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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Les Misérables Singapore 2016: Backstage Tour & Cast Interview!

Les Miserables, the highly-acclaimed Broadway musical, is FINALLY FINALLY coming back to Singapore after twenty long years!!!

I don't know about you, but I LOVE musicals, and Les Miserables, along with Phantom of the Opera, are the two musicals that I adore the most! I've watched Phantom both times it aired in Singapore, and I've been wishing for Les Mis to come to Singapore for the longest time. I was so excited when I found out last year that Les Mis is finally coming to Singapore for a run this year!

In fact, I'd wanted to watch Les Mis when I was in New York City last December, but I decided to watch something else since I knew Les Mis was coming to Singapore hehe. So my virgin Broadway show was given to Mathilda instead, which was also a lovely musical, but has kept me in anticipation for Les Miserables to quickly arrive in Singapore!

Thank God for my awesome job, because I was invited to Manila on a media junket to first get a preview of Les Miserables before they come to Singapore, and I even got to go on a back stage tour, which was the coolest thing ever!!

I've always daydreamed and imagined myself as a Broadway singer HAHAHA. Being able to experience a little of how it might feel to be in such a role was really exciting for me, and has made me appreciate Les Miserables and the beauty and art of musicals even more intensely.

In case you didn't know, Les Miserables is the world's longest-running musical, and first opened in the year 1980 in Paris, France!

Set against the backdrop of 19th century France, Les Misérables is the unforgettable story of heartbreak, passion and the resilience of the human spirit that has become one of the world's most popular musicals. Featuring beloved songs 'I Dreamed a Dream', 'On My Own', 'Bring Him Home' and 'One Day More', this breathtaking new production has been completely reimagined with glorious new sets and staging.

Les Miserables follows the journey of ex-convict Jean Valjean and how he struggles with the rejection and mockery as an ex-convict, to become a righteous and just man, and the people in his life including his nemesis, policeman Javert.

This time round, you can expect a re-orchestrated score, innovations in sound engineering and light design, as well as a newly updated stage set and projections incorporating computer animation and other latest audio-visual technology for an unforgettable experience.

I flew into Manila especially to watch Les Miserables, where the international production is now showing before their next stop: Singapore!

Although I don't have any sneak previews of the musical itself to show you, you need to read to the end of this post because I'll be sharing my experience during the back stage tour, as well as getting up close and personal with some of the amazing actors who played the key characters in this production of Les Miserables!

All I can say is, be prepared for a visually stunning show with impactful acting and singing! I was completely blown away by the entirety of the musical, from the beautiful staging to the incredibly amazing actors and actresses who brought alive the magic of Les Miserables!

Watching Les Miserables live was completely different from watching the movie adaption (remember the one starring Hugh Jackman?). The live singing evoked such powerful emotions and I was so immersed in watching the story unfold on stage.

Here's an interesting nugget of information: The original author of Les Miserables (Victor Hugo) was also a talented artist and a number of his illustrations and paintings have been used in this new production of Les Miserables and projected as stage backdrops, such as the one above! I found that pretty cool, actually.

Me taking part in the revolution. Hahahaha sorry I just had to pose with this backdrop...

Up-close and Personal With The Cast of Les Miserables

Simon Gleeson as Jean Valjean

We had an amazing evening enjoying the show, and the next day, even got to meet with some of the key cast members from this production of Les Miserables, first of whom is none other than Simon Gleeson who plays the iconic role of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables.

Simon has worked extensively in theatre, film and television in Australia and the UK, including performing in London’s prestigious West End. His portrayal as Jean Valjean has earned him a Helpmann Award for Best Male Actor in a Musical!

Simon Gleeson is just phenomenal as Jean Valjean. He truly brings out a phenomenal range of emotions playing Jean Valjean, from fury, misery and anger, right to the other end of the spectrum with tenderness, love and righteousness. We had a short chat with Simon and he's such a nice guy!

Interesting Facts: Simon Gleeson's dad was his first influence in singing and is a great fan of Les Miserables as well! Les Miserables was his first musical and he actually watched it when he was 12. His favourite moment in Les Miserables is when Jean Valjean meets Cosette as a little girl for the first time, and experiences what happiness and love is about.

Earl Carpenter as Javert

Jean Valjean's greatest nemesis, Javert, is played by the charismatic Earl Carpenter, who has been in the theatre industry for 25 years and his vocal prowess is truly second to none!

