By: Sarah Danley
Following the story of poor Jean Valjean, Les Misérables, as the name provokes, tells a story about unfortunate souls living in France around the 19th Century, but the Greensburg Salem cast was ecstatic to showcase it to the community.
Last year, the musical cast was not able to perform in front of a live audience, settling to film You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown for people to watch online. With the success of Phantom of the Opera days before the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020, the cast hoped that this live performance was just as memorable.
Students and faculty involved with this production were excited to unsheathe Les Misérables to the GS community.
“This is probably my favorite show to put on,” junior Chloe Ecklund said.
After the 2020 hit Phantom of the Opera, everyone anticipated stunning the community with another serious musical.
“The past few years, the musicals have taken more of a serious route,” Dr. James Baker remarked. “Within the next few years, we are looking to liven things up.”
For many members of the cast, performing Les Misérables was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This musical allowed underclassmen to experience their first lead roles at the high school.
“I play Éponine and playing her is really my dream role,” Ecklund said. “She’s poor and quiet. She’s basically in love with her best friend, but he doesn’t realize it. At the end, she gets shot protecting him.”
As one of the lead roles, Éponine is an important character in the musical, as is her father, played by senior Aiden Lauer.
“I play [Chloe’s] dad,” Lauer said. “I steal from people, I steal people. We have a love/hate relationship in the musical.”
Unlike Ecklund, not everyone played their dream role in this production.
“I’m a lot like a roach,” he said. “You can step on me, but I keep coming back.”
Although some came up short of their dream parts, Dr. Baker and Mrs. Sue Glowa considered many factors before casting each role.
“The biggest challenge we have is choosing the right voices for the roles,” Dr. Baker said. “We have to look at who we think will be able to pull the roles off, especially with new students joining the cast. New students turn everything on their heads.”
Similarly, challenges arose for the student actors, as well. Members of the cast relied on one another when performing, but oftentimes this was where the difficulties began.
“A lot of people rely on each other, so everyone has to put their all into each performance,” Ecklund said.
With the excitement of the musical came the other difficulty of balancing schoolwork with rehearsals. Ecklund and Lauer, along with seniors Alyssa Angiolieri and Lauren Kasmer, agreed that balancing all these activities became stressful.
Coordinators of the musical recognize this as a struggle among students and scheduled rehearsals to provide flexibility to cast members.
“Another big problem we face is probably coordinating schedules,” Baker said. “Students are involved in so many things and we want to make sure that they can still stay involved in those activities.”
Along with this large challenge of managing time for students, more challenges arose when attempting to remain healthy during musical season.
“Another difficulty is staying vocally healthy,” Ecklund continued. “I have to drink lots of water and avoid screaming during musical.”
Because of the demanding nature of Les Misérables, comprised entirely of songs with minimal dialogue, staying vocally healthy was a concern for both students and faculty.
“We have to keep everyone vocally healthy and in their best health for musical,” Baker said. “It’s a very demanding show, for sure.”
Keeping the cast healthy was very important for the outcome of this year’s musical. Because last year’s musical was online, cast and faculty expected a grand turnout to the show.
“I expect to have a pretty full house, similar to when we put on Phantom of the Opera,” Baker said.
Going to see Les Misérables in-person was not the only option for this year. The musical was also live streamed for those looking to see the show without the risk of exposure to any illness.
Despite live streaming as an option, cast and faculty expected big crowds to come out and support the musical.
“We are the first high school to have a public show with a live audience in Westen Pennsylvania,” Lauer claimed.
Although this may have been a leading reason drawing community members toward watching, the timelessness of this musical was another important factor drawing people out to see Les Misérables.
“As depressing as it may be, it’s something you will remember forever,” Ecklund said.