One of the most incredible things (in my opinion) about Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma is that we compile local talent as well as actors from across the country, including New York! This combination makes for phenomenal shows. Everyone is so hardworking and kind. Three leads for LES MISERABLES (Jean Valjean, Fantine, and Javert) are from New York! They were all willing to answer some quick questions for us so that you could get to know them better! How cool is that?!

Chuck Wagner

1) Why are you excited about portraying your role in the show?
I’ve been a devotee since it became THE WORLD’S MOST POPULAR MUSICAL when it first opened, and even more so after spending a few years in the cast on tour and on Broadway. The music is glorious, the story is perpetually relevant and as a Theatre piece is is among the most passionate and moving. Victor Hugo’s source material is a masterpiece, and the educational aspects both historically and theatrically are without equal. The story of Valjean and Javert, two men on either side of an obsessive use of the Law, is as relevant today as it was when Hugo wrote it. The journey from Valjean’s initial despair to ultimate salvation is a true delight for any actor and I feel truly blessed to share it with all of you!

2) What is the most memorable role you have ever played and why?
Certainly Valjean ranks at the top, as does Javert. I spent 5 years as Disney’s Beast and loved every minute of it, and my time as Jekyll & Hyde was a thrill as well. I particularly treasure having been knighted Sir Lancelot by the hand of Broadway’s original Lancelot, Robert Goulet! I like to think my most memorable roles are yet to come.

3) Are there any special challenges you foresee about playing your character?
Vocally and emotionally Valjean is an epic undertaking.  The biggest challenge will be to pace myself through rehearsal so I’m at 110% for the entire run. I look forward to gaining strength from the power of our fantastict cast as we make this magic happen!

4) Do you have any wacky rituals you do before each show?
Nothing too crazy. I always come early to the theatre to stretch and warm up, and am usually the first person fully dressed and ready so I can settle into the reality we are creating. Since this show is such a group effort I look forward to working with not only the cast, but with the set, prop and wardrobe crews, the dressers and the hair department to create the communal dance backstage that makes the show the audience sees the best it can be!

5) What is your favorite thing about musical theatre?
That magical connection between the ensemble on stage, the orchestra and the audience that is so powerful. When waves of passion, laughter and love sweep across the crowd and all of our hearts are moved in unison…priceless.

 

Victoria Huston-Elem

1) Why are you excited about portraying your role in the show?
Fantine is one of those bucket-list roles I’ve been longing to tackle.  I’ve always had an affinity for mother roles, and I’m particularly excited to explore the balance of her desperation/illness with her bone-deep love for Cosette.  Also, her vocal material is candy for a mezzo.

2) If you’ve worked for Lyric before, why did you decide to come back?
I’ve never worked at the Lyric before, but Michael Baron directed my first-ever union production.  I’m thrilled to be working with him again. 

3) What is the most memorable role you have ever played and why?
This has to be a tie between Maggie in GOLDEN BOY OF THE BLUE RIDGE and Ganil in THE HIDDEN SKY.  Both shows were produced by Prospect Theater Company in Manhattan, but they’re wildly different pieces.  

GBBR was a bluegrass retelling of JM Synge’s “Playboy of the Western World” set in the blue ridge mountains.  I was with the show from the very first workshop (before there were songs) all the way to the Off-Broadway production (which now has a cast album available on iTunes).  It was thrilling having a role crafted to match my strengths as a performer, and I was lucky to be working with one of the best companies of my career. We will be coming together to present GBBR as a 90-minute concert this July. 

THE HIDDEN SKY was based on a short story called “The Masters.”  Post-apocalyptic earth has long since outlawed all advanced forms of math and science, leaving only the Roman numeral system and sun worship behind.  My character, Ganil, rediscovered the fundamentals of math/science (the Fibonacci sequence, Pasquale’s Triangle, the Golden Spiral, etc.) while drawing her own connections to faith and the universe.  The climax of act two was a glorious choral number where I found God woven into the spirals of seashells and the number of petals on flowers.  It’s hard to explain without showing you the material itself, but the role was complicated, intelligent, and driven by a deep desire for a purpose in life.  Who couldn’t relate to that?

Sub-Answer: THE ADDAMS FAMILY was my most challenging job to date.  I was a swing, which means I covered all members of the ensemble plus I understudied two principals.  I never knew who I’d be playing any given day, and there were some shows where I’d be on in a split-track: multiple roles at once.  It challenged me in every way, and I am a better actor for it. 

