Playbill On-Line has asked what you think of the Oct. 27 announcement that much of the current Broadway cast of Les Miserables will be terminated as of Jan. 26. A national touring company is scheduled to perform on Broadway through March while a largely new cast is being rehearsed in time for a reopening on the show's 10th anniversary, March 12.
Here is a sampling of your responses. Owing to the volume of responses, we have split this story in two. Earlier responses can be found elsewhere in Theatre News.
It seems that Alan Eisenberg is just doing his usual job of professing "surprise" on happenings within the theatre community, when , in reality, he knows a great deal about them. What in heaven's name has he got on council members that they continue to back him up?
That said, I can't imagine that he has a leg to stand on, since what management has done fall within contract rules and in addition they are sweetening the pot with an extra $10,000.
One also wonders if the stage management staff was fired, since it is their responsibility to keep the show up. How did they let it get this bad before notifying the top bosses?...or perhaps, they too, have become so jaded that they didn't notice.
With the high price of tickets for a Broadway show, the public is entitled to see a fresh, high-quality production. With the current trend for shows to run for generations, it is inevitable that the quality will suffer. Mr. Mackintosh should also take a look at his production of MISS SAIGON. A friend of mine saw the show on Broadway and said the cast looked as if they wished they were someplace else. When they saw the show during the Los Angeles engagement, they couldn't believe it was the same show. The performances were fresh and the energy level was high.
From: Margaret Genzano (firstname.lastname@example.org) Medford, NJ:
Regarding the replacement of the current Broadway company of Les Miz, if the show has become stale and the producers feel a need to rewrite or rearrange parts of it for the sake of avoiding the doldrums, why unilaterally replace most of the company? It appears that the Broadway production companies may have decided to begin the "reorganization" that has and is still taking corporate America by storm. And that is a shame. Many of the Broadway company have been with Les Miz for years. Shouldn't they, as well as the newcomers, be given a chance to audition for the new production, or be given the opportunity of retraining.
I saw one bus and truck company in Philadelphia at the Forrest Theater. I have seem the Broadway company twice this season. Also, I have seen the televised 10th Anniversary concert from Prince Albert Hall in London on PBS and video. The bus and truck company production was good, but did not come close to the Broadway production.
Also, I would like to state that I was somewhat confused and disappointed when Craig Schulman did not appear as Jean Valjean in this season's run. The NY Times as well as online internet information listed him as returning for his 5th season. Also, I was under the impression that the actor portraying Inspector Javert was David Masenheimer. He was listed in the Playbill for the 2 performances I attended. However, this week I read in the NY Times that Christopher Innvar has been playing Javert. There is a conflict in information which I do not understand or have missed. Would someone be willing to clarify the above?
From Dana Gonzalez:
Being an aspiring actress myself, it would really hurt me to see Les Miz fade away. I grew up with it. 10 years ago, when I was 9 years old, after i heard the recording of the show, I realized what I wanted to do with the rest of my life-perform. It brought everyone back to the theatre. It is a show that everyone, young or old could relate to and enjoy. If the producers feel that they must spice up the cast to save the show, then I totally agree that is what should be done. Anything they can do to save the popuarity of Les Miz is well worth it.
: I saw Les Miz this summer on a Wednesday afternoon, with a plethora of understudies performing, including Mr. Rutherford as Jean Valjean. It blew me away. I bawled like a 2 year old. The thing is, I had 8 Les Miz CDs going in. I'd seen the video of the big concert going in. I'd read the complete novel going in. I knew by heart the entire play. Still -- STILL -- it moved me. It was a fantastic show.
YET - when I heard the news that the cast was going to be replaced I was overjoyed. What a dream it would be to play in Les Miz on Broadway! What an opportunity for fresh blood to move into the parts! What an opportunity to make the dream a reality for more young actors. In my humble opinion, the actors who have been in this production for NINE years, as I have read some are, should really not only be ashamed that they have taken that role for so long, but that they're putting up such a petty protest at finally being moved along.
To the cast: We as fans love you, and will always remember what you've done in our lives. But now, it is time to let Les Miz be reborn. I am speaking as a Mizahloic. I love the play. I cannot wait to see it next year with a new cast.