Earl Carpenter, who just concluded his run as the inspector in Les Misérables on Broadway, has also appeared in original and 25th Anniversary productions and concert celebrations of Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, The Witches of Eastwick, Sunset Boulevard and Evita.

One of my favourite scenes in Les Miserables is when Javert and Jean Valjean do a duet together. Their voices together were just too good!

It was intriguing to speak to Earl Carpenter as he mentioned about how he is usually distanced from the rest of the cast due to the nature of Javert's character (who comes on stage at different times from the rest of the cast and has mostly solo parts) and that it could be lonely for him.

Interesting Fact: Earl Carpenter is the same age as Javert is in Les Miserables, although he says that he is nothing like Javert in terms of personality!

Paul Wilkins as Marius, love struck revolutionary and Chris Durling as Enjolras, passionate student leader of the revolution

These two eye-candies were absolutely charming and cute! Despite their relatively younger ages, the two of them also shine in their roles as Marius and Enjolras respectively, and I was thoroughly impressed by their passionate acting and singing!

Their chemistry both on stage and off stage is apparent, and you'll definitely enjoy watching Paul Wilkins and Chris Durling in Les Miserables as they rouse up their fellow student revolutionaries with fiery passion!

These two dashing young men also shared with us that they believe that their success on stage is a combination of both talent and hard work, both of which they feel are essential to becoming a good performer!

Kerrie Anne Greenland as Éponine

After making her professional debut in the Australian production of Les Misérables  WAAPA 2012 graduate and Helpmann Award winner Kerrie Anne Greenland will play Éponine, with fellow graduate Emily Langridge cast in the beloved role of Cosette. 

Kerrie has truly both a sweet personality and voice. She performs the role of love-lorn Eponine with the tender sorrow of unrequited love that I'm sure all of us can relate to in one way or another. Watch out for this up-and-coming star as I'm sure that this is just the beginning of a very successful career in theatre for this sweet young lass!

Back Stage at Les Miserables
Here's the part I was most excited about: Going on a backstage tour of Les Miserables!



The full musical score and accompanying cue points are all there in that thick file! Sydney, the stage manager, has to cue in the actors 487 times during the length of the entire musical?!

Here's a familiar sight: Eponine's costume and a very familiar sewer grating that you'll see in Act 2 where Javert is chasing Jean Valjean and Marius after the barricade fight!

These rats were originally canine toys and then repainted and remade into props!

Everything is super organised back stage and all the props are labelled with names and even sectioned out with masking tape to ensure that everything is in the right place and ready to be used on stage at the right moment!

They call this "Wardrobe Village"! This area of back stage is where all the costumes are housed. Did you know that no matter which production of Les Miserables you're watching, every character's costumes are exactly the same, down to the exact fabric used? This was something else I learnt about Les Miserables which I find completely amazing.

All the costumes are made brand-new, before being aged and dirtied artificially by the costume-makers in order to suit the look of the character.

Fun trivia: An average female character in Les Miserables has about 40 pieces of clothing!

In the makeup and hair department, every actor has got their own set of skincare and makeup, and they are strictly not allowed to use anybody elses!

These wigs are made of real human hair, and have to be cleaned and maintained daily at the end of every single show. I never knew the amount of work that went into just hair alone!

A special hair aging set meant to color hair professionally for characters such as Jean Valjean who ages progressively throughout the entire musical.

Interesting, huh?

This random sight really tickled me and gave me a good chuckle! As the cast needs to do a sound check every day before the show begins, a word of the day/theme is provided daily, and the theme for the day happened to be Bruno Mars. I like knowing that the cast/production team is having fun behind the scenes with inside jokes like these!

These are more props: I was slightly horrified to find out that these bunnies (on the left) were once alive and procured from a taxidermist.. The props used for Les Mis are all very realistic, and every single prop has been given a lot of detail to, though I bet you won't even remember which scene you see these bunnies appear in!

So much attention to every single scene with highly life-like props, such as the wedding scene where Cosette and Marius get married!

The famous barricade scene!


I will be catching the premiere of Les Miserables once it hits the Esplanade Theatres on 2 June, and I can't wait! Tickets for Les Miserables are available for purchase from SISTIC here.

© Yina Goes

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