Lynbrook Theater Is Revived with Les Misérables

Lynbrook students, staff, and residents were thrilled for the comeback of the beloved annual LHS musical after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students performed Les Misérables—the classic show about heartbreak, war, justice, and bread—leaving the audience in tears. Since many restrictions were still in place during the beginning of this school year when the show normally takes place, it was held from Apr. 7-10 in the newly renovated John F. Branciforte Auditorium.

Les Misérables, more colloquially known as Les Mis, follows the life of ex-convict Jean Valjean (played by Jaden Harvin) living during the French Revolution in the early 1800s. After being imprisoned for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread, he becomes the target of police inspector Javert (played by Zack Cohen), who follows the law to the extreme. 

Many years later, Valjean starts a new life for himself as mayor of a distant town. Here, viewers are first introduced to Fantine (played by Danielle Vito), the struggling single mother of Cosette (played by Lola Sokolskiy). She entrusts Cosette to the care of the wealthy Thénardiers (played by Jaiden Moreno and Grace Benedict) so that nobody will know of her illegitimate child. 

The Thénardiers provide a well-needed comedic relief from the heaviness of the show. From bickering with each other in “Master of the House,” to stealing jewelry off the dead bodies of fallen soldiers in “The Sewers,” the iconic duo kept the audience entertained all night. Benedict, who played Madame Thénardier, described the role as “so insanely fun,” especially because she got “to play opposite one of my best friends.” 

Although Moreno facetiously wishes more people would pronounce his character’s name correctly, he found playing Thénardier to be great fun. “Since I was a kid, this was the only role I ever wanted in a show,” Moreno said.

After a few years have passed, Valjean finds himself face-to-face with Javert, thus sparking their long-lasting rivalry again. Cosette, who is now a young woman, is being pursued by Marius (played by Jack Ceglie). However, the Thénardier’s daughter, Eponine (played by Mia Rinaldi), is secretly in love with Marius. After helping Marius to find Cosette, Eponine is shot and killed during a battle, dying in Marius’s arms.

Meanwhile, after Javert is captured by the revolutionaries, Valjean shows him mercy and lets him go. This act of kindness makes Javert question everything he thought he knew about Valjean—he was a criminal, that much was true, but he saved the life of the very man who had been trying to capture him for years. This conflict proves too much for Javert, and he commits suicide by throwing himself off a bridge into the Seine River. The show concludes with the marriage of Marius and Cosette as well as the death of Valjean.

Originally a 2,000-page French novel written by Victor Hugo in 1862, the compelling story of Les Mis was made into a play in 1895 with music written by Claude-Michel Schönberg. The plot is based around real events that occurred during the Parisian June Rebellion of 1832. After a constitutional monarchy was established in France in 1830, the king was reinstated within two years, angering the public. After the death of beloved commander Jean Maximilien Lamarque, rebels began to riot in the streets and took over multiple districts in Paris. While the stories of Jean Valjean, Javert, Cosette, Fantine, and the other characters of Les Mis are fictional, the show still encapsulates the anger and passion of the rebels.

In order to make Les Mis such a success, the cast, pit orchestra, and stage crew had to devote nearly all of their time to the show. Rehearsals started at the end of January and ran up to the day before the show. During the week of the show, commonly known as tech week, the cast, crew, and pit attended rehearsals every day until eight at night. Though all this preparation entailed a lot of work, it also allowed everyone to become closer with one another. 

“Being a part of Les Mis was a wonderful experience,” stated Sokolskiy, who played Cosette.  Sokolskiy said, “Cosette is one of my favorite roles I’ve ever played.” And, she added that she felt that she was able to become better friends with fellow cast members through this production. 

Benedict agreed. “A lot of people, especially in the younger grades whom I normally wouldn’t know, I got to know,” she said. “It’s definitely a great opportunity to meet kids that you otherwise wouldn’t be friends with.”

At the end of the day (no pun intended), LHS’s production of Les Misérables was incredible; despite the fact that the music was notoriously difficult to play and the songs hard to sing, the show was put together in just a few short months, wowing the audience and even the cast member themselves.