Les Mis Gone Wrong

Any discussion related to any production or staging of Boublil and Schönberg's Les Misérables.
User avatar
Auf die Barrikaden
Posts: 742
Joined: Mon May 23, 2011 2:36 pm
Location: In the heart of the city we claim as our own!

Re: Les Mis Gone Wrong

Postby Auf die Barrikaden » Sun Feb 09, 2014 3:04 pm

On the opening night of the 1992 Manchester production, the barricade broke down and the entire second act had to be cancelled. The set came from the Los Angeles production-where the exact same thing happened on opening night. :D
Source: An interview with Meredith Braun in "The Barricade" http://bluepeets.tumblr.com/post/132702 ... inter-1995
Resident Les Miz prop expert and collector
Non licet omnibus adire Corinthum
Former Roles: Jesus (Jesus Christ Superstar), Dr Orin Scrivello (Little Shop of Horrors), Ensemble Cameo (Fame)

User avatar
Posts: 286
Joined: Wed Feb 06, 2013 12:36 pm
Location: London

Re: Les Mis Gone Wrong

Postby Olivia_y » Mon Jan 30, 2017 2:04 am

Not sure if this counts, but one show I went to in 2015 (matinee on the 10th of October) was one of the more eventful ones. It started as normal, with most (if not all) the principals present, but from the start you could sort of tell Peter Lockyer (JVJ) wasn't 100% there - he'd cut short a lot of the big notes (I don't think he even tried to hit the final note in 'Who Am I'), didn't pick up little Cosette, stuff like that.

Intermission went noticeably long, and before Act 2 began there was an announcement that Peter had to leave due to illness, Bradley Jaden (Enjolras) would take over as Valjean, and Luke McCall (Feuilly) would go on as Enjolras.

User avatar
Posts: 435
Joined: Sat Sep 24, 2016 10:07 pm
Location: Texas

Re: Les Mis Gone Wrong

Postby CC21106 » Thu Feb 02, 2017 3:25 am

Acaila wrote:Ah, I've seen a missed bullet bag once now I think about it! But yes, like you say, that's not a serious problem even in the storytelling if it goes wrong.

Of course in the book "Marius dashed out of the barricade, Combeferre followed him. But he was too late. Gavroche was dead. Combeferre brought back the basket of cartridges; Marius bore the child."
Don't mess with Texas! We mess up enough by ourselves.
I have actually made bullets like they're doing in my avatar. Then loaded the gun with a ramrod, and shot it. But I'm not feeling real good about guns right now.

User avatar
Posts: 4896
Joined: Tue Feb 12, 2013 10:21 pm
Location: Toronto, ON

Re: Les Mis Gone Wrong

Postby deHavilland » Fri Mar 03, 2017 7:05 pm

Over the years I've saved copies of Toronto Star articles regarding Les Mis, and while looking through my collection for something entirely unrelated I stumbled upon this totally forgotten gem:

"Misérables: Life Down in Les Pits"
Toronto Star, Dec 2, 1989

WHEN DEREK Bate was hired as conductor and musical director for the Toronto production of Les Misérables, nobody told him he'd have to watch out for flying furniture and assorted other bits of airbound stage paraphernalia.

Since the show opened in March at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Bate has been assailed by hats, beer tankards, spoons, you name it.

The conductor, unlike the 25 members of his orchestra who are protected by a wire mesh, is exposed to the rousing onstage shenanigans that necessarily attend this musical tale of 19th- century France in revolt.

"The most exciting thing that ever happened to me was the night I got hit over the head with a flying piece of chair," Bate says. "There's a point in the story where Jean Valjean (played by Michael Burgess) slams a chair into the stage. It's designed to come apart in pieces and one night a piece of leg just flew up and clipped me across the forehead.

"It didn't hurt me but it certainly surprised me. I don't think I missed too many beats. It just sort of stunned me for a moment."

Such are the unexpected delights of overseeing a production-heavy megamusical on the scale of Les Miz. Delights because, if nothing else, they help break up the potential monotony of conducting the same music night after night, day after day.

All of this is fairly new to the classically-trained, 35-year-old musician.

Prior to his immersion in Les Misérables, a musical adaptation by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schoenberg of Victor Hugo's popular 19th century novel, Bate's career was developing along purely operatic lines. The Toronto native started playing piano at the age of 5, later attending the Royal Conservatory of Music, the University of Edinburgh, the Prague Academy of Arts and the music faculty at University of Toronto. He conducted for the U of T and the Gilbert and Sullivan Society before launching a decade-long association with the Canadian Opera Company in 1979 with Le Nozze di Figaro, coincidentally at the Royal Alex.

Bate was given a crack at Les Miz on the recommendation of Royal Alex musical director Peter Schenkman. Between his first interview and finally getting the job, he went to see the Broadway production.

"It impressed me with its power and drama," he says. "It was a very emotional experience to see it for the first time - especially knowing that I might be working on it."