From reports I have heard, I don't think the firings were held with the grace they should have been, but I can hardly blame the producers for making this step towards revitalizing the life of Les Miserables. Everyone remember: it's for Les Miserables.
To me it was quite a shock. Being a veteran audience member of 17 performances, to see this happen is a shame. Les Miserables thrives on the friendships of the members of the show and how the students, Valjean and Javert, grow. By eliminating as many as they plan, I would think it would be hard to form that bond in only a few weeks.
From Alex Oliveira:
This just goes to show you what loyalty gets you. I recently saw the show and the performances were intense. I don't see why these talented individuals could get they're just desserts, to appear in 10 Anniversary cast. For shame.
From Todd Andrew Barnett:
I feel it's a shocker to the world of musical theater and avid theatergoers who have seen the show worldwide, but it's not surprising to say the least that the show has to undergo what I would term as a "face lift" because rumor has it from the producers that the quality of the show's performance has declined to an unsatisfactory level.
I feel the changes were necessary because the producers have to do what is necessary to update the appearance of the show as well as the show itself. Now I know the actors have been tremendously disappointed with this action. I think it would have been more prudent if Cameron Mackintosh, John Caird, and Trevor Nunn would have contacted the cast and crew earlier about the problems with the current state of the production that they noticed. They could have tried to work out the problems which might have avoid leading to the termination of the actors' employment. But they felt it was better and necessary to take this unexpected action instead.
So it comes down to this: it's the nature of the business, and it comes with the territory. Like any other business, that is.
From Dan Block (email@example.com):
Cameron Mackintosh feels that LES MISERABLES in NYC isn't what it should be. His move is purely artistical, and not economical or political. He is proud of his shows and he wants to keep that pride.
From Joe Best:
: Having seen the show on August 31, I can understand why there was a need for changes. Although the actors who portrayed Jean Valjean and the Thenadiers were outstanding, I must say I was disappointed by the performances of Fantine, Marius, and the students in general. They just didn't seem " to have it", at least at this performance in comparison to previous performances I had been to.
It does seem a strange way though to celebrate the 10th anniversary of "the world's most popular musical".
From Drysdalerh (firstname.lastname@example.org):
I saw the Les cast in September. I have a few feelings I think all, including Cameron, should hear before next March.
First, having seen the show six times, the current company was the strongest I'd seen since 1991. They are not, (with the exception of Drew Eshelman as Thenardier) the best performers I've seen. But they are the strongest company over all.
Second, I think we might be underestimating Cameron alittle. Here is the most capable producer of the last decade. He knew he would ruffle feathers. He knew those feathers belonged to members of Actors' Equity. Cameron has offered compensation to all the severed actors. He gave them 2+ months notice. Nobody has been"thrown out on the street." Nothing in Cameron's actions reflect a man who doesn't care about actors.
Third, how dare you call yourself a Les Mis fan, and then say, " I wouldn't go to another Les Mis show if they payed me!" No Les Mis fan has any right to judge this decision, until the new cast opens.
Finnally, if this, as the producers said, is for the fans, why are we all protesting a decision that's already been made. The only thing that upsets me is that this is only thing Cameron seems to have planned for the 10th Anniversary. I want more. The show didn't become a classic in London. Anybody knows that no show becomes a classic until it opens on "our" continent, on "our" Broadway.
Don't believe me? Look at the London smash hit "Aspects of Love." Where is that show today after it bombed on Broadway?
We made Les Miz a legend. We deserved the Anniversary concert But all we get is a "refreshed" cast. Now listen here:
Somebody call Cameron. Tell him that here is a wonderful chance to release a recording of the hour's worth of music that was cut during the 1986 Barbican run. If you can't put it in the show, put it on CD. And hey, why not have that special 10th Anniversary Cast do the recording job? If you think I am pulling this one out of thin air, turn to page 143 of "The Complete Book of Les Miz" where John Caird is quoted as wishing that something like this could happen.
Is anyone listening? Come on fans! "Will you join in my crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me?" I'm not stopping till I have a digital recording of Valjean and Cossette meeting at the well.
And it's out there folks. Schoenberg has it right now, and Caird is still wishing it was in the show. I call on Les Miz freaks everywhere to clamour for this special recording to accompany the Broadway 10th Anniversary! Help me out. Let's make it a reality. We deserve a lot more the just a new cast! If you want to make noise. I am going to open a new spot on the AOL Playbill Bulletin for this debate. I'll be waiting for you. Check under the "Les Mis all Recordings" section.
