And so the circle closes: Les Miserables memories, 1992-2010

This is part review, part flashback and part closure for yours truly, so if it seems a bit scatterbrained, please accept my apologies in advance.

Tonight, I walked the halls of my high school for the first time since May 1994, when I ran sound for a production two years after graduating. I had been meaning for years to stop by the old place to see a production put on by the Drama department, which is still held under the knowing gaze of the person I’ve always only called Baugher [though she does hava a first name, it’s Katherine]. No matter how good my intentions, life seemed to get in the way and I never found my way back there. Until tonight.

Tonight, Midlothian High School’s Drama Department [and the school Orchestra] mounted their production of Les Miserables. Let me say here and now, I went in with very high expectations, partly because I know Baugher, and partly because, if I had to pick one Broadway play as a favorite, however difficult that might be, I would pick Les Miz.

The entire cast was stellar, rising to the challenge of a score that has zero spoken dialogue, everything being sung. To my amazement, their were only a few minor cuts to some numbers. If you had told me years ago that Baugher and Company would be able to say/sing the word ‘whore’ repeatadly inside the hallowed halls of Midlo U, I would have been shocked. I mean, we had to lobby, and lobby hard to say the word ‘damn’ in one of the productions I was in ‘way back when’. Maybe progress has finally come to Chesterfield.

Again, the whole cast, from the lead roles to the ensemble chorus, were a pleasure to watch and listen to. The ‘kid’ [and I can call him kid because he wasn’t born when I went to Midlo] who had the task of singing Jean Valjean…all I can say is the sky is truly the limit for him. When he finished ‘Bring Him Home’, the toughest solo in the whole show, I had to keep reminding myself that this was a high school play. It was so good I forgot that. The moniker ‘it’s only high school theatre’ doesn’t apply here.

The other component here that may in fact color my review is nostalgia. I saw Les Miz on my first trip to New York, with Baugher and the Drama Club, my senior year [1992]. Unlike some friends, I didn’t know a note of the musical before the lights went down. At intermission, I remember Katie Shipplett looking at me and saying, ‘No one dies in the second act.’ I didn’t know if she was lying, or trying to convince herself everything would be alright at the end.

It’s funny, when I was eighteen, the character in Les Miz that I latched onto was Eponine, and, hearing her solo and duet tonite [‘On My Own’ and ‘A Little Fall Of Rain’ respectively] she’s still the character that I identify with at 36 years of age. I took comfort in that, how things sometimes don’t change all that much as we grow older. I’ve walked in a lot of shoes, had a lot of jobs, made and lost friends in the last 18 years, but, in the grand scheme of things, I think I am very similar to the person I was in high school. A little wiser hopefully, but not bitter or [too] cynical.

That it took going back to realize that surprised me. šŸ˜‰

As I watched and listened to these kids, who now have there entire future ahead of them, pictures flashed of that 1992 NY trip and friends came to mind, some of which I had not thought of in years. Memories of staying up way too late, twelve people to a room, being so tired the next day that some of us slept through a Broadway matinee…figuring sleep would come on the bus ride home [but we talked the whole way back too]. It was one of those rare times in my life where I KNEW this was a special time and I did all I could to take it all in. If I slept, I would have missed something.

So, to Amy Arnold, Drew Cannady, Kurt Heisler,Tony Abeln, Wendi Tudor, Davilee Criss, Jen Ball, Julie Henry, Patrick Crowling, Lisa Cason, Jenne Powers, Kim Catanzano, Carrie Morris, Rebecca Montero and many others from Midlo’s classes of 1992 and 1993, know that you were thought of fondly tonight, and revered, and the legacy of camraderie that drama provides is still going strong a generation later.

That was a wonderful thing to be reminded of. Thanks Eddie for seeing this with me, and lastly thanks and love to Baugher. I know one day you will retire but I hope it’s not anytime soon. I can’t imagine Midlothian without you and I am lucky not only to have had you as a life-changing teacher, but also to be able to call you a friend.

For the record, I DID NOT sleep through a Broadway Matinee. Those who did know who they are. šŸ™‚

Barry

04.29.10

[shameless plugs before I go: If you’re in Midlo this weekend, go check out the show at the high school. Ten bucks, curtain rises at 7:30.]