“Ms Q always does this!”
“I think it’s Spanish.”
“Naw! It’s French, stupid!”
“How you know it’s French? French and Spanish are like cousins.”
Tavan and Kurtis stand outside of room 201 staring at the stunning mural of a wide-eyed little girl, her threadbare shirt sliding from her thin shoulders. Above the child’s head float words the boys can’t pronounce.
“Laaas Meesa-“ Kurtis intones, squinting at the words.
“Google it,” demands Tavan.
“The Miserable Ones…” Tavan is already on his phone, fingers flying. “French novel…early 19th century…June rebellion…ex-convict…” He looks up and shakes his head. “OK I’m done, I don’t get it. It sounds boring.”
“-alles…” Kurtis is still struggling with the title.
“Yeah. You’re right. Sounds confusing.”
There is a pause. Tavan and Kurtis reevaluate.
“Well,” says Kurtis. “Let’s just check it out though, you know, just in case it’s really good.”
Although most Bronx Prep students had never heard of the musical before and many were concerned that, unlike shows like Little Shop of Horrors and The Wiz, they would have no real connection to the characters, setting, plot or musical style, over ninety students auditioned for the musical “Les Miserables.”
|The mood is tense as auditioning students fill out paperwork in room 418|
Some of the students had done their homework and came prepared, ready to snag that role as Cosette or Jean Valjean. They knew the songs and they were ready to prove themselves.
Vying for the role of Jean Valjean
Others strolled in ignorant of what the play was actually about and were simply eager to sing on stage. Still others showed up just because their friends were there and needed support. However, all of the students walked out of auditions with a new understanding of what it means to fight, love, revolt, and change.
Learning "The People's Song"
In the short time it took for students to learn “The People’s Song” at auditions, students learned that the play was about sacrifice and the consequences and rewards we gain from the decisions we make. In a matter of hours that afternoon, “Les Miserables” had transformed from a vague and unpronounceable maybe-Spanish/maybe-French title into a story the kids understood and appreciated.
|5th and 6th graders audition|
Whether they were auditioning for the role of Fantine or a member of the proletariat, as the young actors lifted their voices, they learned and connected. They were reminded of the tug of wars in their own realities and forced to see themselves through their scripts. Though most of the kids did not make the cut, they were still given the opportunity to be exposed to something new and gripping. For those who were cast in the show, the journey was just beginning.
|Former Brox Prep musical theater star Denisse Polanco shares advice|