Les Mis: Musical Masterpiece


Alex Cotton, Managing Editor

Les Miserables has largely been considered the biggest production Bishop’s has ever put on. It did not disappoint. The incredible vocals, catchy songs, and emotional ballads filled the theater. The intricate barricade, ornate costumes, and incredibly choreographed dance numbers brought the stage to life.

The show begins with escaped convict Jean Valjean, who saves a dying woman, Fantine, from a grim fate on the streets and raises her daughter, Cosette. Because Valjean evaded his probation, police inspector Javert hunts him down ceaselessly. Cosette and a young revolutionary named Marius fall in love, as a peasant girl named Éponine struggles with her unrequited love for Marius. All of this happens in the midst of the June Rebellion of 1832, a bloody uprising of revolutionary Parisians.

In the prologue, Javert, played by Jonathan Zau (‘19), dives into the first of many duets with Jean Valjean, played by Jacob Lincoln (‘19). The duo’s frequent conversational songs carry the plot forward and provide contrast between the characters. Jacob lightheartedly spoke about his struggle of singing so much throughout the show, “It’s killing my voice, but we make it work.”

The first half of Act One focuses on the grim life of Fantine played by Zion Dyson (‘19). Fantine gets fired from her job at the factory, and she finds herself in a prostitution ring to support her daughter. “I have to get my hair pulled,” said Zion describing a scene in which she fights with some fellow workers. “[Ensemble member Elizabeth Szymanski (‘19)] puts her hands on top of my head. I have to grab them and hold them on my head with all of my force.” After, the ensemble performs an elaborate group singing number called, “Lovely Ladies.” The female cast members are dressed in colorful and frilly outfits as they sing about enticing sailors.

It would be impossible to write about Les Miserables without mentioning the directorial  genius that is “Master of the House.” This song introduces the comic relief: Madame and Monsieur Thénardier played by Sabrina Webster (‘21) and Brett Garron (‘21). They are the scummy innkeepers who sing hilarious musical numbers. At one point in the song, ensemble member Delilah Delgado (‘21) does a flip off of one of the tables! She recalled, “It was really fun for me as our objective was to appear drunk or sleazy (or both!), so there was a lot of freedom with the dancing as opposed to a focus on technique, and a lot of acting motivation.” The somewhat sloppy and mismatched gestures come together into beautiful harmonization. This manifests itself in the cast’s synchronized posing and their rhythmic stomping and clapping.

Act Two opens with the technical feat that is the barricade, protecting the revolutionaries and holding back opposing forces. Brought on to the stage triumpStage manager Priscilla Hsieh (’19) “Getting the barricades on and off the stage was a big challenge because they are super heavy and there’s a lot of different pieces that move on them. For example, some of the chairs can be removed. We had to spend a lot of time figuring out how to execute the barricade transition in a timely manner and make it look professional and succinct.”

The first to die on the barricade is Eponine, played by Olivia Weise (‘21). She runs on stage and falls to the ground, covered in blood. Eponine and Marius, played by Alex Kuncz (‘21), sing a moving duet called “Little Fall of Rain” as she dies in his arms. Olivia sings while laying down; this is a testament to her vocal capabilities.

The climax of the play is the second attack on the barricade. The whole ensemble gathers on the barricade and fires blanks out of rifles to add a realistic effect. The smoke machine adds to the drama. Everyone dies. The scene goes black. The barricades roll offstage and the female ensemble returns to the stage, dressed in black, mourning the death of the young soldiers. 

However, the show returns to a hopeful place with the wedding of Marius and Cosette, when all the ensemble members arrive in ballgowns and suits. The Thénardiers arrive, dressed in flamboyant costumes with ridiculous makeup. Sabrina even sported a fluffy pink wig. In doing Sabrina’s makeup, Jess Li (‘20) “went for the most horrendous, old-French makeup look possible, and it turned out amazing. Her face is white, her eyebrows are straight-up black, and her lips are painted in a heart. It’s a piece of art.” Throughout the scene, Sabrina stuffs plates and silverware into her dress. She remembered how “the silverware works out differently every night. It usually gets stuck, but it will come out at a certain point which is really exciting to engage in.

The show ends on an emotional note that brought many audience members to tears. Slowly, all cast members whose characters died return to the stage until the entire cast stands onstage, facing forward, singing in unison. 

With the magnitude of the set, the extravagance of the costumes, and the sheer acting and singing talent of the cast, Les Mis was an experience that will go down in Bishop’s history.