Less than a year after opening, Bate has conducted the show nearly 250 times. He generally handles seven of the eight weekly performances and often is found sitting in the theatre listening for problems during his one show off.

The challenges of conducting a popular musical are entirely different from those presented by an opera, a single production of which rarely runs more than 10 performances. Complacency - his own and his musicians' - is something Bate works hard to guard against.

"Boredom and lethargy are more of a problem for the musicians than for the performers onstage, simply because they're less involved in the show. They feel more detatched, out of sight. It isn't the same challenge that it is for the actors."

To help combat the onset of ennui, the musicians, many of whom also work for the COC and other orchestras in the city, are allowed periodic breaks from the show - provided that suitable substitutes can be found.

Also, Bate keeps a keen eye out for daydreamers. This task is made especially difficult by the cramped and irregular quarters inside the pit, which measures roughly 18 x 40 feet, but is divided in the middle by a trap door used by the actors. Several of the musicians follow the conductor's directions on five small and strategically-placed TV monitors.

"It's not an ideal situation because, first of all, a two- dimensional TV image is harder to follow than a three-dimensional conductor.

"And also, if they're doing something I don't like it's awfully hard to fix them in the eye and attract their attention. You look in the monitor, but how does anybody know who you're looking at?"

Musically, Bate concedes Les Misérables doesn't rank with the most challenging compositions in the operatic repertoire. But he has learned not to underestimate the demands of the 3 1/4-hour show.

"I don't think (the music) necessarily stands up well if you haven't seen the show, but I would also say that for a lot of operas.

"Its aim is to communicate on a direct, emotional level with a general audience and it does that very well. It isn't trying to be a sophisticated, intellectual show.

"I guess I didn't expect that it would still be difficult at this point - that certain passages can still go wrong. And I didn't expect that it would be this physically tiring.

"It seems that after you've done it so many times it should be easier. But it takes a lot out of me still. And it takes every bit of my concentration to keep it together and keep it really good. And it doesn't always work.

"If I don't bring the necessary energy and dynamic leadership to it, the orchestra will start sitting back and they won't give the kind of dramatic performance I need. Everything in this show starts from the music and if the orchestra is sluggish it weighs down the evening and affects the actors, because they don't get the energy from the music that they're used to."

And if there's one thing audience members can expect from Bate it's an energetic performance - although on at least one occasion his apparent flamboyance was entirely accidental.

"One night after taking my bows, I turned back to resume conducting and I caught my baton on something - either the underneath of the stage or one of my lights. It went out of my hand and flipped end over end high in the air above the audience. Somebody about four rows back caught it.

"I think they thought that this was part of the event - that I staged this every night."

Given the amount of debris soaring through the air during the show, it's an understandable assumption.

A dangerous gig, conducting Les Mis.
"Quand vous aurez besoin de Bahorel, capitaine, Bahorel est là! Je sais faire trébucher tous les chevaux du garde-corps avec une ficelle... Rien qu'une petite ficelle. Enfin, pensez à Bahorel du Café Musain!"

User avatar
Posts: 2833
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2013 6:24 pm
Location: So far in the closet I could be in blimmin Narnia

Re: Les Mis Gone Wrong

Postby TheRandomPhangirl » Wed Mar 08, 2017 10:26 pm

deHavilland wrote:A dangerous gig, conducting Les Mis.

Something my mother would definitely agree with you on, after every show when collecting me from stage door she would say, "bloody hell, I think my arms are about to fall off"

I have several stories from the production I was in last month:
In one of our previews the barricade broke, smashed up the back wall of the set and gouged out a bit of the stage floor, meaning we had to stop, lights up and everything, while they fixed it. That thing was a menace and a half, to the point that on opening night, Javert sent a message onto our group chat along the lines of "let's all pray that the wooden piece of sh!t won't break tonight". Mercifully, it didn't.
Also during the preview, when I went up to the gate during AHFOL, I didn't know they'd put a bar at the bottom, so as I ran to it I tripped over the bar and pushed the gates open, then low key pulled them back again.
An orchestral one was, during ALFOR the orchestra one night just...stopped. It was during "just hold me now and let it be/shelter me, comfort me" and the accompaniment just sort of fizzled out. Luckily Marius kept going with the second verse and they eventually picked us up again.
I'm the one to shout "Down with Polignac!"

User avatar
Posts: 498
Joined: Wed Dec 23, 2015 7:08 am

Re: Les Mis Gone Wrong

Postby 23623 » Sat Apr 22, 2017 10:05 am

Not sure if this has been mentioned before. I just discovered that there's a minor mistake in the bloopers video. The guy from Vienna is actually Enjolras, not the loudhailer. That line sounds really like "let others rise..." I think it's "lass andere unser erben sein die erde zu befreit" in German, but I'm not entirely sure. I don't have the complete German libretto and I don't speak German so I may be wrong. :oops:
Revolution, but civilization

Return to “Les Misérables”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest