Denis McCourt Stryjewski expresses his love of theatre so forcefully that it seems the theatre…
Gavroche, the new musical that the Idyllwild Arts Theatre Department will perform on December 3, 4, 5, is a fresh take on Les Misérables.
The play, which will be livestreamed at https://idyllwildarts.zoom.us/j/95125102317 on Opening Night, December 3, at 7:30 PST, features a pop, contemporary score, and is told from the point of view of the teenagers and younger children in Victor Hugo’s classic novel of 1862.
“Much like Wicked does with The Wizard of Oz,” Gleicher says, “Gavroche shifts the perspective on a classic story in a way that’s contemporary and energizing and exciting. It’s really Les Misérables for the next generation.”
When Gleicher began writing Gavroche, she was enjoying a triumph as the composer/lyricist for the off-Broadway musical Addy & Uno. Addy & Uno tells the story of Nava Silton‘s five puppet characters who are bullied in school because of Autism, ADHD, Physical Disability, Visual Disability, and Hearing Disability. The musical ran for nearly two years off-Broadway and also tours schools in the Northeast.
However, the work generated by the success of Addy & Uno–arranging to satisfy the demand for more performances–had kept Gleicher away from the work she loves.
A Message of Hope
She was eager to write another musical when a collaborator suggested exploring the rich background of Les Misérables. Instantly, the idea struck a chord.
“I could right away hear how playful and poignant the music could be, how I could bring to life the charismatic yet vulnerable Gavroche, his neglected younger brothers, and their two passionate and stubborn teen sisters. It felt special and had to exist and I knew I was the one to do it.”
Gavroche includes only two adult characters, and you won’t see Jean Valjean.
Of the title character, who joins the failed rebellion of June 1832, Gleicher says, “Gavroche finds such an uplifting purpose in the rebellion, and a family in these idealistic rebels. But most of all, he finds a reason to ‘hold on,’ even when the fight is slowing and hope feels fragile, and that’s the message I hope audiences will walk away with.”
Gavroche was first performed in June 2020 at the StarStruck Academy Theatre, in Stuart, Florida, but the upcoming Idyllwild Arts Academy production is its West Coast debut. Gleicher selected the Academy for this premiere because of the Theatre Department’s outstanding reputation. Her week on campus from November 28 to December 5 will mark her first visit to Idyllwild.
“I hear Idyllwild is beautiful, and I can’t wait to work with this talented cast and crew. I grew up in Armonk, an hour outside New York City, so I love the fresh air and woods and wilderness.”
Making the Aspirations of Children Visible
As a child, Gleicher performed in community and regional theatre, and even on Broadway. She appeared in Jane Eyre and Annie on Broadway, and for Jane Eyre she played Young Jane on the original cast recording.
Then, in high school, her interest shifted from performing to composing.
“I was writing pop music at the piano and performing at open mics in the city. Then I had an internship with Decca Records, where an executive who was kind enough to listen to me said, ‘I hear a lot of theatre in your music.’ And a lightbulb went off. He was right. He was hearing my childhood! So later, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I wrote my first musical and adored it from the start.”
After college, two years of training at the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop sharpened the skills that will be on exhibit at Idyllwild Arts in early December.
Yet the audiences for Gavroche will see more than a display of technical mastery. Addy & Uno, Gavroche, and MarMar Land, a Hulu and YouTube show for which Gleicher has written many songs, are shows for all ages, not just children. At thirty-three, she is indisputably an adult. But who will see to it that children grow up to become adults, except for adults?
Gleicher recalls vividly the impact that musicals like Annie and Jane Eyre held for her as a child, and what they have meant for her growth. Spectators for Gavroche will experience Gleicher’s passion for the power of theatre to make the aspirations of children not only visible and dramatic, but impossible to ignore.