Plaid Press Insider: Behind the scenes of “Les Mis”

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By Shaneli Mirpuri

Countless people run back and forth on the stage as voices ring out from all around the auditorium and music pours out note after note to come together into a beautiful, organized chaos creating a rehearsal for the acclaimed musical “Les Misérables.”

With a cast of about 70 students, a technical crew of 9, and an orchestra of 20, “Les Misérables” will be the school’s biggest musical production ever. “Les Misérables” premieres this weekend with four shows throughout March 11-13.

“We didn’t want to recreate the musical as a carbon copy. We were looking for a cast who would be able to put a spin on the characters and make it our own production. Some things will always be the same, but a lot of the staging and character interpretation should be fresh as if it’s happening in the moment,” drama teacher Stuart Fingeret said.

The process of creating “Les Misérables” first began on November 23 with auditions that were open to all students. The official cast list went up on November 27, with the main cast including experienced actors who have participated in the previous school plays “Urinetown” and “A Flea in Her Ear.” The cast also includes students with little previous acting experience like senior Justin Leisher, who plays Marius.

“This was my first time auditioning for a role in a musical, so I was really nervous about auditions. My first audition could have been better, but call-backs were amazing. Since it’s my senior year, I was just thrilled to get to be a part of ‘Les Misérables,’ a show I love so dearly, in any way I could. So I am super excited to get to play Marius,” Leisher said.

Before winter break, the cast had already started to work with simple exercises to help them get into character and grow aware of the dark world that existed in France in 1832.

For example, Fingeret instructed students to scribble on paper as fast as they could while sitting on the floor to represent working in the factory while the foreman played by senior Gavin Aguinaga walked around yelling at them.

“In preparation for the song ‘At the End of the Day,’ we had the students perform exercises with real tasks having coins as rewards, so they thought about what their character would actually do with the money, whether it’s buying a new coat or feeding a starving child at home. This all works toward the goal of hopefully having the characterization more vivid in comparison to just singing the song without any real emotions,” Fingeret said.

Fingeret and choir teacher Sarah White demanded professionalism from the student cast with rehearsals usually lasting about three to four hours; but in the week prior to the show’s premiere, students had to stay as late as 9:00 or 10:00 pm.

“There are massive scenes that sometimes have almost the whole cast, so there are dozens of people running around set at the same time. During other scenes, it’s only the main characters, so in the meantime we either work on music and harmony with Ms. White or sit back and work on homework so we don’t fall behind during practice,” senior Julia Trunfio said.

Besides learning their lines, harmonies, and blocking, the cast must also work to become their character to ensure the musical seems realistic.

“It is really challenging to do so much character analysis. The character I’m playing, Cosette, is the exact opposite of me. She’s very mature, proper, and sophisticated and grew up with a tough upbringing, so it takes a lot of research and effort to transform into her onstage,” senior Rachel Counihan said.

With the premiere of the first of four shows tonight, the “Les Misérables” cast and crew continue to work hard to make a revolutionary show.

“That’s what is at the heart of the show. It deals with large, epic themes of sacrifice, war, love, and so much more but it makes it real and so relatable,” Fingeret said.

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Author: Plaid Press

Granada Hills Charter High School newspaper

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