How These Two Writers Updated Les Miz For Millennials With Les Millénniables | Playbill

Playbill Goes Fringe How These Two Writers Updated Les Miz For Millennials With Les Millénniables

Ayla Glass and Kelly D'Angelo talk about bringing their parody musical to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The cast of Les Millénniables Jasper Lewis Photography

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with nearly 3,500 shows. This year, Playbill is in Edinburgh for the entire month in August for the festival and we’re taking you with us. Follow along as we cover every single aspect of the Fringe, aka our real-life Brigadoon!

In Les Millénniables, the new pop parody musical at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe loosely based on Les Misérables, Jean Valjean is a millennial who has just graduated from college. Her nemesis, Javert, is a boomer debt collector chasing Jean for her student loan payments. Fantine? She’s trying to survive in the gig economy, and has been reduced to selling her hair…on eBay. Cosette? An overworked, unappreciated intern for the Thénardiers. It’s Les Miz for the millennial generation (Les Millz?). Except this version is much funnier.

Having originally premiered at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in June, Les Millénniables has moved on to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where it is currently running at theSpace @ Niddry St through August 26. Below, show creators Ayla Glass and Kelly D'Angelo share the origins of their musical and how they were able to make the trip from Los Angeles to Edinburgh.

How long have you been working on your show?
Surprisingly not long—we conceived the show in December 2022 and started writing in earnest in January 2023. We workshopped it through the 2023 Hollywood Fringe Festival in June, then brought a tighter version of it to the Edinburgh Fringe for a formal run.

What inspired your show? Are you big Les Miz fans?
Kelly D'Angelo: Being a millennial [inspired the show]! It’s hard. I had the conceptual title bopping around in my head for years (because come on, it’s hilarious), but the timing wasn’t right. Then one fateful day, I shared the idea with Ayla, a fellow struggling millennial and Les Misérables lover, and she enthusiastically saw the vision, too. I asked if she wanted to co-write it with me, and voila! Here we are. Both being female comedy television writers of color, and huge fans of the original property, it was exciting to have a chance to give our take through our voices. Everything just felt right and fell into place.

Ayla Glass: Kelly pitched me the irresistible title and I was immediately on board. I grew up on Les Miz and was actually in one of the first licensed high school productions of the show. Les Millénniables is inspired by all the “once in a generation” events the U.S. millennial generation has faced over the last 20-plus years. We are the modern-day generational equivalent of “Miserable Ones”—struggling against social and financial inequality in a society that has been created to work against us, not for us. We wanted to give voice to that. But like, in a fun way!

Kelly Lynne D'Angelo and Ayla Glass

How did you discover the similarities between Les Miz and the issues facing millennials today?
Knowing the stories of the various deaths and struggles of characters in the original story, it felt close to our experience, so we started there. The similarities were eerie. One of the first things we did was read through the book and libretto of Les Misérables,as well as the Victor Hugo novel. As we did this, we kept finding more and more connections and touch-points. Every character in our musical is directly inspired by their namesake. We started at who they were at their core then found their equivalent within the millennial experience.

The journey of Jean Valjean resonated with us. Valjean committed a petty crime and it haunts him for the rest of his life. The two of us, and so many other millennials, feel the same about our student debt. The loans that were intended to be an investment in our future now feel like shackles keeping us from it. We feel endlessly pursued by the likes of Javert, debt collector and boomer, who refuses to understand that the system that favored them no longer exists for their children. The story practically writes itself from there!

Why did you want to present your show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe?
D'Angelo: There is nothing more magical than this city in August. Edinburgh Fringe is truly one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had in my life, and as an avid theatre lover, it’s something I’ve longed to be a part of as a creator. Even though I’m lucky enough to have a show developing on the West End (Starry) and have a successful writing career in Hollywood, there’s something about the magic of Fringe that reminds me why I do what I love. We’re all here to share our collective human experience together—and the heart-led, passionate theatre at EdFringe is the most raw form of that for me. It’s like Coachella for theatre, but in a city built into a castle, full of the friendliest townsfolk. Can I please come back every year?

Glass: When you say, “Fringe Festival,” everyone immediately pictures Edinburgh. It’s the pinnacle of the Fringe experience and we knew it would be the right place to premiere our scrappy little show. We wanted to share our story with as many people as possible, so EdFringe just felt right.

Rama Vallury as Marius and Kelly Lynne D'Angelo as Eponine in Les Millénniables Jasper Lewis Photography

What is your road to Fringe? How did you fund your show, get your venue?D'Angelo: Fund? Well, for the most part, saving up money that should’ve gone to paying off my student loans and instead, spending it on bringing this show to Edinburgh. There are some things in life worth taking a risk over. Do I risk paying off debt or telling the story of my debt? I took the latter, and so far, it was the right choice to make.

Glass: We started by workshopping the show at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in Los Angeles in June 2023. We were so honored to be a scholarship recipient and that was a huge help with fundraising and recovering those costs. After Hollywood Fringe, we did two encore shows in Los Angeles, which gave us the support to hit the ground running in Edinburgh. Shout out to everyone who donated to the Millénniable Cause!

D'Angelo: As for our venue, we did outreach at the beginning of the year to sort the best fit for our show. Since it was such a work in progress, we needed a venue that would be willing to take a chance both on a new company and new show that had yet to be staged. For us, that was theSpaceUK—not just because of their amazing flat rate offer (seriously, props to them for being one of the only venues who does that), but also because they had such a variation of spaces available, it was hard to choose! They’ve been a joy to work with and I’d be lucky to return to them with another show down the road. Thank you for believing in us, Charles!

What are you hoping to get out of your Fringe experience?
We would love the show to have a life both at Fringe and beyond. The original draft of Les Millénniables was actually 90 minutes long! The opportunity to do the full-length, fully-supported version of the show someday is the dream. The show also feels like it would tour well, or more ideally, get a run at a regional theatre, on the West End, or Off-Broadway. We’re huge fans of & Juliet and Six, and since we’re in that vein, we’re hoping for a similar journey!

What other show would you recommend that people go see and why?
Quite a few! We’d recommend Joysuck by Kiran Deol at Gilded Balloon. Kiran is an excellent storyteller. She is able to take the audience on her journey of processing a traumatic assault with heart and hilarious jokes. We’d also recommend A Shark Ate My Penis by Laser, also at Gilded Balloon. He’s created an incredibly heartfelt story about his trans journey, and it’s both enlightening and a much-needed perspective at this time. 

Lastly, we’d love to throw in a rec for Lies All The Way Down by Shaye Poulton Richards, also playing at theSpaceUK Niddry Upper. A new musical theatre writer, composer, lyricist, and fellow woman of color, it’s a show not-to be missed if you’re longing for an enticing and captivating narrative and sound, in an almost Jason Robert Brown meets Andrew Lippa style. Highest recommendations. A few others: Nalini Sharma’s Until Death, Nick Pupo’s Addicted, Avital Ash Workshops Her Suicide Note, Gold!, Calling in Love, Two Cats on a Date—all beautiful solo storytelling!

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