4) Are there any special challenges you foresee about playing your character?
I’m a little worried about the coughing/physical requirements of her illness.  Navigating them safely so I can continue to sing freely. 

5) Do you have any wacky rituals you do before each show?
When I was in high school, the drama department would sing a hymn to Dionysus before each performance of the school play.  We weren’t allowed to write down the lyrics, so every year you had to pay attention and try to learn all the verses.  The idea was that Dionysus, god of wine and theatre, would grant us good fortune in that night’s show.  Sometimes I find myself thinking through the lyrics as I put on my makeup. 

Other than that, nothing too wacky.  Just a tried and true set of vocal warmups and sometimes a sensible 30-second dance party to get my energy up.  The last time I did Les Miserables, the women’s ensemble dressing room would rock out with me 🙂

6) What is your favorite thing about musical theatre?
I love musical theatre.  I was raised on it.  Growing up on Long Island, my mother and I would frequently pull “marathons” and see two shows on a Saturday.  We’d collect cast albums and sing along in the car.  At that time, I couldn’t articulate what it was I was so in love with… I just knew that I was drawn to the medium.  Now I think it’s the storytelling.  There is nothing quite so powerful as a good story.  Sure, the glitter, lashes, glitz and glamour are fun, but at it’s heart, musical theatre is about telling stories so grand that they can’t speak: they simply MUST sing.  How wonderful to be able to be a part of something like that.  

 

Danny Rothman

1) Why are you excited about portraying your role in the show?
Many reasons.  I’ll list a couple… First, I have been dreaming about playing this role for a very long time.  I have been listening to the music since I was elementary school.  Getting to sing the role of Javert with such a fantastic group of people, musicians, theatre and audience is an amazing blessing.  It’s also thrilling to inhabit a character that has such resolve and clearness of purpose.  

2) What is the most memorable role you have ever played and why?
Every role is memorable, but more recently, so more easily memorable, is Tateh in RAGTIME.  Tateh gets to go on such an amazing journey in that show.  He starts with many big dreams, hopes, and ambitions and falls so far.  I’m certain he may not have continued were it not for the love of his daughter.  By the end of the show, he’s finally achieved the kind of success he’s always dreamed of and more.  To take myself and an audience on that “amazing journey” every performance is extremely fulfilling.

3) Are there any special challenges you foresee about playing your character?
As I read the stories in LES MIS it’s hard for me as an actor, artist and human being not to be moved and have tremendous empathy for everyone (including Javert).  Javert is a man who holds his own perspective on things so strongly that such feelings no longer occur to him.  As an actor, who’s job it is is to imagine myself in other people’s shoes as much as possible, it’s a challenge to portray someone who never does that.  A man, whose black and white truths and dogged determination, are able to anesthetize himself to the world around him.  That’s not who I am as a person.  I enjoy trying to see as many perspectives as possilbe.  Finding the entry point, for me as an actor, into a man that has such a singular and rigid perspective to honestly portray Javert, has been the greatest challenge… but a lot of fun!

4) Do you have any wacky rituals you do before each show?
I have my own warm up and relaxation exercises that I like to do.  I’m not sure I would call them particular wacky.  Although, to someone who has not been part of a drama school or drama class, they might seem a bit odd.  Maybe if they’ve have been to a yoga studio or meditation class, not so much.  Also, while I stay skeptic of them, I make a concerted effort to avoid any of the superstitious pitfalls in the theatre, i.e. no mention of the Scottish play, no whistling and I greatly prefer one wish me “break a leg” as opposed to…  I won’t even say it.

5) What is your favorite thing about musical theatre?
Wow. What a question.  The first random thought that came to my mind is the moment in some shows when a song you heard earlier in the production you hear again later in the show with an entirely new meaning in context.  It’s so powerful.  For example, LIFE IS A CABARET and I AM WHAT I AM.  On a more general note, musical theatre is perhaps the most collaborative art form there is (other than maybe a musical movie).  When it all comes together and really works with lights, sound, set, music, actors, etc…  It’s a magical experience.

 

For tickets to LES MISERABLES, visit LyricTheatreOKC.com or call our ticket office at 405-524-9312.

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