Musical Review: Les Misérables

This past week, I went to go see a school musical with my parents. Since this musical was set around the French Revolution, I watched the movie musical with Hugh Jackman, Amanda Seyfried, Anne Hathaway and more. I was very excited to see the musical and had very high expectations. The show was about 2 1/2 hours, which didn’t seem that long.

The musical/story, in short, is about a man, Jean Valjean, who was sentenced to 19 years in prison for stealing and attempted escapes. He is eventually released. Many years later, we see him again but as a totally new man-the mayor of the town. He takes in young Cosette whose mother, Fantine, passed from fatigue, stress, and an unidentified disease. Years pass once again, and it’s right before the French Revolution.  By now, Cosette is now much older and is courted by Marius. Jean Valjean can feel his life slowly slipping away from age and decides to go on a “vacation” so that Cosette doesn’t see him passing. He sees the ghost of Fantine and walks with her to see all the people who died in battle, and there the musical ends.

The actors were incredible! All of them could sing so amazingly and had so much emotion evident in their voices. The set designs were on point, all the costumes were so beautiful, and the orchestra pit played so wonderful and added more color to the story. There weren’t any negative opinions that I heard the next day, and I think overall the musical was an amazing success. This was my first school musical and is definitely going to be remembered for a long time.

-Phoebe L.

Les Miserables, in all its formats, is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet

You’ve all heard about this book/play before, and if you haven’t read it yet, sooner or later your teacher will make you read this word-famous play. But don’t dread reading this wonderful work of art. Despite the fact that it’s written in an archaic language and set in a rather alien world, it still remains very relevant today, which is why people are still reading and discussing it to this very day.Image result for romeo and juliet

Romeo and Juliet, as you probably know, is the story of two star-crossed lovers who come from two noble families of Verona, Italy that have had a vendetta for so long that nobody remembers why anymore— and since this is 13th century Italy, and the Renaissance only just started, it’s quite a medieval world, where people often died before 40 and marriage for girls at around 13 was quite common in that part of the world. Romeo is a Montague, which means that his parents are nobles but not as rich as the Capulets, Juliet’s family. What they do have, however, is genuine love, while the Capulets have more than enough family drama to go around. Romeo is passionate and a very eligible bachelor, but also rather impulsive and melodramatic. Juliet is quite smart and beautiful, but has been taught to be passive and agree with her parents her entire life, not thinking for herself. Romeo is “recovering” from being rejected by Rosaline, who was “the love of his life” and “brighter than the sun”, before he spies Juliet at a Capulet masquerade and forgets all about Rosaline. Later that night, Juliet and Romeo confess their love for each other and vow to get married. As you can see, it really is divine love at first sight.

Unfortunately for these two, they have to keep their affair a secret from everybody but the ones they know they can trust. Romeo and Juliet get married not even a day after they first met. But an unfortunate twist of fate leads to Romeo exiled and Juliet’s father forcing her to marry the noble but extremely uninteresting Count Paris, not knowing that she is already the wife of Romeo. Juliet takes great risks to avoid having to marry Count Paris, fooling her parents into thinking that she is dead by drinking a potion, and the plan almost works out, but due to a misunderstanding and an undelivered message, Romeo believes that she is dead, and ends up killing himself. Juliet awakens from her comatose state and sees Romeo’s corpse, and then kills herself too, before the two families arrive at the scene and finally end their feud.

While this story would be more disturbing than sweet if it took place today (a 13-year old and 17-year old getting married hardly a day after they first met, then killing themselves?), it is still very much a very well-written romantic story, and not for nothing is it known to practically all of the literate world. Definitely read The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, and watch one of the many movie adaptations also to see it played out.

-Michael Z.

The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

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Have you ever thought about the future- what you plan to be and how you plan to get there? Well, unfortunately, this book puts a sad twist to the future and paints it in a gloomy way.

