What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

28 July 2015

Here They Sang About Tomorrow

This post is going to be long. Here's the short version: I went to see Les Misérables on Broadway over the weekend, was completely blown away, as I so often am, and am now here to tell you about it. Feel free to skip to the end if you're not into the details, of which there are many.

Outside the Imperial
Theatre. Yes, he does
rip his shirt open during
the show. Yes, he does
work out a lot.
So! It all started when Ramin Karimloo, who is currently playing Valjean, announced that he's leaving the show at the end of August and he has no plans to play Valjean again. So I called up my friend Keely, we started plotting, and the upshot was that we planned a fun weekend in New York that would include watching Les Misérables, and for good measure, we threw in a trip to It Shoulda Been You. (Yes, I absolutely should have known better than see two plays in a single weekend. My brain is more addled than usual.)

Here we go, all the stuff I loved:

Earl Carpenter (Javert): I had already bought our tickets before he joined the cast, but was pretty excited to see him. He was one of Chadwick's favourite actors, and sometime a few weeks ago I thought, "Oh, I haven't told Chad yet that I'm going to see Earl Carpenter! Oh..." So it was special for me to see him, even though, and perhaps especially because, Chadwick couldn't.

Brennyn Lark (Éponine): Holy smokes, what a gorgeous voice. And she came to stage door, so I have her autograph on my playbill.

I've never been to stage
door before this weekend.
Definitely going to do that
more often.
Chris McCarrell (Marius): Early on in my Les-Mis-loving days, all I cared about was Marius and Cosette, but once I started paying attention to other characters (i.e., Enjolras), I realised that Marius can be kind of annoying, a perception that was not helped by reading the book, where he's even worse. This Marius, however, is delightful and not annoying. He sings a phenomenal "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables." Also, he's quite possibly the prettiest Marius I've ever seen.

Wallace Smith (Enjolras): Enjolras will always be my favourite. Wallace Smith has a beautiful voice, fantastic stage presence, and is altogether awesome.

So, a quick note: in 2012, the national tour of Les Misérables came through Austin, and Chadwick and I went to go see it. Back then, inexplicably, I hadn't yet started my current tradition of following cast members on Twitter right after seeing the show... which is a pity, because if I had, I'd have been a lot more familiar with a lot more of the cast that I got to see this weekend. Also inexplicably, the 2012 Les Mis is the only show that I've seen in the last 15 years that I don't still have the playbill for (or if I do, it's hidden deep in the bottom of goodness-knows-what). Based on some intense Googling the last couple of days, at least four people I saw in that cast in 2012 are on Broadway now. (And yes, I really am that obsessive. If it helps, I'm like this with all my hobbies.) And with that in mind...

My new favourite Grantaire.
One result of all this intense
Googling is that I've been
reminded that I of all people
shouldn't make assumptions
about someone else's age.
Joseph Spieldenner (Grantaire): is one of the people I'm almost positive I saw in 2012, also as Grantaire. Why am I so sure of this? Chadwick and I were up in the rafters for that show, so we couldn't see faces, just body language, but I was so impressed by that Grantaire's acting choices (which were significantly different than any other Grantaire we'd seen up to that point) that I talked about him most of the way home. On Saturday, it started kicking against my attention that this Grantaire was acting in similar ways, but since I was close enough to see his face, my first impression was more about how emotional he was. (What I actually thought to myself was, "Wow, this is a really weepy Grantaire.") It wasn't until I got back to the hotel and Googled a few of the cast that I saw that he was in the touring company about that time--and the other shoe dropped. I was so curious that I even tweeted him to ask, which I normally don't like to do, because that's one step too close to creepy stalker fandom for me. (Although given the length of this paragraph, that ship may have sailed.)

Anyway, after seeing some 2012 tour press and one magical cast list, I'm almost positive it's the same guy. I spent some time searching for the old playbill, with no luck, and finally had to stop to wonder why this is so important. This weekend, this experience of my first Broadway musical(s), were more things that Chadwick and I should have had together but didn't. But since we were both impressed by Grantaire in 2012, if it was Joseph Spieldenner we saw together, that's one less thing he missed and one more thing we shared. And that's why it matters. It's a small thing, but I'm hanging on to small things right now.

And speaking of... "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables": It was one of Chadwick's favourite songs, and that alone was enough to make me pay extra attention and already be a bit emotional before it started. At the end of "Turning," the women all left candles sitting on the stage, which had me wondering what was happening next. All the students who died on the barricade come on stage during "Empty Chairs", and each one took one of the candles and blew it out before leaving the stage again. My description can't possibly do it justice, so let's just say it's a good thing I had a hankie. It was a powerful moment.

"Lovely Ladies": This has always been the saddest part of the show for me, ever since the first time the line, "Only joking, dearie knows her place," first registered in my brain during a show (it's not in the soundtrack I own). Incidentally, you know Bamatabois, the guy who gets Fantine arrested after this song? Also played by Joseph Spieldenner. I was in awe when I re-read the program and saw that-- I mean, I get that the audience isn't supposed to catch on to who all each member of the ensemble plays, but I try to keep track of them on purpose because I like being awed by the range of abilities Les Mis actors have. In this case? I did not even notice, because the characters were so different. (And Bamatabois was standing right in front of me, close enough for me to see all the blood on his face.) I'm still both blown away and heartbroken at the same time that such a captivating Grantaire is also such a vile bad guy.

I was cool with just getting a pic with
the poster instead of getting one
with Ramin at stage door. His
autograph is one of the ones on my
playbill, but no live pic. 
And finally... Ramin Karimloo (Jean Valjean): He's the reason I went, so naturally I was not surprised at how amazing his performance was. I saw him in concert a couple of years ago on his Broadgrass tour, which was delightful, but seeing him live and in character is something else altogether. Three hours is just not long enough, which is probably why I've spent the last three days in a fog thinking about this show. I'm definitely grabbing any chance I get to see him live again.

So, if you're still with me, you deserve a medal! Unfortunately, Thénardier stole them all. Anyway, that was my experience at Les Misérables on Broadway. Totally worth it, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

And since Jenni asked so nicely, other highlights of my New York trip are coming soon. I did see a few things in between trips to the theatre.

4 comments:

Jenni at talking hairdryer said...

After reading this recap, I realized that I am not the Les Mis fangirl that you are. I did enjoy your recap. And I love that you got a chance to "share" it with Chad. That's priceless.

Su Wilcox said...

So few people are... but believe it or not, there are some who are even more nerdy about it than I am. I blame the fact that I basically grew up with Les Mis, because I was only 8 when the musical version hit the West End, and my local music and drama departments seized upon it like you wouldn't believe. I knew the whole soundtrack before I ever knew what the show was really about.

J E Oneil said...

Wow, cool! I'm glad you had a good time. :)

Su Wilcox said...

Me, too! :)