Guest Blogger Perry Sherman, who plays Marius in our production of Les Miz (I’ve heard rumors that the cast members refer to him as “Perrius.” Who doesn’t love a good portmanteau?!) comes to the role for the second time in his acting career. According to Perry’s bio, he is “grateful for the opportunity to reprise this role, having butchered it once in high school,” and dedicates this performance to Rob Fessler, a teacher who has been particularly supportive throughout his career.
I watched my high school’s production of Les Misérables the night before I flew to Salt Lake. I tell ya, there’s nothing better than laughing at your younger self. If you don’t have any old videos, film something this week. You’ll thank me one day. That production was recorded 8 years ago, and here I was, sitting on my couch in Long Island, mouthing every line. I hadn’t sung these lyrics in almost a decade and somehow my brain had catalogued them. Amazing! In the middle of Act II, right before “Empty Chairs,” my animal instincts kicked in. I jumped up, threw the coffee table out the window, and took center carpet. I may have even moved an “empty chair” in from the kitchen.
Standing in front of the TV, waiting for the spotlight to land on my 16-year-old self, I felt something weird form in my gut. It was new, but that was the only positive thing about it. It felt like a tangled Slinky. But I shook it off and started singing. As I had expected, it was all still there, even inflections of phrases. Choices that I had made years ago were mindlessly repeating through muscle memory. Once I noticed what was happening, I got completely freaked out. Here I am trying to make bold, adult choices, and my body is remembering awkward, 16-year-old half-gestures. Even the Slinky in my gut now felt familiar. I turned the DVD off after that and tried to get some sleep.
But I couldn’t sleep, wondering what was waiting for me the next day, just a few sentences away from the next chapter in my life (cue music). When I’m about to begin working on a show, that’s what it feels like: a new chapter. Older and wiser me meets the unknown. Actors have the incredible fortune of chronicling time this way. When I’m in my sixties, I’ll still remember where I was at 24, doing Les Mis. Strangers become people you can’t remember not knowing. Chapter by chapter the book comes together. My fear was that choices I had made in the prologue were going to creep into chapter 5. Every project has its challenges and I knew what I had to do…burn the DVD.
We rehearsed the show all of April – which gave me a lot of time to figure out Marius Pontmercy. Thankfully, Chuck and Karen steered me clear of adolescent acting choices (I didn’t start moving my arms till week three). And, I realized that I hadn’t remembered the lyrics and melodies quite as well as I had thought. Actually, our music director figured it out. And he told me. Performing the show for 5 weeks is such a gift. Having that kind of time is a luxury actors rarely get when working regionally. I’ll feel something different on a given night, or a line will come out in a new way, and I’ll go home and think about it and decide if it’s something I want to play with. The joy of this show is that it’s an ensemble piece and the relationships are getting more complex and beautiful each night. Marius is in a delicate love triangle. Every night, I tweak the love meter a little between Eponine and Cosette. Who knows, one night I might rewrite the story. You can’t help who you love, right? When we’ve figured it out, it’ll be time to close.
PERRY SHERMAN* (Marius) PTC debut! First National Tours: Next to Normal (Henry/Gabe Standby) and Spring Awakening (Chair of Rock). Regional Theatre: Avenue Q (Princeton/Rod) directed by puppet designer Rick Lyon, and most recently at the York Theatre Walk on the Wild Side (Dove). He is grateful for the opportunity to reprise this role, having butchered it once in high school. For that reason, this is dedicated to Rob Fessler. Trained at Carnegie Mellon University. Love to my incredible family.
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