Willy Loman, your typical, average man, is down on his luck. He isn’t getting enough salary even though he has been with his company for 35 years, despite his brother in law being in a different company for the same length of time, and somehow is so much richer than him. While his son hates him, Willy sometimes blames it on his son’s laziness, and the other times the fact that his son is working too hard and doesn’t know what he wants.

So what does he do? Well, he’s a traveling salesman, so he sells the only thing he has left. Guess.

There are a couple of things to note about this novel. First, it’s a play, so the dialogue is easy to stand out, and one can know who’s talking. And thankfully, unlike Shakespeare’s plays, this play is only two acts long, which was just over a hundred pages in the copy I had, so it was easy to read.

Second, the theme. I won’t even talk about the fact that the author considers the American Dream fading, or even his interpretation of capitalism. No, I will instead talk about the other characters. Willy’s wife, Linda Loman, is down on her luck too, as although she gives Willy everything, including her undying loyalty no matter what he does, he still treats her without love. The son that hates Willy, Biff, is just a man like us teenagers (except he’s 34) that tries to talk to Willy, but gives up because Willy wouldn’t listen to him. And Willy’s second son, who is often forgotten about by Willy, has to face abandonment issues not only from his father, but from his mother too, in which not even him saying that he was getting married made them happy.

Overall, Miller claims that we all know a Willy Loman, and although his story ends in tragedy, it does not have to be this way for us.

-Megan V, 12th grade

Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Car Plays at Segerstrom

The Car Plays are a set of short scenes acted out by actors and actresses in cars. The audience is one to two people at a time who sit either in the front or the back of the car, depending on where the actors are, who watch the short play unfold before themselves. Some plays were sad, weird plays; some plays were humorous, laugh-out-loud funny.

All of them portrayed great acting abilities by the actors and actresses and demonstrated acting at its core. Many of the scenes were very moving as well as gave the audience the ability to contribute to the scene as characters themselves because of the fact that the audience sits in the same car as the actors and actresses, just feet from the scene being performed. This type of entertainment requires very versatile and accomplished actors and actresses who do not have to simply act to people hundreds of feet away in an enormous auditorium, but a few inches away in a car. Segerstrom put on this event and many people, including myself and my best friend, attended it and were blown away by its brilliance.

-Kyle H.

Opera, Opera, Opera!

Would you pay $26 to see Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton on Broadway, live?

I know few Orange County friends who love opera, let alone are willing to see one. This may be because Orange County has few operas. I’ve been looking! The Segerstrom Center for the Arts has some performances, but Costa Mesa is pretty far. Moreover, it only has concert performances (full shows done without staging or costumes in front of an orchestra).

Recently, I discovered my favorite opera, Carmen, broadcasted live for free on the Santa Monica Pier from the LA Opera. The LA Opera is the grandest local opera house, and witnessing something this professional live was moving. Dancers were hired from the depths of Spain for a genuine Spanish vibe, and costumes shimmered and poofed in all their Spanish glory. Tickets are at least $90 for a “cheap” theatre seat, in which performers can barely be seen or heard; free showings are unheard of!

My friends and I zoomed to the pier and fangirled over the huge stage and thick French accents. The music can be found in our playlists; we hummed along the whole time. The opera is risqué, funny, and dazzling. If more people had access to opera in Orange County, I’m sure we could love and appreciate it the way this crowd did on the Santa Monica Pier. It was so enjoyable!

The Live at the Met series is broadcasting full operas live from the Metropolitan Opera House in most Regal movie theatres. This is the best opera house in the country! I’ve never seen a bigger stage, and the cameras show so much detail I can see reflections in the characters’ eyes. Tickets are around $26, with over 10 operas this year! More than the average movie ticket, but very cheap compared to live tickets, often at Hamilton prices ($855+). Only internationally famous and experienced singers have been cast! If you’re an opera fan like me or are ready to behold these regal performances, please come and support the art by attending. Few people know about it, but more should.

This is the same as $26 to see Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton live on Broadway, in the movie theatre!

The Orange County School of the Arts is also doing L’Enfant et Les Sortilèges in the spring, so look out for that!

