Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The epitome of Eponine

Where Victor Hugo lived HDR by Ayse Selen Varhan

She let her head fall back upon Marius' knees and her eyelids closed. He thought that poor soul had gone. Eponine lay motionless; but just when Marius supposed her for ever asleep, she slowly opened her eyes in which the gloomy deepness of death appeared, and said to him with an accent the sweetness on which already seemed to come from another world:

And then, do you know, Monsieur Marius, I believe I was a little in love with you.

She essayed to smile again and expired.

     — Victor Hugo (Les Misérables)

Last Sunday night, Michael and I attended the final performance in Portland of the new 25th-anniversary touring version of Les Misérables. It is exquisite and exciting in its new form that has done away with the iconic stage turntable and is 20 minutes shorter than the original's three-hour running time. The stage setting is innovative and rich with its use of Victor Hugo's paintings, a powerful addition to the show. Each and every performer was marvelous and well deserving of the loud and long standing ovation the audience gave them at the end.

As we made our way down the stairs from our first balcony seats, Michael and I shared instant reviews of the musical, all raves. Among our observations, we agreed that the actress who performed the role of Eponine (my favorite character) made it her own, giving a touching performance. But, I told Michael, I will never forget the performance of the woman who played Eponine when we saw the original production back in 2003 at the same auditorium. I said that I have never forgotten that voice and her soulful strength as Eponine.

I keep one program from all the operas and musicals we have ever attended in a file cabinet, so on Monday afternoon I pulled out the 2003 Les Miz program to see it again before filing the 2011 program. I noticed something I had forgotten: a separate slip of paper tucked into the binding of the program announcing that Nicole Riding was now playing the role of Eponine (she was rejoining the troupe after completing her BFA in Music/Dance/Theater at BYU). Having this reminder of the actress's name I did a search on Google and found only one small comment in a trade journal written by someone who said that Nicole Riding was their idea of the perfect Eponine, but that they were not sure she was still in "the biz."

One more avenue seemed possible in my search, so I tried youtube. And there was Nicole Riding singing Eponine's song "On My Own" from Les Miz at a benefit concert* in March 2011. I am so happy to have found it. Here is the video of her performance — on her own — without staging, costume, or set design. It is the song stripped down to its pure essence. Beautiful.

*Nicole Riding performed at a Days of Plenty Benefit Concert benefiting A Good Grief Foundation. I was curious so checked out www.AGoodGrief.com and then I was extremely moved. If you visit the link you will see why.

To see if the 25th-anniversary production of Les Misérables is coming to a town near you in 2011-2012, see the musical's website at Broadway Across America.



Don't Feed The Pixies said...

my favourite story about Les Mis is when Liam Neeson was making a film of it and said that people kept saying "I didn't know you could sing" and he kept saying "it was a bloody book first, you know!!"

I've never seen the musical - but its one of the few i would be interested in seeing

Oh - and my saxophone book has "I Dreamed A Dream" in it - i should learn that one soon

Owen said...

Thanks very much Lydia for this review and for pointing out the song... I've never been to see the US theater versions of Les Miserables, but I'm sure they a fine productions, in homage to an epic story from Hugo... Hope you are having a fine summer, if you're getting out to shows like this I imagine life is good... Take care and best wishes...

ds said...

Transporting. Thank you for sharing Ms. Riding and her wonderful voice.

YogaforCynics said...

Gotta admit to being a sucker for really, really sad songs, and Les Miz has some of the best ever(particularly those sung by Eponime and Fantine).

"A world that's full of happiness that I have never knoooooown..."

cirandeira said...

Hi, Lydia, thanks for your visit in
'Mínimo Ajuste'. I'm so sorry, but we heve problems with the google translation at the moment. We are trying a solution...:)

Rob-bear said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful time. Actually, several wonderful times.

Lydia said...

Pixies~ Loved the story about Liam Neeson. He is a class act.
I hope you learn "I Dreamed a Dream" soon!

Owen~ I appreciate you coming by in this busy summer. I really am having a good one, and have enjoyed your travel images so much.

ds~ Ah, that's the word: transporting. Thanks.

YogaforCynics~ You do sound effects when you type lyrics!
I agree about the songs sung by those two characters. What a joy it must be to have the talent to perform as one of them.

cirandeira~ I love 'Minimo Ajuste' - great blog, even when I cannot enjoy the words! Sometimes I am lucky and can get a page to translate, but it didn't work this time. I used to have a little "translate" button in my toolbar, but it got dropped and I cannot find where I ever found it to install in the first place!

Rob-bear~ Absolutely, yes, several wonderful times seeing Les Mis and many more seeing operas at that auditorium. Some of my best memories stem from that place.



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