I waited for ages.
An exaggerated remark to many, but this was the existing truth in my case before I finally transformed a dream — that of watching the legendary musical Les Misérables live on stage — into a reality.
My older sister’s purchase of our Les Miz tickets on November 21, 2015 set my clock for the months of waiting to be over. Impatience had never been entertained though as I bid each day “goodbye”. This was the very same parting word which I expressed to the 2016 edition of Mayon 360, my most-awaited running event in Bicol. Its schedule coincided with the show date of this classic musical epic, which I have been referring to as an “obsession” after watching Miss Saigon with my constant theatre date, Cristy, in 2000. I never regretted my decision to drop this annual 50-mile race over a once-in-a-lifetime experience of my most favorite musical. For me, I even saw my not participating in the 80-k ultra marathon as a blessing in disguise. Call it self-protection from emotional harm of an insensitive and egotistical puny human being. Whoa!
April 9 came. I bravely took the challenge of driving to Solaire Hotel at night for the first time. With my sister Cristy as my co-pilot, I was assured that I’d do fine behind the wheel. The traffic was light on our way to Pasay City and the spacious parking space made everything convenient for me. Minus the bugbear, I did not appear harassed at all!
We arrived at Solaire an hour early which gave us plenty of time to do a recon of the fourth and fifth floors and capture those climactic moments for my sister and me.
We tarried for 25 minutes at the lower floor before we proceeded to where The Theatre is located.
There, I failed to protect myself to be lured by a most welcome temptation — the high quality Les Miz inspired memorabilia.
That V-neck plus the blue color have easily crashed my defenses. And the mug? Oh, well. It’s an addition to my collection since I was single. Acceptable justification? I won’t attempt asking my husband. Hehehe.
At quarter of eight, we were asked to queue for Door 3. My heartbeat seemed to preempt me with the overture that I would be hearing as I had my first physical contact with The Theatre at Solaire. I hushed it secretly. My lungs sucked in that scent which I would smell in brand new cushioned chairs. My eyes quickly spotted Victor Hugo’s name on the seemingly familiar backdrop which I considered as a red carpet welcome which I am not used to receiving.
We found our seats at once and did a quick scan of the activity from the audience who has just started filling in the orchestra section. Seeing that there were just a few people on sight, we grabbed that window to freeze our own version of our Les Miz souvenir.
Based on my time, the play began at 8:05 pm. The five-minute delay didn’t matter at all. I eagerly waited for the sound of the first note of this Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s magnum opus. I, the Wandering Jouster, had solely prepared myself for this theatrical journey, a diversion from one of the roads I have often wandered on.
Pure and endless adoration. This is what I felt toward the spine tingling and flawless performance of this Australian production that had cast our very own Filipina singer/thespian Rachelle Anne Go as Fantine. From the beginning until the curtain call, I could have untiringly given them the standing ovation. Hearing the magnificent score of Les Misérables performed and sung live on Philippine stage brought me to tears. The intensity of the feeling it evoked when I listened to the songs Valjean’s Soliloquy, I Dreamed a Dream, On My Own, Stars, Who Am I?, Bring Him Home, Do You Hear the People Sing?, One Day More, and Empty Chairs at Empty Tables was far more different when I watched the musical film which was adapted from the same stage musical and which earned an Oscar nomination for Hugh Jackman and an Oscar Best Supporting Actress Award for Anne Hathaway. I allowed myself to be mesmerized and lost in its modernized staging. The brilliant effect in the scenery when Javert committed suicide by throwing himself into the raging waters was one of the most applauded parts of the musical. It was extremely dazzling!
Emotionally powerful and spectacular. Two words that had been repeatedly used to describe this once-in-a-generation opportunity of seeing Hugo’s well-acclaimed novel come into life. Evidently, Les Misérables is a story of love, hope, loyalty, betrayal, sacrifice, and faith. The very strong feelings only we human beings have the entitlement to go through. Listening to the beautiful lyrics, sung with so much passion by the cast allowed me to be an escapist again and to willingly join the “revolution”. Catching a glance at my sister, I could say that she was in a similar detached state. Undeniably, both of us were transfixed by the spellbinding performance specifically by Simon Gleeson, who played the iconic role of Jean Valjean. If not for the 15-minute interval, we wouldn’t be talking to each other again.
Our topic? Of course not the musical (for our respective critiques will be exchanged in the privacy of our abode) but the lady who was seated at my left and who was singing along with the cast. What a surprising “barbaric” manner! I was thankful that she stopped after One Day More and On My Own for obviously, she hadn’t memorized the lines at all. Hahahaha… Disappointing indeed from someone who shelled out an amount for her pricey ticket. This was the very same missing theatre etiquette that was commented on by no less than the Lea Salonga in her twitter account. I will never claim that I am a theatre aficionado, but my half-baked orientation and exposure to this elusive world for me has completely taught me to be more urbane when one is in a theatre (yes, that’s the British spelling to make the distinction that I am referring to a drama venue) and not in a cinema.
Resumption of the play began and my over-familiarity with the Les Miz plot had me silently anticipating the next scene. But indeed, how each episode is uniquely handled by the director and the actor becomes fresh to the eyes of the viewer. I was in the verge of making a comparison between the Jackman-starrer film and this live musical but I stopped in my track. I knew, I would be biased for I always see the live theatre as more demanding and difficult on the part of the actors as there is no room for retake nor polishing. Well, this was just a slice of my amateurish theatre critic’s view which I kept to myself as the cast started acknowledging our applause, our standing ovation and our shouts of “bravo’s”. It signaled the denouement of a phenomenal night for us, most especially for me.