It’s summer, which for my family means volunteering with our favorite community theatre group – Glyndon Area Players. Under the detailed direction of GAP founder Homero Bayarena, participating in GAP shows guarantees lots of late nights, hard work, and an unforgettable education in community bonding and the art of theater. Opening this Friday, August 8th, this year’s production is the company’s most ambitious to date.
This year’s auditions brought an unusual amount of interest and talent, as Les Mis is such a beloved show and rights have only recently been released. One such talent is Henry Cyr, a singer/ songwriter establishing himself in the Baltimore area. He is cast as Marius, the well-bred student rebel who finds himself in the middle of a love story in the midst of a rebellion. Here, Henry gives insight to his character and shares why he considers Marius to be “Valjean-lite.”
Teresa: What drew you to audition for GAP’s Les Misérables?
Henry: I got a phone call from a family friend on a Saturday afternoon, which alerted me of the audition. There was no thought involved – I dusted off “Stars,” which I’ve sung many times before, and I showed up first thing the next day!
Les Mis has always been my favorite musical. I’ve sung the songs since I was 8. Seeing it for the first time when I was 14 changed my life. I’ve always been looking for the opportunity to do it, and I couldn’t pass this up!
You are a singer/songwriter. