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Hayfield Secondary School in Alexandria, Virginia, presented Les Miserable School Edition to the Cappies Critics on May 4, 2024. Here are the top two Cappies Critic reviews.

Elliot Cooper

Mount Vernon High School


“When the beating of your heart echoes the beating of the drums,” that’s when you know you’ve arrived at Hayfield Secondary School’s production of “Les Misérables School Edition!”


The show, based on Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name, follows ex-convict Jean Valjean as he tries to build a life for himself after nineteen years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s starving child. After he violates his parole, he’s hunted by Inspector Javert. Though they cross paths often over the years, Valjean manages to escape every time. Eventually, a child named Cosette comes into his care after her mother--one of his employees who was wrongfully fired, dies, and Valjean promises to provide for Cosette. Eventually, Cosette grows up, and she and Valjean reside in Paris in 1832. At the same time, a group of students are planning a revolution. One of these students, Marius, falls for Cosette, but he must first fight for his cause. After he’s wounded in battle, Valjean saves young Marius, but unfortunately, they are the only survivors. Valjean makes Marius promise to care for Cosette, and they are married before Valjean dies, finally at peace.


Will Johnson’s Jean Valjean was emotional and showed tremendous vocal range. Opposite him was Sunya Supanklang’s complex Javert, who started very stoic but got more vulnerable throughout the show as Valjean continually eluded him. Jordyn Sooley delivered a heartbreaking performance as Fantine, with pain ringing in every note she sang. Zoe Toomer, who played her daughter Cosette, made one of the most notoriously difficult soprano roles sound effortless, her voice crystal clear with every note, and her relationship with Aaron Guerrero’s Marius was adorably sweet.


Mary Copeland’s Eponine managed to be both funny and tragic as she playfully teased Marius to his face but lamented knowing he would never be hers when he wasn’t there. Katie Ross and Gary Valdivieso as Madame and Monsieur Thenardier provided some much-needed comic relief, allowing the audience a brief respite from the emotional gut-punches. Carter Elliff’s Enjolras, however, was every bit the tragic hero with his commanding stage presence and powerful voice as he led his men to their deaths.


The ensemble also delivered incredibly strong vocal and physical performances, with the complex melodies and harmonies of the music seeming easy to them.


One of the biggest showstopping moments in the show was, of course, the reveal of the barricade. The barricade, designed by Madison Beisner and Sam Rutledge, was a giant, moving, multi-level platform that was designed to appear haphazard while being entirely structurally sound. Oh, and it rotated.


The rest of the set featured two moving towers, two stationary towers, and a catwalk with a trapdoor. The space between the catwalk and the stage housed the pit orchestra, which was made up of mostly students who played beautifully. The lighting team, led by Marley Peterson and Megan Rigsbee, did a fantastic job of using colored mood lighting and spotlights throughout the show, as well as only lighting parts of the stage that were actively being used. They also used red, white, and blue lighting reminiscent of the French flag in several scenes. The hair and makeup team, led by Annie McCauley and Ava Taylor added a unique detail where they aged the characters as the show continued, and Lia LeViner, Iris Nijbroek, and Lindsay Poteet’s costumes team managed to impressively juggle over a hundred costumes.


Hayfield Secondary School’s production of “Les Misérables School Edition” is truly better than an opera, leaving audience members with a heart full of love for this wonderful performance.

Julie Kessel

Albert Einstein High School


The overture bursts forth, the stage is bathed in blue, and the chain gang starts to sing. So begins Hayfield Secondary School’s production of Les Misérables School Edition.


Les Misérables, more commonly known as Les Mis, is a musical based on the novel of the same name by Victor Hugo. Encompassing 31 years of French history including the June Rebellion of 1832, Les Mis follows the life of Jean Valjean, an ex-convict pursued by a relentless and strict cop named Javert. Valjean begins to live a life of reformation and altruism, and he interacts with many people, for better or for worse.


As the larger-than-life Jean Valjean, Will Johnson used a powerful and clear voice full of emotion to command the stage. With an incredible range, Johnson played both a fatherly figure and a constantly conflicted man. Equally as compelling was Johnson’s push-and-pull dynamic with his great enemy Javert (Sunya Supanklang). Supanklang played the role of the authoritative enforcer well, with consistently rigid posture and deliberate line delivery and vocals, yet also managed to convey a range of emotions through his voice. This made Javert’s breaking point at the end of the show all the more poignant, as Supanklang deviated from his usual strict demeanor to deliver a heart-wrenchingly emotional and panicked performance in “Javert’s Suicide.”


Eponine (Mary Copeland), the girl forgotten, had an incredible emotional range, sweet and teasing yet also full of heartbreak and loneliness. Her shaky, emotion-filled, and beautiful voice, combined with stumbling movements and realistic sobs, made her death feel especially devastating. In contrast to Copeland’s pure and heartfelt emotions, Eponine’s parents, the Thérnardiers (Gary Valdivieso and Katie Ross), were extravagant, raucous, and people of questionable morals. They were both filled with boundless energy that emerged in the form of bouncy movements, dramatic and exaggerated facial expressions, and a hilarious rapport.


The ensemble of Les Mis filled the stage with exquisite harmonies, deliberate facial expressions, and lots of energetic emotion. The revolutionaries, led by the commanding, devoted, and talented Enjolras (Carter Elliff), also known as L’ABCs, were especially enthralling. Their maturity and steadfast belief in their cause made their deaths even more devastating, leaving a lasting impact on the audience. Able to convey grief and horror as well as excitement and determination, the revolutionaries brought vigor to every scene they were in, especially in the breathtaking number “One Day More.”


The set of Les Mis, built and designed by Madison Beisner, Sam Rutledge, & the Dramahawks Tech Theatre Classes, was detailed and extremely versatile. The rotating multi-layer units allowed for interesting ensemble placement across the stage, which added depth to many musical numbers. The most striking set piece was the barricade. With the base created by the set team and decorations by the props team (Sam Rutledge, Allison Rigsbee, & Dramahawks Props Team), the spectacular barricade was the perfect fit for the show, especially when combined with lights (designed and operated by Megan Rigsbee, Marley Peterson, & the Dramahawks Lighting Team). When a dramatic light shone through the slowly spinning barricade, illuminating the spaces between the boards and silhouetting the revolutionaries, a breathtaking image was created which perfectly started the second act.


Filled with steadfast characters, tragic sacrifice, and a cat-and-mouse chase for the ages, the Hayfield Dramahawks’ production of Les Misérables School Edition showed the true face of justice, mercy, and freedom.


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