In a business as volatile as the Broadway theater, most professionals expect change. However, such sweeping change, while perfectly within the rights of the company, can do more to destroy a show than to save it. It is difficult enough for actors, no matter the venue, to deliver quality performances day in and day out. To be faced with the pressure of uncertainty as to whether their job will be there for them tomorrow is just unfair. What can Cameron MacIntosh be thinking?
Right now, those performers who didn't receive pink slips with their paychecks this week are breathing a very heavy sigh of relief. They will continue to work next week. But what about in another week?
What about a month from now? I just can't help but think that the small amount of security an actor feels with a contractual agreement is no longer enough to rely upon. It seems to me that every performer on the Les Miz stage will carry with him or her 1) a sense of betrayal, 2) an undue amount of stress, and 3) the added pressure of knowing that if their performance is not "up to snuff" one evening, they may be packing their bags the next. I love Les Miz, and hope it runs for years to come. Indeed, I hope to one day be performing along side such fine talent. But I think Mr. MacIntosh has dropped the proverbial ball on this one.
To all the crybabies out there...shut up! These actors have had more job security than most, and the severance package is incredibly better than anyone gets in private industry. Yes, it's too bad that jobs were lost, but there was obviously a problem, and the public should be grateful that the producers and director care enough about the show to do something about it, rather than just raking in those box office dollars.
From Juergen Buesselberg (Berlin):
The cast of Les Mis will change. I think it's a good idea. Hopefully it will give the energy back to a show who earns this energy.
I'm from Berlin in Germany and I saw Les Mis only once in New York. I was not really excited, - I liked the music, but the cast acted a bit powerless, - that was not a revolution there on stage, - it was only a small rumble (is this the correct word for it?) I think I'll go again in April or May 97, to see the show again with to see the new cast.
I personally have not seen the show lately. However I have heard that a cast change is necessary. As a performer, it would be quite devastating to have this happen. But I do feel that if the producers are not happy with the product they audiences are seeing, it is their prerogative to make the necessary changes. This is quite a precedent if Equity allows this to take place, but I think it also says to actors," Look, if you want to keep your job, give us all you've got every performance or you'll be out." I think it makes quite a statement.
From Jeremy Ellison-Gladstone:
I was dissappointed and confused when I heard of the decision to re-cast Les Miserables. My dissappointment stems from the fact that I have tickets to see the show in early January before the current cast leaves. There is no doubt in my mind that the cast is excellent although I can't help but thinking I am paying $70 to see a "lame-duck" group of performers.
Furthermore, who are the producers kidding?!! What do the mean by "refreshing" the cast? THE CASTS OF LONG RUNNING BROADWAY SHOWS ARE CONSTANTLY CHANGING!!!
The producers are acting as if the same cast has been performing since it opened 10 years ago! I am willing to bet that some of the cast has only been with the company for a matter of monthes. If Cameron Mackintosh was indeed dissatisfied with the performance he attended in September, then it is certainly well within his power to initiate changes in the production. My question however is "what specifically was he displeased with?" If some roles were not well performed then which roles? Valjean? Fantine? Sailor #2? Who?
His sweeping decision to lay-off virtually the entire cast is nothing but an excuse for his not wanting to analyze the complex production. This also allows Cameron to gain some publicity for Les Miserables as well as himself to assure that his paycheck keeps growing. I am very dissappointed with this decision.
Let me just say that I am in LOVE with Les Mis. First of all, I think that this idea of Cameron Mackintosh's, is a bad idea. It's the wrong thing to be done. The 10th anniversary of Les Miserables should be a happy time, not a time of tears and people who are angry. I think for the 10th anniversary, that, all the previous casts should be reunited to form a spectacular show. The cast is the most important part of the show, without which, we would have no show. I think this is the worst idea that could have been thought up, along with it being unfair to the fans and the cast.
I must admit that I am not surprised about the cast changes. I recently saw the show and was disappointed with the quality of the cast. This is a show that needs strong voices and decent performances. Given the upcoming anniversary, I would hope that the producers will find talented people to be in the show. I hope that the bad press surrounding these actions will not discourage talented performers from auditioning for the show.