The preparation for the Marionettes Chorale's staging of Les Mis�rables has been a long time in coming. It was a personal mission for dramatic director and assistant artistic director Caroline Taylor, who will be working along with the chorale's artistic and musical director Gretta Taylor, her mother."We'd done excerpts a few times over the years, and I personally spent much of the last decade trying to get the rights to do the full production here," the younger Taylor said. "So when the full performance rights became available at the end of 2012, and despite the vast musical and technical challenges, it was all systems go. Once it finally happened, I was simultaneously excited and terrified!"
Les Mis has run continuously since October 1985 and is now the longest running musical in the world. The Marionettes' staging will be the Caribbean premiere of the popular musical. The Marionettes Chorale is also continuing celebrations of its golden anniversary of 50 years as a choir, begun last year.A member of the Marionettes since 1995 (by way of the Youth Chorale), Taylor works closely with her mother on various aspects of the Marionettes' artistic and production work, assisting on everything from stage direction to grant writing and marketing.
"Marionettes has always been like an extended family for me," Taylor said. "But beyond that, even though I was in and out of the country for a while and sometimes taking time out to work on other creative projects, I think the level of my involvement now on the creative and administrative side is in large part because of the kind of relationship I have with my mother."It's not their first time working together."Back in 2008, my aunt, Mum's only sister, passed suddenly weeks before our Tributes concert. It was heartbreaking to see the toll it took on Mum, and I felt very much compelled to take up more of the creative mantle to support both her and the work."Sadly, this production is a bit of a parallel, as her only brother passed last week, once again just weeks before concert time. So at the end of the day, while we face the same challenges any two family members or members of a creative team do, we're both driven to manifest something beautiful on that stage, and to support each other in the process."
Taylor will also play the role of Mme Th�nardier. The composition of the orchestra for the production will remain a mystery to be unveiled on the opening night of Les Mis. Gretta Taylor described the production as "perhaps the most challenging production the Marionettes have ever undertaken–Carmen included."The Marionettes production crew for the show includes choreographers Noble Douglas and Dave Williams; stage designer Randall Halfhide; lighting designer Celia Wells; sound designer Frank Agarrat; costume designer Margaret Sheppard; stage manager Arielle Rostant; and assistant musical director and conductor Roger Henry.
Taylor remarked that the music in Les Mis is "special: tuneful, memorable, anything but sugary and superficial and not predictable."There are some very challenging recitatives and motifs. I think it should be compared to an opera/operetta, as there's no speaking, only singing."Les Mis will open on July 13 at 5 pm and will continue July 17 at 7.30 pm (special discounts available), July 18-19 at 7.30 pm, and July 20 at 5 pm. Tickets are $200 and $250.
The cast features a combination of experienced and first-time theatrical performers and Taylor has been guiding them using broad-based characterisation and stage craft techniques. Taylor said, "They say half of directing is casting, and we have very strong leads, understudies and supporting cast."Les Mis stars Marlon De Bique and Nigel Floyd (Valjean); Marvin Smith (Javert); Raguel Gabriel (Marius); David Stephens (Th�nardier); Danielle Williams (Cosette); Errol James (Enjolras); Aurora Tardieu (Eponine); and four members of the Marionettes Children's Choir (Annalise Emmanuel, Jayna Akal, Elise Blanc and Amelia Emmanuel) cast as Young Cosette and Gavroche.
Male vocal leads De Bique and Floyd shared their reactions in three words or less to being cast in the iconic role of Valjean. "Timely, relieved, blessed" said De Bique, who identified the dramatic solo What Have I Done as one he is most looking forward to performing."Musically it sits well in my vocal (range) and dramatic gifts and it is extremely challenging yet fulfilling for the vocal ammunition I may possess. Dramatically it's really a very spiritual number, filled with angst and passion but it is also personal and revealing."For Floyd, it's "enthralled, and intimidated....I love singing Who Am I? because it speaks to the essential conflict of Valjean, a central character, and is a recurring motif running right through the musical."
Williams, who plays the role of Valjean's adopted daughter Cosette, selected the words "honoured, challenged, excited" and identified Heart Full of Love as her favourite piece to sing in the role."It brilliantly captures that moment when your heart and soul have awakened to love for the first time in a way that is simultaneously reckless, free, passionate, pure, innocent; and suddenly everything in your world make sense."The music is breathtaking and the composer very cleverly weaves together the stories of three characters into this one beautiful piece."