Huge Effort Pulls off Epic Musical


Senior Maddie Browning (as Cosette) sings with senior Jacob Molloy (as Marius).

Casey Miller, Editor-in-Chief

The musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s epic novel Les Miserables, originally produced in London’s West End, was performed by Campolindo’s Broadway hopefuls the last 2 weeks. The efforts of veteran stage director Dave Pinkham and musical director Mark Roberts, along with a crew of students and parents that assembled and operated complex technical features like a rotating stage, made this year’s spring musical production a smashing success with each of the performances in the 2-week run sold out.

With equal parts romance and battle action carried out with consistently competent, and at times, thrilling acting and singing, the story mesmerized the performing arts center’s packed house.

2 separate casts alternated performances through the performance dates. Sam Pride starred as Javert, Lucy Clearwater as Fantine, Alex Wilson as Thenardier, Julie Meng as Madame Thenardier, Jacob Molloy as Marius, Maddie Browning as Cosette, and Marissa Monopoli as Eponine in the “Red” cast.

Sam Larson starred as Javert, Kelsey Raftis as Fantine, Peter Jones as Thenardier, Meg Newton as Madame Thenardier, Frenel Francisco as Marius, Ava Narayan as Cosette, and Betty Galindo as Eponine in the “Black” cast.

Most impressively, senior Ricky Lomas starred as Jean Valjean for both casts, performing every single night.

Roberts chose Les Mis, in part, because it offered a more traditional production after more modern pieces in recent years, including last spring’s Urinetown.

Roberts was also eager to take on the unique casting requirements of the story. “I personally wanted to do something involving little kids, where we could bring in other kids from the community, so that was a big factor.”

In recruiting children for Les Mis, Roberts others involved with the choir sent out notices to the community. Lleyton Allen, a 5th grader who plays the little boy Gavroche, said, “My piano teacher is Kelsey Raftis’s mom, who plays Fantine and she told me about [the musical]. So I just tried out, and when I tried out I got the role of Gavroche, the little boy.”

While some had little acting experience, like Marissa Monopoli’s little sister, Allen has been working at the craft for a while: ““I act a lot, and I’m in the Peter Pan Foundation, so Leslie knows Dave Pinkham, so she told me too. I’ve just been acting since preschool so I wanted to do it at Campo, because Icome to all of the plays each time.”

The ability to use the new multi-use room facilities and the full space of the CPAC also inspired Roberts to take on Les Mis. “The fact that we had the construction last year and had to do a show with smaller set pieces; now we wanted to do a show with larger set pieces since we had access to the theater again,” he said.

“Then, always a consideration is the student body, and we have a particularly large class of freshman guys and [Les Mis] is a guy-heavy show. So a couple factors made it a good choice for this year,” Roberts explained.

Senior Maddie Browning, who has committed to NYU Tisch to earn her BFA in acting, had support from her parents on many nights of the musical’s performances. Father Rob Browning said, “It’s kind of emotional for me, just knowing everything she’s put into it and all this preparation. Seeing her up on stage, totally enjoying herself, having a fantastic experience, and reaping the benefits of all her hard work and seeing her dreams being realized.”

Roberts was particularly satisfied with the number of seniors who finished their musical careers with this run. “It’s really neat to watch the maturation that happens over time, the confidence and the poise that they gain off stage. A lot of them, I can recall their audition freshman year when they’re like, scared to make a sound in front of people,” Roberts said. “And now they’re taking risks on stage and knowing how how to deal with ‘oops, this prop isn’t there, how will I make it work?’ And that’s really cool. It’s cool to see how they react and work with it and continue becoming more comfortable onstage and as people, because that’s ultimately where they will take these skills and apply them.”

The production also gave opportunities to newcomers. Sarah Chu only joined choir this year, but managed to nab parts as Babet and a constable. “It’s so fun. The people I’ve met and sing with every day. It’s so exciting and everyone’s so nice and it’s great that we’re all bonded over loving singing and performing as well,” she said.

Chu also noted the growth that she witnessed in her peers. “Especially the underclassmen; you see them growing up and improving so much night by night, and the upperclassmen seniors who are already mains, like Ricky [Lomas] as Jean Valjean,” she added. “They’re such great actors.”

Pinkham and Roberts spent long hours coordinating the staging and music. The play, lasting just over 3 hours, required non-stop accompaniment from the orchestra.

“The thing that’s unique about this show in particular is that it’s music from start to finish. In a lot of musicals there’s a bit of dialogue, so the fact that it’s music from start to finish means that every time someone comes in, there’s a cue from the music,” Roberts said.

“So all told, there’s 700 different entrances for singers, at least. So if one of them is one beat late, or they space out for a second, that makes it difficult to make sure we all stay together,” Roberts said. “In that way, it’s unique. They’ve done a really good job with negotiating all that. The whole cast is really impressive to me.”

Chu added, “Mr. Roberts is just so enthusiastic and passionate about what he does, even though we can be a pain in the butt sometimes, but he just powers through and wants to make us look as good as possible onstage.”

Choreographer Jenna Harris also worked with Roberts and Pinkham to perfect the 44 different songs.

Parents helped build the props and sets, while theater tech ensured lights and microphones worked properly during the performances.

“Really the most fun thing for me is how they mature into the roles that we see them for. When you see a small snippet of an audition, you look for their potential to grow into a role, and it’s been awesome for me to watch all the different students grow into the roles that we had hoped they would grow into,” Roberts said.

“The collective effort is what makes it so great; the effort of the ensemble, the effort of all the individuals in all the different roles,” Roberts said. “That’s what really compels the scenes to come to life, is when everyone on stage is invested. Ultimately, maybe the principle character is the one delivering the line, but it’s the energy that they receive from the rest of the ensemble, and even the crew, and how the stage is set up that makes that all come to life.”