I walked into the Granoff Martinos Auditorium amid a clamor of tuning instruments and buzz of conversation over blocking and cues. The orchestra prepared in their cluster at stage right and two students were at the center mic executing and then tweaking a dramatic moment between their characters Eponine and Marius. Marius (Jesse Weil ’16) embraced Eponine (Emily Kassie ’14) from behind but then Emily halted. She moved Jesse’s hand above or below its original placement. They embraced again. Everyone else, all dressed in black and some white, was scattered about the stage anticipating a full design rehearsal before the real performance begins TONIGHT and runs through Thursday.
What may seem like a needless intricacy — a hand two inches above the waist and one inch over — is central to “Les Misérables: In Text and Production,” a Group Independent Study Project (GISP) focused on the text and performance of the renowned drama. Les Misérables in Concert is essentially the presentation of the students’ various “findings” from their research.
The singers are diverse, but all so talented, and their performances fuse beautifully with the orchestral music directed by Alex Sogo ’15. The musicians seem to watch the performers and listen to them, as opposed to having the students keep in time with their playing. The students also animate a minimalist set of microphones, chairs, and wires running across the hardwood lecture floor turned stage. With barely any props, and with a couple newsboy caps and a long coat on inspector Javert (Michael Gale ’14/Harrison Chad ’14) as costumes, the students’ emotive expressions and chemistry with one another transform the bare space, all due in large part to Marissa Bergman’s ’14 direction.
Perhaps one thing the students discovered is that the strength of the characters’ backstories and interactions and the exposure of their inner crises drive the play. The students present the essence of Victor Hugo’s timeless story. I’ve seen Les Misérables performed on professional stages, and I’m sure many of the audience members going this week (and those reading this!) have, and I assure you Les Misérables in Concert is just as good or better. I’m not always one for minimalist sets, but perhaps that’s because I hadn’t been convinced by performers on sparse stages.
Confession: I got a little teary-eyed during Jordan Schulz’s ’16 (as Fantine) “I Dreamed a Dream” and I’ve heard this song countless times. I also got a little too invested in Javert and Jean Valjean’s (Joe Van Wye ’15) mini brawl.
So go and view the concert this week!! Tickets are $5, and the show starts at 8 p.m. each day. Since it’s already sold out online, however, maybe we should all just revolt against ticketing absolutism (I had to). Enjoy!
Update: Though tickets are indeed sold out online, half of the tickets are available at the door and are still up for grabs! Go get them!