Sunday’s round of Les Miz auditions began at 9:00AM for this director; and at 6:30PM, an hour and a half behind schedule, as artistic director, I joined TeamCATS Call Backs which had to start on the 2nd floor without me. Yes, we really did just attend nine and a half hours of Les Miz calls and went right into the dance call for CATS. Embarrassed as I am for running so late, I was met with understanding by the team and the dancers pouring into the 3rd floor ballroom. Two hours later, we wrapped up the day. An extraordinary day. My God, I’m grateful! With remarkable grace, tremendous progress has been made casting CATS. Keeping the positive atmosphere is everyone’s priority; and this morning, I made a point to thank everyone and apologized for myself. Everyone deserves so much respect and appreciation for their talent and time and especially for their character; their goodness. There is something very special here…and it continues because of very special individuals truly working together.
“The 9 1/2 Hour Day of Les Miz Calls,” to which it shall now always be referred in my mind, was breath taking. Music and story of this stature draws out the best in actors. How they rise to the occasion awes. They are transformed. It brings out something in them they do not get the opportunity to often show. Attending them delivering a part of themselves never seen before, “I never knew you could do that” I think to myself or even say out loud. And then there is this: how important it is for them to find one’s “self” in the work. A stunning success for over 25 years, LES MISERABLES has been defined now by character types and technical vocal demands. The singing in the audition awes with contrasts in power and intonation. Some showing amazing force and size and with others surprising vocal quality. The material draws the most, the highest, the best within each of them. Then there is my thinking; how they are playing into a type, into the mold. God forgive me, is it arrogant to see the need to break the mold? I look at translating from the page to the stage with an approach, an exercise to look at the writing without any preconceptions of types. “Cosette” for instance is perceived a classic ingenue. A stock character. The innocent young girl. But let’s look at the particulars here in Les Miz. This girl has suffered her entire childhood in darkness. Abused physically, psychologically, living in filth, deprived of any nurturing, education, affection, health. It strikes me she is lucky to be alive. She has survived these horrors and terrors with a quiet formidable strength. How else can it be explained but that this child is possessed of an almost unnatural determination to stay alive and not go mad? And do it all by herself. As the story fast forwards to her being cloistered like a nun by her adoptive father Valjean who rescues her, I wonder how she has arrived to be typed as such a fragile flower. Even refined. Voiced as a soprano. A girl from the depths of the lowest class. She typically appears to be an ingenue from any operetta. How do we make her more specific? How do we justify her voice? The soprano rises from her as she discovers she is awakened by passionate love, this “coming of age,” becoming a woman…and experiences freedom! Her soul is freed as her heart is full for the first time in her life she hears herself sing! From the depths of her past to the heights of the present! This is a raw joy. Not a stereotype. Unique to “Cosette” and her alone. So you see, she is not a cliché. And will not be even more so when the actor draws from within her own experience. As an actor comes in “playing the part” I ask, “Where are YOU in all this?” Tell the story with type cast actors or find what is the truth through your very being in the role. Your being rather than acting. I think that is the difference. And actors have come into the audition and taught me this and given me confidence in this. There is great humanity and vulnerability in these characters, and that is the universal truth that spellbinds audiences. And we haven’t even mentioned the morality and spirituality and redemption in its themes. And this glorious masterpiece of a score.
Heaven help me, I’ve gotta run!
Thank you for this, Dear Reader!