in in the story that we’re going to try and convey that have meaning and resonance in today’s world,” Platt said. “This play is definitely resonant with the amount of hate in the world, but it also is a good beacon of hope which I think we all need today.”