Wednesday, March 23, 2011
EXCLUSIVE: Les Miserables Comes to Detroit (Interview with actor and cast member John Rapson)
SIDEBAR: I saw Les Miserables last night and I implore all of my readers in Detroit to go see this show at the Fisher. The epic story is based on love, humanity and the human spirit-my heart is still pounding from seeing Cameron Mackintosh’s glorious 25th anniversary production of the musical! Below you will find my interview with one of the show's cast members, John Rapson. He also happens to be a Michigan-bred actor. This story was originally meant for print and unfortunately did not make it. However, I want to share with you the interview I conducted with Rapson a couple of weeks ago.
Here it is:
Les Miserables is undisputedly one of the most memorable and powerful musicals in theater history.
The Barbican Theatre opened the original production of Les Miserables in 1985 and it had its Broadway opening in 1987 at the Broadway Theatre.
The show has never stopped since its first curtain call. It remains Broadway’s third longest running production of all time.
Its universal themes of trial and tribulation overcome by the human spirit have resonated with audiences for the past 25 years.
The show is celebrating the past two decades and a half with a brand new production to carry out its epic tale for years to come.
The story centers around Jean Valjean-a former prisoner who seeks exculpation after years of treatment as an outcast from society.
University of Michigan alum and hometown thespian John Rapson stars in a swing role as Bamatabois, Claquesous and he understudies as Thenardier and Grantaire in the production coming to Fisher Theatre this month.
Detroit audiences will have the pleasure of watching Rapson play Grantaire for a couple of Les Miz’s Detroit dates as the lead actor in the role will be away.
“It’s one of those shows where everybody takes away something different,” he says. “It’s the triumph of the human spirit, one man’s struggle from nothing to becoming something of a saint.”
The new production is adorned with the art work of Victor Hugo on stage.
The show’s producer, Cameron Mackintosh, says, “Over the years I have seen many successful but visually different productions, so it has been exciting to draw inspiration from the brilliant drawings and paintings of Victor Hugo himself, integrated with spectacular projections.”
The spectacular setting and impactful storyline compliment one another in displaying one of the stage’s most epic musicals. Les Miserables speaks to audiences more now than ever as civil unrest and difficulties touch humanity all over the world.
Rapson says, “It’s the kind of story you never want to see die.”
“There’s never been a more important time to look at ourselves. It holds a mirror up to society.”
Les Miserables personally changed Rapson’s life when he saw it for the first time as a child.
“When I saw it I said this is what I want to do for a living-it grabbed me,” he says.
“There’s something about it that’s accessible and wonderful.”
Growing up Rapson’s parents, who are both teachers, encouraged the arts and constantly took him and his sister to see shows in downtown Detroit.
“The most special days of my life involved going to see shows at the Fisher Theatre,” says Rapson.
The young actor is proud of his hometown roots and believes that his training at U of M provided him with the tools needed to be successful for a life in the theater.
“The school is incredible. Brent Wagner (Chair of the Musical Theatre department) is the master at preparing kids for this profession.”
University of Michigan gave him the edge he needed to open doors for opportunities like Les Miz.
He says, “They have a showcase at the end of four years where talent agents visit and the majority of my class walked away with an agent- including me.”
The show also stars Lawrence Clayton (Jean Valjean), Andrew Varela (Javert), Michael Kostroff (Thenardier), Shawna M. Hamic (Madame Thenardier), Betsy Morgan (Fantine), Jeremy Hays (Enjolras), Chasten Harmon (Eponine), Justin Scott Brown (Marius), Jenny Latimer (Cosette) and a cast full of other talented actors.
Les Miserables, 3/22, 8 p.m.; 3/23 8 p.m.; 3/24, 8 p.m.; 3/25 8 p.m.; 3/26, 2 p.m., 7:30 p.m.; 3/27, 2 p.m., 7:30 p.m.; 3/29, 8 p.m.; 3/30, 8 p.m.; 3/31, 8 p.m.; 4/1, 8 p.m.; 4/2, 2 p.m., 8 p.m.; 4/3, 2 p.m., 7:30 p.m.; Fisher Theatre, 3011 West Grand Blvd., Detroit, 313.875.7272, broadwayindetroit.com, $39-$104