The St. Andrew’s Players return to the MacDonald Hall stage this weekend to present their first musical to a live, in-person audience since February 2020. The show, the musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s seminal work, “Les Misérables,” is proving to be both a worthy curtain call for veteran Players as well as an exciting challenge for new Players.
“My favorite part of theater is performing and putting on a show and entertainment for other people,” said Ada Shin ’25, who is playing the lead, Jean Valjean, in her first ever musical at St. Andrew’s. “I want to do my best to convey to them the message of the musical and leave them like, ‘Wow, that was a really great musical,’ the same way I was impacted by [theater] when I was younger.”
“Les Mis” spans 17 years, following the fugitive Jean Valjean as he remakes himself, while being chased by the tireless Inspector Javert. The production features an ensemble cast of street urchins, thieves, and student revolutionaries from the June 1832 Uprising in Paris, clad in costumes created by or specially rented by the Players’ costume crew, and climbing on barricades and performing on turntables built by the Players’ tech crew. Close to 50 students are involved in the cast, crew, and stage band.
“Being in person is a million times better,” said Jonas Blum ‘22, who previously performed in stage shows and virtual productions at St. Andrew’s, and plays Javert in “Les Mis.” “Acting is so much about interaction with the audience and how you can play off their laughs and their emotions, and it’s so much easier when you don’t have to unmute yourself.”
Shin and Blum agreed that playing off each other’s characters in-person is refreshing but also challenging, especially during rehearsals, when their facial expressions have been concealed by face coverings. Performers will be unmasked during the show.
Blum also noted the transition from playing a character on the screen to playing one on the stage, especially when it comes to performing as the intimidating Javert.
“You feel him when he walks on stage. Having to use these big gestures and really take over a stage is something you didn’t have to do on Zoom, and it’s such a different experience on the stage,” he said. “We have a really strong ensemble that’s really good at making my character feel powerful, because they’re reacting to me. That’s not just true for me, that’s true for all the other leads. The ensemble makes us possible.”
Kati Ahuja ’25, who plays student revolutionary Combeferre, has only performed virtually at St. Andrew’s, most recently as Gramma Talla in the Middle School virtual production of “Moana.” She said the virtual experiences prepared her for “Les Mis,” but they don’t compare to performing on stage.
“Being on stage has been really eye opening, because I’ve gotten to experience things I would have experienced a long time ago if COVID had never happened, and it’s been a lot more fun,” Ahuja said.
This show marks an important changing of the guard for the St. Andrew’s Players – twelfth and eleventh grade students who were part of the last stage musical, “Legally Blonde,” are introducing ninth and tenth grade students to the culture and traditions of the theater ensemble, from fun vocal warm-ups to encouraging pep talks during tech week. Blum said he has enjoyed leading these traditions, and Shin and Ahuja both remarked on how guidance from the upperclassmen have helped them feel supported and grow as actors.
St. Andrew’s last put on “Les Mis” 18 years ago, when Tim Rogan ’07, now a professional actor on stage and screen, played Javert. In advance of opening night, Rogan encouraged this year’s cast to “just have fun and live in the moment.”
“The collaborative nature of what we do - when you have to do it remotely - that spark and that magic of seeing that spontaneity of people is not possible,” Rogan said. “I’m super happy for them, that they have this opportunity, and that this is the first one back.”
All three students are eager to act and sing on stage once again and connect with the audience in MacDonald Hall this weekend.
“There’s something super special about walking on stage and hearing that applause or that shock or that gasp,” Blum said. “Feeling the audience there, it just makes you smile. You get such a burst of energy. My remark after every show is, ‘Can I do it again?’”
Shows are Friday, February 25 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, February 26 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, February 27 at 3 p.m. Tickets are available at the door: $10 for general admission and $5 for seniors. The show is free for all students.
St. Andrew’s asks that only vaccinated individuals attend; audience members will be masked.