Do You Hear the People Sing?

Les Misérables is known for its beautiful sets, creative costumes and tragically wonderful story, but above all it is known for its music.  With 50 songs, the musical is almost completely sung with next to no speaking dialogue.  Adapted from Victor Hugo's brick of a novel, Les Misérables was cut down to just 2.5 hours of musical goodness that sustained all the impact Hugo felt about the French Revolution.

The longest running musical of all time, Les Misérables has won many awards for its beloved music, including eight Tony awards in 1987, the year it premiered on Broadway.  Tragic, compelling and always easy to sing along to in the car, the music of Les Misérables is timeless.

Some of the show's shakers and movers shared why they were inspired to participate in this show and how its fantastic music affected them.

Les Misérables is known for its amazing soundtrack - what is your favorite song to sing and why?

Jodi Vaccaro (Innkeeper's Wife/Whore 1):  The rousing ensemble numbers like "One Day More" and "Do You Hear the People Sing?" are pretty special. No matter how many times I sing a chorus like that, I definitely feel a rush of energy in the moment.

Joseph Dignoti as Javert
Joseph Dignoti (Javert): I guess my favorite song to sing is "One Day More" because that is the song I sing with the entire company. It's the final number in the first act, and everyone's hope or dream is represented there: whether it's the students for the rebellion and the hope of a new world; or Cosette and Marius with their newfound love; Eponine's desire and unrequited love for Marius; the Thenardiers for their ill-gotten wealth; for Valjean it's another day on the run from Javert; and for Javert it's all about crushing the revolution. Musically, it's powerful with all of the voices together and all the different themes layering on top of each other.

Abbey Stewart (Eponine): My favorite song to sing is "On My Own" because I relate to it the most. The song brings an emotional quality out of me that is sometimes difficult to find.

What is your favorite singular musical moment in the show?

Jodi:  I think it'd have to be Valjean's "God on high" at the start of "Bring Him Home." It's hard to not get chills!

Joseph: That's hard. Choosing one is hard; there is a lot we haven't seen yet. At this point, I would say "The Confrontation" because you have the two sides of Valjean and Javert. Just their polar opposition. Or it could be "Bring Him Home" with Valjean's heart cry and fervent prayer to God to bring this man home and let him survive. Or it could be ["Little Fall of Rain"] with Eponine when she is back at the barricade and dying. So the answer is: there isn't one. It's impossible to choose.

Abbey: The last chord of "One Day More." It is so mind-numbing and powerful and gives me goosebumps every time!

When you heard that the Omaha Community Playhouse was putting on Les Misérables, what made you want to audition?

Jodi Vaccaro - an ensemble member of Les Mis

Jodi: I couldn't imagine quietly watching this one from the audience; this is the kind of music I just have to sing along with if given the chance. I also knew that an effort of this scale would create worthwhile memories and was excited to be part of another show with Susie and Carl at the helm.

Joseph: This show, and in particular the role of Javert, has been on my bucket list for many years. Also, a huge factor was the opportunity to work with both Susie Baer Collins and Carl Beck at the same time in their final season at the Playhouse.

Abbey: After seeing my brother Quinton perform in Altar Boyz, I knew I wanted to try out for something at the Playhouse. So when Bailey Carlson encouraged me to try out for Les Mis, I knew this was something I had to do. I couldn't stop thinking about how incredible an opportunity it is to be a part of the world's most beloved musical.

 Did you find it challenging or simple to perform an entirely sung musical? Why?

Jodi: It's challenging because every bit of blocking really has to be choreographed so that the musical timing is spot on. It's a joy because the music is so incredible.

Joseph: I think it may be easier to perform an entirely sung musical because there is a meter to the words. There is a pattern that has to be observed. The rhyming in the structure of the wording makes it a littler easier to remember versus, say, straight dialogue that can go anywhere, and the thought process doesn't follow the same parameter. The one example I can think of where the dialogue follows that kind of rule would be Shakespeare.

Abbey: It's definitely a challenge because we have to take really good care of our voices all the time. However, singing the lyrics makes the acting and emoting so much easier and more genuine.

When did you first see/hear Les Misérables

Jodi: I saw it with my family on Broadway in March 2000 as a senior in high school, while auditioning for schools in NYC.

Abbey Stewart who plays Eponine

Joseph: I first saw Les Misérables in Los Angeles in the late 80s or early 90s.

Abbey: I first heard about Les Mis in high school; we sang "One Day More" in choir. It wasn't until later when I actually researched the musical's story and fell in love with it.

Any other thoughts?

Jodi: There's an amazing exchange that occurs in live theatre between performers and audience members. I can't wait to experience that with this show; I think it will be palpable.

Joseph: I am very excited to work with this cast. It is some of the best voices in musical theatre in the Omaha area. This cast is not just made up of "the regulars" who perform at the Playhouse. It represents a whole, brand new influx of people who have never performed musical theatre here.

Abbey: The people I get to perform with are all incredible. While I am new to the Playhouse, I feel like I've known this cast for much longer because of how friendly and welcoming everyone is. I have learned more from this cast, including the production team, than I could have ever imagined. I'm incredibly grateful for the privilege of getting to know them and for the opportunity to grow as a performer.

The Omaha Community Playhouse's performance of Les Mis is running Sept. 20-Oct. 27, 2013; Wednesday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $40 for adults and $24 for students. To purchase tickets, or for more information, call (402) 553-0800, visit the Box Office, click here or check out our Facebook page.

Story by Shannon Kern

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