Glastonbury High School troupe to tackle 'Les Misérables'

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Thu., Feb. 27, 2014
The cast of 'Les Miserables' practices the 'runaway cart' scene during tech rehearsal on Feb. 25. Photos by Steve Smith.
The cast of 'Les Miserables' practices the 'runaway cart' scene during tech rehearsal on Feb. 25. Photos by Steve Smith.

The Glastonbury High School Drama Club is again attempting to push its own envelope by tackling "Les Misérables" – the Broadway production of the 19th century novel by Victor Hugo. The musical, which contains no dialogue that isn't sung, is certainly a challenge, but one that the student actors feel they are up to.

Junior Teryn Kuzma, who plays Cosette, said she and several other actors have been taking vocal lessons for some time, but that the level of difficulty is still a high one. “It is a very difficult show,” Kuzma said. “I don't think we've done something of this scale for quite so many years. It's a big challenge that all the cast has been aspiring to reach. Rehearsals have been high-intensity. We've been trying to get through things as quickly as possible.”

Junior Johan Hartman plays Javert, and said a key will be for the cast to get the words out clearly while singing them, lest the audience miss key plot points. “If we sing with good diction and make the words clear, we'll be fine,” he said. “It's singing, but there's not much of a melody. It's just kind of singing to get the words out. There are parts that are the arias, but that's not as integral to the plot.”

Sophomore A.J. Shipman, who plays the lead role of Jean Valjean, said most of the principal actors have either been in chorus, had private lessons, or have performed professionally.

“There is singing every second of the show and a lot of harmonies, as well as a heavy level of emotion you have to bring to each character,” he said. “Even the ensemble cast has to develop who they are as a person in the story and how they contribute to the meaning.”

Senior Catherine McElaney said she's finding her character, Fantine (Cosette's mother), a challenge to portray. “She's a single mom, who was in love with a young student, but she found out she was pregnant and he left her,” McElaney said. “She's left supporting her child on her own, and she can't.”

“I've never had any of these experiences in my life, of course,” McElaney said, adding that she uses the technique of imagining she has her own child, to better portray her role. “I picture what my child would look like, and make up my own Cosette in my mind. Throughout the show, my objective is to keep her safe and happy.”

Senior Corinne Prudente plays Éponine, and said the show is really starting to come together. “It's looking really great right now,” she said. “It's really impressive. There has been a lot of hard work done by the cast. It feels really professional here, and we have a really great set.”

Part of the and complex set includes two large “revolves” – turntable-like platforms on which actors will have to run (or create the illusion of running). 

“One of the hardest parts is the elaborate set,” said junior Peter Fan, who plays Marius. “He's the student that falls in love with Cosette,” Fan said, adding that in addition to the singing, he has to portray several different emotions. “I have to be excitedly in love, and then grateful, and other times sad and in despair. That's what I find challenging, the emotional part.”

The show's director is Mary Cadorette-Harris, an instructor at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts who previously directed "42nd Street" and "Hairspray" at GHS. “She's a very talented woman who knows what she's doing and has a clear set of what she wants to see,” Kuzma said. “That level of artistic vision is so helpful, because we know exactly what she wants out of us.”

Kuzma said Musical Director Ethan Nash has been training the actors to sing in a healthy manner, in order to sustain their voices for the show's five performances.

“It's hectic around here, but I think it's going to be a really good show,” McElaney said. “It's a powerful show.”

“There's also a lot of humor in it, so the audience will like that,” Hartman said.

“People who have seen it before will appreciate seeing a new group of people bring them the experience,” Shipman said.

“Everything's been coming together,” Kuzma said. “It's going to be a beautiful show, and on a grander scale than even last year's production of 'The Wizard of Oz.' It's going to be huge, and we're all excited for opening night.”

“Les Misérables” will be performed at 7 p.m. on March 7, 8, 14 and 15, and at 2 p.m. on March 9.

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