L is for Les Miserables
Singing is not one of my talents. Not only is it not one of my talents, it doesn’t even fall in the realm of things of which I am capable. I sit in the monotone section.
It came as a shock to me therefore, several years ago, when a drama aficionado friend of ours approached Computer Geek and me and requested that we play parts in a reader’s theater production of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables.
I’m all about great literature and so I was somewhat comfortable with the thought of playing the part of Madame Thenardier. That is, until I found out that it was to be a reader’s theater/musical and that I would be required to sing as well as read.
I tried to explain to the director that I couldn’t sing.
“Oh, I’m sure you sing just fine. Everyone thinks they can’t sing.”
“No, seriously. I can’t sing.”
“You’re just being shy.”
“Nope. Can’t read a note.”
“Well lots of people can’t read music, so we can let you listen to the songs and then you can sing them.”
“Doesn’t matter. I still can’t sing.”
He didn’t believe me until I later gave him a sample of my singing during practice.
“Okay, so maybe you will just have to chant your lines in a sing-songy voice. This may work since the piece is comedic in nature anyway.”
Practice was a humbling experience. My fellow performers sang their pieces flawlessly and with such emotion that they moved me to tears. The more I heard them sing, the more I was sure that I could not do this thing. I would be the laughing stock of the troupe. At home, I listened to Madame Thenardier’s part over and over until finally I could get the words out in a singing-like manner.
So I chanted my lines in Master of the House in a sing-songy comedic way and I survived the two performances. Ironically, during the finale of Do You Hear the People Sing? the sound manager shut off my microphone.
I later read the full volume of Les Miserables. It took me five months of reading whenever I had a spare moment. I learned to love all the characters even more than I had during the performance. I will defend Hugo’s wordiness to the end.
But on a still, reflective, evening I can be heard laughing to myself, saying, “I sang in Les Miserbales. Ha ha ha ha ha!”