Les Miz Act 1

There are some experiences in life that are too big
to be contained in words—but I’m going to try! Recently I had the honor of
being in the cast of a local production of Les
Miserables
, the musical based on Victor Hugo’s novel. The show closed last Saturday,
set strike was Sunday, and life is back to normal. Indulge me as I recall my
journey through this amazing period. It will take more than one blog post, I’m
sure.
Audition Packet
When the Midland Center for the Arts announced the
line-up for 2013-14 which included Les
Miserables
, I said I wanted to audition for that show. Then I said, no, I
wouldn’t stand a chance. Then I said, yes, I’ll do anything to be a part of it.
Then I said, no, I have to finish my current book. You get the idea. I finally
decided that I would regret it for the rest of my life if I did not try. I dutifully
picked up my multi-page audition packet which included four passages from
Shakespeare one of which I wanted to memorize. My daughter, Kate, a
professional Shakespearean actor thought Tamora’s speech from Titus Andronicus would also be suitable,
so we worked with it throughout our Thanksgiving visit and I began memorizing “Have
I not reason, think you, to look pale…” I recited it when I made the bed,
when I did the dishes, when I showered, while I drove. The more I memorized,
the more I wanted this.

On a stormy Tuesday night last December, I drove
through blustery snow to attend the first of three audition nights scheduled
for Les Miz. (A fourth night was added to accommodate the requests; ultimately
between 275-300 people auditioned for the 58 roles.) I got to the theater early
enough to snag audition number 22 so I would be in the very first group to
audition on the very first night of auditions. Hmmm. Was this a good thing or
bad? Looking around the room we were ushered into, I saw many veteran local actors
and amazing singers and thought, “Have I not reason, think you, to look pale?”
Carol, the director and Jim, the music director gave
us a pep talk assuring us that if we were cut off during our song, it didn’t
mean we were out. If we weren’t asked to stay to read, it didn’t mean we were
out. If we didn’t recite our Shakespearean passages, it didn’t mean we wouldn’t
be considered. I nodded mentally understanding, but I had reason to look pale
though I didn’t know it yet.
We were allowed up to 32 bars of a song for our
audition. My voice teacher wanted me to show off my newly discovered soprano
voice (I’ve always sung alto) so we selected “Wishing You Were Somehow Here
Again” from Phantom of the Opera. If
I started in the middle of the song, I had 32 bars to the end of the

First Rehearsal (photo by Tawny Nelb)

song which
included my soprano range. I started to pale when we sat in numerical order and
I realized that number 21 was one of the best sopranos in my Chorale chorus. I
thought, “Oh crap, I follow Lynn.” She sang an amazing rendition of “I Loves
You, Porgy” with her voice soaring to the rafters. I still was not daunted. I
stood tall and began to sing, “Passing bells and sculpted angels, cold and
monumental, seem for you the wrong companions, you were warm and gentle…” What?
Is that applause I hear? Slow, “you can stop singing now” applause? Why, yes it
was. Cutting off my song. I never made it to the soprano range; I got the hook.
“Have I not reason, think you, to look pale?”

At least I wasn’t the only one. The guy next to me,
number 23, was also cut short. Neither of us was asked to stay and read. I
never did get to recite my passage. When I got home, I told my husband, Rich,
that I had just had my fifteen seconds of fame. He reminded me that it’s
fifteen minutes, poured me a glass of wine and assured me that Jim already knew
my voice and didn’t need to hear any more. Kate said the same thing when she
called to see how my audition went. I didn’t feel so optimistic. The crème de
la crème was auditioning for this. But I had auditioned and I was proud of
myself for that.
I plunged into my manuscript and the holidays trying
not to think of it. I was revising my book one afternoon when I got a call from
Carol. I was afraid of what she would tell me, so I made small talk. I had seen
her in a show a few months earlier and knew she had directed something after
that so I kept her talking about her busy life for as long as I could. Finally,
she said, “I’d like you to be the Hair Hag in Les Miz.” Stunned doesn’t even
come close to how I felt. “Really?” I answered as if she were not sure. Don’t give her a chance to change her mind.
“I’d love to! I can’t believe it!” I shouted. “Great!” Carol laughed and gave
me starting rehearsal dates.
“Have I not reason, think you, to say Hallelujah?”

Stay tuned for more…

5 thoughts on “Les Miz Act 1

  1. Betty – Outstanding! The process of going through auditions is fraught with the highs and lows that you speak to here so well! As one of the very fortunate fellow thespians and singers who were granted the privilege of taking part in this effort, I agree–our words are inadequate to fully describe what we experienced–but we have a published author in our midst…you! Bravo for sharing y(our) story; we anxiously await your next installment!

    • As you know, I am usually not at a loss for words, but this experience was so joyful that I am having a hard time writing about it. I want to try though to capture the memories as others have done with photos. You understand what I mean 🙂 We were so blessed to be a part of this. Thanks for stopping by, David!

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