Vive La France! Allderdice’s Spring Musical: Les Misérables

The cast of Allderdices 2023 musical, Les Misérables. (@dicetheater)

The cast of Allderdice’s 2023 musical, Les Misérables. (@dicetheater)

This past week, Allderdice Theater took to the stage with an amazing production of Les Misérables! Running from April 27 to 30, the musical filled the auditorium with excitement and passion with every performance. 

The “student edition” of the award-winning Broadway show, the musical tells the story of Jean Valjean (played by Ben Stolarz), as he grapples with his identity and his efforts to redeem his life after living 19 years as a prisoner. It follows Valjean’s narrow escapes from his parole officer, Javert (Siming Tang), and the dramatic love triangle between Marius (Akiva Weinkle), Cosette (Johanna Perry), and Eponine (Ava Sandstrom), all within the context of dangerous revolutionary times in 19th century France. Although a complicated story for anyone who is not familiar with the plot of Les Mis, the show effectively used costume changes, set design, and time stamps to differentiate the scenes over the course of about 20 years. 

Allderdice teacher and theater director, Mrs. Madden-Harrold, explained that in the past they had always thought of Les Mis as too challenging or ambitious to attempt, “…but this past December Mr. Lee’s instrumental students performed a medley of Les Mis songs at the winter concert and it kind of got my wheels turning. I thought maybe this was something we could try!”

Some highlights include amazing performances from the Thenardier couple, Eli Wynn and Elena Bishop, who brought many laughs with “The Innkeeper’s Song” and “The Bargain” as they portrayed opportunistic and greedy Innkeepers, providing comical relief throughout the entire show. 

And the show pulled on the audience’s heartstrings several times, including Fantine’s (Hannah Hurowitz) “I Dreamed a Dream,” Javert’s dramatic suicide, and Eponine’s tragic death in the arms of Marius. 

Junior Akiva Weinkle spoke about his character, Marius, commenting, “I knew he was going to be a very disliked character, so I had to work hard to make him seem slightly better to the audience.” Unfortunately, in the end, nearly everyone dies—except Marius and Cosette, who got married and lived happily ever after.

Just as impressive as the cast on stage was the musical accompaniment of the Allderdice pit. Everything except for a few extra sound effects was played live by the orchestra under the direction of Allderdice band and orchestra teacher Mr. Lee. Composed of violins, a cello, a flute, a bassoon, a french horn, a trumpet, a trombone, percussion, and keyboards, the group was incredibly talented, setting the mood for each song and carrying energy at all points in the plot. The beautiful string themes at happy moments in contrast to the dark melodies in the prison and barricade are examples of their diverse and highly technical abilities. 

Senior violinist, Maria Schroeder, discussed the challenges of being in an orchestra in a musical theater environment saying, “It is quite difficult because not only are we constantly playing since [Les Mis] is a 2+ hour show with no dialogue, but we also have to adjust if there is a mishap on or off stage.” However, the talent and dedication of all of the cast and crew made it an undoubtedly worthwhile experience. She reflected, “…working on music with my classmates and friends at the level that we do is such an amazing experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

The pit wore matching black sunglasses with Mr. Lee during intermission at the performances.

And, with their Act 2 sunglasses, the pit seemed to be enjoying the performances just as much as the audience. If you looked closely enough, you might just have been able to spot Mr. Lee’s smiling face. 

Finally, the set design and props used were very effective in portraying the setting of 19th-century France. It was mainly designed by Mrs. Madden-Harrold, Allderdice parent Leanne Lisien, and social studies teacher Mr. Schaltenbrand. They primarily used lighting and several backdrops to differentiate the scenes throughout the course of the show.

They also had to create some bigger pieces for the set, like the barricade for the battle scene or the garden walls that Marius had to gracefully jump over. Specific to the barricade, Mrs. Madden-Harrold mentioned that it was made almost completely of reused material from years prior. “The students pulled out of our stage crew shop lots of old and broken pieces of things and literally assembled [a barricade] from garbage. And they did a great job! It looked authentic because it truly was old pieces of furniture and broken pieces of wood.” With the tireless work of the crew and set-builders, the set was just as amazing as the actors that used it.

This year’s cast and crew were incredibly tight-knit and maintained a great environment for all involved. Akiva Weinkle reflected, “Everyone in the cast and crew was very welcoming and devoted. Especially as someone new to Allderdice this year, they made it really easy to be a part of the group.” 

In addition, the cast included students from Colfax middle school to play characters from earlier in their lives. Elana Weisfield, who played Little Cosette, and Miley Madden, young Eponine, were great stepping up in a high school production and really helped tie the storylines of the 2 girls together. Will Kuchera was also very impressive in his role as Gavroche, even drawing some tears after his death on the barricade. 

Looking toward the future of Allderdice Theater, Mrs. Madden-Harrold acknowledged that they “are losing a lot of amazing seniors to graduation this year.” However, she and the rest of the remaining cast and crew are already thinking about next year’s spring musical, and it undoubtedly promises to be yet another great success.