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Brooks and Farrenkopf at Helm of Spring Musical, “Les Misérables”

This year’s musical, Les Miserables, is a captivating story of heartbreak, sorrow, and the resilience of the human mind that has been made into a blockbuster movie and critically acclaimed Broadway show. Ms. Brooks and Mr. Farrenkopf, the co-directors of the musical shared their thoughts on the upcoming show.

Ms. Brooks Interview

What is your favorite song from the Les Mis soundtrack?

It’s challenging to pick just one favorite piece from this amazing show. I think I have to go with “One Day More.” This piece ends Act I and shines a spotlight on all of the characters at this point in the plot. They are all hopeful and nervous about what the future holds for them. I think this is a universal feeling for all of us. This is a beautiful and powerful piece.

What do you expect will be the hardest part about directing the musical?

The enormous amount of music. The entire story is told through song.

What is your main inspiration when directing musicals?

As a music teacher, amazing music is a must. We live in a show for months and, honestly, if you don’t love the music, that’s a pretty difficult task. It also needs to be a story that the cast can relate to.

What are your feelings about the upcoming musical?

I’m excited and have been since Mrs. Neal and I first considered this as a possibility. I think it is a great challenge for the CA actors. I think they are going to do a great job.

What part of directing this show are you looking forward to the most?

I always love working with young singers. I love the energy and enthusiasm. I love the universal themes of love, friendship, heartbreak, and hope that are in this show. I am most looking forward to sharing this journey with the cast, crew and other adults working on this production.

If you could be a character in the show, who would you be?

I actually sang some of Cosette’s pieces in a recital in my younger college days. I think right now, I would love to play Fantine. Her story is beautiful and tragic. The emotions she explores are powerful and moving, so I think she would be an intriguing challenge. Madame Thenardier would also be an absolute hoot to play. Playing the comic relief in an incredibly serious show is so much fun.

Mr. Farrenkopf Interview

What prior musical theatre experience do you have?

It started in high school when I was in musicals. When I got hired long ago at another school, I directed the musicals there. When I was hired at Academy 21 years ago, I directed the fall play and the spring musical. At that point I got a Master’s degree in theatre with an emphasis on directing in a program that was designed for high school theatre, and I directed both the fall play and the spring musical here for 13 years. I’ve written two musicals, one of which has been performed at a lot of other schools and even at the  Fringe Festival in Scotland.  I wrote another one a long time ago, but I got a chance to direct it this summer. I also wrote a short musical for a local theatre company about a year ago.

What is your favorite part about directing?

I love working with other people to make something in the moment that’s real and authentic. Directing here, it’s the kids. I have so much fun working with them and finding out what they know and don’t know. I also enjoy helping them develop their craft and working  together on something that’s meaningful. Yesterday was a tough day at work–but when I got to rehearsal–I felt energized and enthusiastic. I don’t know where the energy came from, but it’s these kids and their enthusiasm. Such a great group of people.

What is your main inspiration when directing musicals?

The kids are my main inspiration. When directing, you want the kids to discover something that they didn’t know they were capable of and be surprised by it. There is nothing more inspiring than that.

What are your thoughts on some of the more controversial topics in the musical?

You need to strike the right balance between what’s appropriate for your community and a respect for the legitimacy of the art form. I believe in theater beyond just its entertainment value. I believe it is a legitimate and important art form, so when you make decisions about what is and isn’t appropriate for this community, we have to understand that sometimes you’re going to have to make a decision that will make you uncomfortable. However, you have to make the decision that does right by the art form as well as the community and then prepare your community for the art, and move everyone forward.

Have you seen a live production of “Les Mis” before? 

Several times. It was the show back when it was touring. I saw two Broadway productions of it in Columbus. Just after I finished college, this was the big show. Everyone was listening to the music and buying the cast album. It was at the time what Hamilton is now. The music is gorgeous, and the story, it’s France’s national novel. The music is just truly beautiful–and if you don’t feel things watching this show–then we haven’t done our job.

If you could be a character in the show, who would you be?

I would love to see myself as Jean Valjean because he has so much integrity. There are probably people and students who think of me more as Javert, because of his shortcomings. And then I know there are people who think of me as Thenardier, the innkeeper. I’ll really leave that up to others to decide. I have to direct all the characters, and I love them all.

Written by Ginnie Ma’19 and Rekha Marar’19


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