During the last 48 hours of auditions for OCP’s May 2014 production of Les Miserables , I have been reminded of one of the many reasons that I actually don’t care for directing shows. When many of your dear friends for whom you have great affection show up for auditions with high hopes and broad smiles, you smile and wave and banter in a jocular way, all the while feeling like the condemned man who, after posting the cast list, is about to have his head severed by many of those same friends. I can imagine many erstwhile companions who will gleefully volunteer to flip the switch that initiates the glide of the guillotine’s blade through my dirty, rotten neck. So, in the hopes of preserving what is left of my disloyal and worthless life, I offer this little sermonette.
Les Miserables, the musical is, without doubt, the most beloved creation of the musical stage ever known. Think about that for a moment. Let it sink in as your mind drifts back through the decades and brilliant luminaries float into view: Showboat, Oklahoma, Kiss Me, Kate, My Fair Lady, The King and I, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Jesus Christ, Superstar, Phantom of the Opera ( I’ll not list more, though I could) are all brilliant, precedent-setting feasts for the eye and ear and…heart. Les Miserables goes beyond that into the depths of our souls and stirs our innermost and tightly-held emotions in a way that is at that same time, both unsettling and reassuring. There is, of course, that golden thread of grace that is spun by the Bishop of Digne that works it’s redemption in Valjean and eventually weaves itself into the lives of everyone else. We are then left, after all the tragic and unsettling misery with an unmistakable glow of hope, which reassures our sensibilities for the future. The values that are part and parcel of Les Miserables are the reason why we have a monumental challenge ahead of us.
In May, on opening night, that sold-out audience will have expectations unlike any crowd in OCP history. They will be there to witness a spectacle of epic proportions that they have been imagining for years. Or, on the other hand, they saw it in London or New York and are there to amuse themselves at the helpless flailings of local talent who are “in way over their heads.” It is my dedicated aim to build a show that will thrill the former group while disappointing and winning over the doubters. That’s where you come in. A show this big is like a large jigsaw puzzle and whether your piece of the puzzle is Eponine or a piece of blue sky up in the right corner, I expect that you will appreciate that every piece must be as close to perfect as can be in order for the amazing, extraordinary, spine-tingling big picture to be seen. In conclusion, as much as you feel as if you are Eponine or Valjean, so much so, that you feel you may have been that person in a former life, I may need you to play someone else. So, store the pitchforks and torches for now and let’s immerse ourselves in this extraordinary effort together.