Meanwhile, I will be hunting down local operas. I’m determined to find performances in Mission Viejo! Operas can be expensive, but I’m working on finding deals so teens can experience this difficult and powerful art form at an accessible price. I’ll keep you updated!

What local opera productions do you know of? Please comment to let me know!

-Jessica F.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s classic play, “Romeo and Juliet,” sheds a light on young love and risky decisions. Depending on what you think of Fate, you either really enjoy this romantic story or get extremely annoyed with its resolution. It’s a light fun play that touches on youthful passion but ends on a dark twist.

Taking place in Verona, Italy, this tragedy illustrates the romance between two teenagers from two feuding families. Ultimately, Romeo and Juliet are enemies but after they meet at a party, their family names are nothing more but a barrier between them. They get married in secret with the help of a few characters and plan to run away together. However this plan is altered when a series of unfortunate events results in both of them tragically dying. Many simple mistakes and the tragic ending could all have been avoided with a little more communication and clear thinking but Shakespeare wanted Fate to play a huge role in the outcome of the play.

In my opinion, the best aspect of this play is the flow of words and the speech that brings everything alive. The writing style itself is beautiful and Shakespeare finds a way to use words to shape the plot. For example, Romeo’s speech is dull and full of misery when he is rejected by Rosaline but as the play progresses and he meets Juliet, his words are bedazzled with figurative language. Juliet also has lovely soliloquies that are fun to annotate and dramatically read aloud. Another way Shakespeare really enhances his play is the use of characters. He provides the young and inexperienced Romeo and Juliet, the hysterical and crude Nurse, the outspoken and verbal Tybalt, the self-righteous and semi-helpful Friar Laurence, among many others to advance the play and add comic relief. Shakespeare skillfully writes this play to demonstrate Romeo and Juliet’s forbidden and rebellious love and the painful cost that hateful feuds bring.

-Jessica T.

Romeo and Juliet, and collective works of William Shakespeare, is available for checkout form the Mission Viejo Library

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

We all know about Romeo and Juliet. The famous star-crossed teenage lovers and “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art that Romeo?” sort of stuff. Personally, I didn’t like the play. Romeo and Juliet, as actual characters, were plain and the best character is Mercutio, who not only dies halfway through, but is the reason why the play became a tragedy.

On the other hand, I really liked Shakespeare’s style of writing. He writes all about death, blood and of the era when stories of knights and magic were popular. So I thought, “gee, is there a story that is dark, has fantasy and a lot of blood and death, but also has a decent romance and lively characters? And I didn’t have to look any farther than Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

For those who like dark themes, like myself, there is a lot in this play from duels and poison to talking to skulls. Hamlet, the main character of this play, is told by the ghost of his father that he was murdered by Hamlet’s uncle, who is not only the new king of Denmark, but is married to Hamlet’s mother (a sinful act in its time). Hamlet spends the rest of the play not only facing the burden of a promise that he is not sure to keep, but additionally has to deal with the depression and suicidal thoughts leading up to the start of the play, something that a lot of teenagers could possibly relate to. And of course, it’s one of Shakespeare’s tragedies, so almost all of the named characters die by the end. There’s a lot of troubled minds to question and analyze, so fans of psychology would love this play. On top of that, despite the frequency of death, “Hamlet” is actually a better love story than “Romeo and Juliet.” Hamlet and Ophelia are the only link to each other’s sanity.

Finally, the characters are amazing. I loved their development throughout the play and how they appeal to the audience in their decisions. Ophelia, although a dutiful daughter in the end, sasses her father and brother when they tell her to stay away from Hamlet. Polonius, being the nosy parent, spies on everyone and knows their private business. Hamlet, who not only has the role of the emo teenager, but also is clever enough to make fun of every single character in the play. And poor Horatio, who wonders how he got caught up in this mess.

All in all I really enjoyed this play and hope that you get the chance to read it.

Hamlet, and all of its printed and film incarnations, is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.