“At the end of the day” yesterday, I realized it is time to sit back and let things settle a bit. The force of talent and the particular strength of the writing in our astonishing auditions for LES MISERABLES combine to overwhelming effect. Sitting with Music Director Tommy Vendafreddo, Assistant Director Trent Stork and Executive Director & CEO Tim Rater, as we are struck several times with a resounding silence and for some of us, moved to tears, realizations hit me heavily. Great good fortune has brought us together as one by one these actors enter the room. Challenged to approach this work without any preconceptions and make their rendering their own…the importance of finding within themselves their emotional truth…to use every word, every note as a choice made spontaneously, in this moment…how this story’s drama can beat a character down to despair and rage, and find strength awakened in their own unique way as the story unfolds during this era of oppression in France and The Rebellion of 1832 in the streets of Paris…how each character’s humanity is exposed, at once raw and eloquent, hopeful and defiant. These are life and death stakes, characters dying and willing to die…characters finding love and hope, honor and redemption. What happens in these auditions as all of this is being uncovered, exploring potential, stirs in me a sense of gratitude and how lucky we are to have such talent right here to portray these heroic characters. And with that comes responsibility. Responsibility to having those performing and attending this work feel it is alive and fresh and surprising all the more for the over 25 years “Les Miz” has played to universal acclaim. Taking the words and music from the page to the stage as if being heard and seen for the first time is the intention. The hope is to not disappoint in service to the authors and the audience. And to serve the actors with an experience that brings out the best of who they are as human beings as well as artists. This combines as a means to appreciate the privilege we have to be here…to have Paramount Theatre, the arts center it is supported by an enthusiastic community. These casting decisions are crucial. It has been said that 90% of the success of a production relies on the casting. Believe it. And these decisions can be painful. My hope is that ultimately they will serve responsibly. There is more work to do. But for now, let’s allow things to set a bit, sort themselves out in the “consciousness” of the process, among those of us carrying the weight of having to make the final call. Overwhelmed, yes…with gratitude for such great luck and such great people. Let’s give this time and see what the future brings. Be assured it is all looking very exciting, Dear Reader!
And how about Chicago’s Own, Jessie Mueller, winning the Tony Sunday night! I saw her performance on Broadway as Carole King in BEAUTIFUL and couldn’t have been more proud! (I directed Jesse as “Esther” (the Judy Garland role) in Drury Lane’s MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS). It was thrilling to have her here with her sister Abby from New York (Abby is in KINKY BOOTS) to have a rare family reunion with her parents and brother Matthew to see brother Andrew play “Mark” in RENT here at Paramount. (Sorry if I annoy by continuing to brag about this, but I loved it and it was really cool)! Love and congratulations to Jessie and her beautiful family!
And love and thanks to you!