Of all musicals that entered my life, Wicked and Les Mis are the most meaningful. These two musicals are most responsible for the love I have for musicals today. I talked about how they came full circle before, but this post will be kinda of different.
It was August 2006 when I first saw Wicked. I was in NYC with my mom. One of the best things we did was seeing Wicked on Broadway. While I don’t have vivid memories, I do remember that “Popular” was my favorite song. At the time, I was only 12. Wicked was the musical where I began to understand emotional connection, and the emotional and complex side to musicals.
Due to Wicked, four core emotions were at the forefront. Those belonged to excitement, joy, love, and sad. Wicked was the musical where I first began to understand love triangles.
This is connected to Les Mis. Les Mis entered my life by the film. Before falling in love with the musical, I had to give the film a 2nd chance. March 2013 was when I fell in love with Les Mis. Les Mis challenged what I already knew about musicals. Tragic musicals started to enter, a new core emotion was introduced (heartbreak), love triangles started to be understood even stronger, and the concept of death. How did Les Mis change death? Prior, I literally thought that death couldn’t be memorable or happen during song- Les Mis proved me wrong. I finally could understand that unrequited love was heartbreaking.
By summer 2013, I was obsessed with Les Mis. It truly was Central Piedmont Community College’s production of Les Mis that ended up being the motor for wanting to see the musical in London. I thought it would take a number of years before that happened. I already knew about The Bristol Pilgrimage- I already was aware that it would happen summer of 2015. At the time, did even think that Les Mis would happen just because there was no talk about going up early. Then November 2014 comes around, and that was when I told that my family was going up early- that was literally when I started nagging my parents to take me to Les Mis. December 2014- finally I was told that I would see a show in The West End.
When June 2015 came around, I finally figured out which musical. I was texted French Flags and Musical note emojis. I did not quite understand the text, and then was told to check my email. I found out I was seeing Les Mis- that moment I saw that, I ran up to my mom crying. It would happen on July 30th. It was interesting how I saw Les Mis this year- that was due to taking Acting I in Spring 2015 at GWU. It just connected so well into the Bristol Pilgrimage.
Just like Wicked, it was a date with my mom. It literally worked for the Bristol Pilgrimage- Les Mis is Valjean’s spiritual journey. So I saw Les Mis the day before going on my own. Not only was I living my mom, but my dad and sister got their own date. Nothing felt like reality- from seeing the Queen’s Theater to buying souvenirs to seeing the set to nothing how close I was- nothing once felt real. Then, the first notes were heard, and I knew I was living the dream. Do you know what those notes told me? They told me it was going to be more than expected- I actually see the orchestra as a character. I came in knowing I would be an emotional wreck and that I would get a laugh every once in a while. Those notes weren’t lying- it was more than expected. It was my 4th time seeing the stage show.
At least with Les Mis in London, I knew my cast. I did not keep the playbill for Wicked on Broadway. I had a culture shock in The West End- buying my playbill. I did have an understudy as Valjean (Adam Bayjou) and actually got to meet him at stage door- I literally have a signed playbill and picture with the Valjean.
Gardner Webb University
As a number of readers know, Gardner Webb was the university I went to. Broadway and The West End aren’t the only way Wicked and Les Mis came full circle. GWU is close enough to Charlotte and Greenville that it is possible to see touring productions.
Wicked was the very first tour GWU took students to. I was one of the first to sign up. I knew the slots would fill up quickly. This actually marked the 4th time I saw Wicked. Seeing a musical with a school that changed me for good and seeing a musical that changed me for good. I had a standby (Mary Kate Morrissey). I knew I would be more vulnerable this time around. For the first time, “I’m Not That Girl” was heartbreaking- thanks to the help of “On My Own” and memorizing the lyrics. I really was able to explore Fiyero a bit deeper to help figure out the plot twist in the love triangle.
was really surprised at “No Good Deed”: that song was always emotionless, but this around I could feel the energy and emotions that came with that song. “For Good” did make me tear up= it was a combo of the actresses and being with GWU.
GWU decided to take students to Les Mis. This time, we would be in Greenville at the gorgeous Peace Center. I had a tough decision to make in 2017- see the tour with my university or see it in my hometown of Charlotte. I choose Greenville- I really wanted to make the most of my final year of university, and I actually was able to help those who didn’t fully know the musical.
I came into this production smart. I would not compare this cast to the brilliant West End cast I already had. Just like London, I had an understudy, but this time for Eponine. I love both productions- I think the 25th has a bit more color and more Victor Hugo. There are moments I loved more in this production- “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” for instance. Yes, I was taken off guard in London, but quite as much as this production. In the love triangle, my favorite character is Eponine. However what happens when your favorite character in the love triangle isn’t the strongest- that happened to me. My standouts were Nick Cartell (Valjean), Joshua Grosso (Marius), and Matt Shingledecker (Enjolras).
With Joshua, I saw a side I never saw to Marius. It was a personality shift: I saw an unique awkwardness that made the character more charming. Due to Joshua, Marius is almost a core favorite character. Still don’t know how Jillian Butler (Cosette) was able to connect to Joshua. I loved how he treated falling in love with Cosette (It felt like I don’t what to say). Even how he portrayed “A Little Fall of Rain”- he did focus more on comforting Eponine than showing the heartbreak he was feeling- yes, the heartbreak showed, but not until the end when he finished the song alone. There is just something special about his Marius- he ended up becoming my favorite actor in that role.
So I saw both Wicked and Les Mis on two major touring districts and both were dates with my mom. The other way they came full circle was seeing the tours with my university. I truly believe that if Wicked didn’t enter my life, Les Mis wouldn’t have. I didn’t fully describe the casts because this post would have been too long.