To the Barricades, Vol. 18

Our first foray onto the main stage felt like a preview of cue-to-cue.  Things moved quite slowly as we all got familiar with the traffic patterns and the workings of the actual "trucks" (massive and moveable set pieces) and the "revolve" (the big bridge unit in the centre of the deck).    Figuring out the amount of force required to get these pieces moving and their exact placement proved to be a Herculian effort.

Despite an unexpected and somewhat ironic power outage - we had just been given the safety speech by production manager Trevor McDonald which included very specific instructions on what to do in the event of the power going out - we made it through all of Act One by day's end.  It felt like we were slugging through mud, but director Claude Giroux seemed pleased at what we had accomplished.  In fairness, he did warn us that the first few days on deck were going to feel like a train wreck.

It's hard for the acting side of the production to fully understand and appreciate the work that has happened in preparation for our arrival on to the set, or the level of investment that has occurred over many years to equip the theatre with the quantity and quality of technical equipment that it provides.  From state-of-the-art LED lights to water vapour fog machines to "super expensive" microphones that will amplify the voices of the principle performers, we are incredibly fortunate to play in this kind of theatrical sand box.

Set designer Jason Bolen from New York City arrived in town a couple of days ago.  He's done a brilliant job, along with scenic painter Lisa Ruelling, in creating a realistic setting within which we can tell Victor Hugo's classic story.  I had a chance to visit with Jason over dinner the other night, and enjoyed his insights about the theatre business and the process he went through going from sketches to maquette (the model of the set) to the finished product we're beginning to use right now.

He spent a full two weeks doing final drafting and creating the fully painted model that the construction and stage management teams used as reference over the past few months.  The level of detail in this miniature is amazing, a piece of art, all by itself.

With the exception of using the barricades, all of our rehearsing has been done on a flat surface in the rehearsal hall.  That changed yesterday as stairs and platforms took us one step closer to the final picture of what Les Mis will look like when we open one week from Friday.

This process is all about adding layers, one at a time, in thoughtful precision.  It's a delicate balance, one that requires a good dose of trust and a lot of support from our awesome stage management team.  Steph, Jennifer and Allison are the superglue that hold us all together and keep us organized.  Their patience is remarkable considering the number of people and the complexity of the production.

We have today off before we get to sing through the show with the band tomorrow night.  The evening off will be good as yesterday's epic day was physically draining on some of us.  Dylan is getting the workout of his life going in and out of the sewer, up and down stairs, and all over the place on the set.  His neck was a tad stiff this morning.

I wish every theatre patron had the opportunity to see the work that happens to create a show like Les Mis.  Hopefully, this blog series begins to tell that story as it is one worth celebrating.  Our job is to make it look and sound easy.  The truth is that the machine behind the curtain will be running a thousand miles an hour with actors, technicians, stage management and stage crew working in total synchronicity with the collective goal of knocking your socks off.  And that's exactly what we're going to do.

Les Mis previews on February 13th and opens Valentine's Day.  It also runs February 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, and 23.  Tickets can be purchased by clicking here.


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