Gas Lamp Players, located in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, is doing something that most youth theatre companies would rather not do- putting on one of the most well-known musicals of all time- Les Misérables. I was able to talk to Broadway Veteran Stephen Buntrock, who played Enjolras, leader of the student revolutionaries, during the Broadway run of the show in 1997-1998 who is co-directing this complicated production alongside Kristy Graves.
What does it mean to you to direct this show?
I was at a family gathering and I overheard Kristy talking about the show. I walked over to Kristy and I told her that I was going to direct the show with her. I wanted to direct this show because I missed those incredibly formative years of being in Les Mis. When I finally got in front of the cast, I said that this show felt like coming home to a old friend that I have always loved and cherished. I did the show for two and a half years and even before I did the show, I knew it backwards and forwards. When I hear this incredible teenage cast sing and act this material, I am blown away from their talent and am thrilled that I get to be a part of it.
What is your favorite scene in the show?
My favorite scene that still resonates with me is the last scene after the wedding where Javert lights the candles, and the candles are the candlesticks that the Bishop gave him- the Bring Him Home Reprise. When that part happens, I just sob. It reminds me that we have an impact in the world.
What are you most excited for on opening night?
I am ready to actually step back and watch Les Mis from the outside. I am actually really excited to see Les Mis, as I have always been in it. What I keep telling the students in the production is that, historically speaking, they are closer to the age of the students who protested in the musical. There is a youthfulness about this show that becomes sad but incredibly fulfilling when performed by teenagers.
What have you learned through theatre education?
Patience. I have learned to accept failure as a process. I have accepted the fact that as a teacher you have got to make your area, whether it be the theatre or classroom, to be the safest place that the individual you are teaching can be so that those you are teaching can feel free to expand their walls. Theatre is an incredibly judgmental world so you must create that safe zone- you must get your students to know that they can think outside the box. Nothing is more thrilling as an educator then seeing one of your students break out of their shell and walk up to you afterwards and say “I did not think I could do that.”
What do you try to impart to the teenagers in Les Mis?
I want them to remember this experience. This time in their lives is such a fast time. It is their creation, their work and their vision of what their character is going to be. I want them to feel successful. I want them to believe in themselves and have the self confidence that I feel that I was lacking for some time. I want them to know that they can do this. As I sat through the rehearsal last night, I was so invested in the show that I forgot that I had a notepad. I saw them connecting the pieces together. I am so proud of these talented teenagers and this art piece that they have created.
Gas Lamp Players Production of Les Misérables runs February 8th-10th at the Ridgewood Avenue School. Buy your tickets at https://gaslampplayers.org/ to see these talented teenagers perform!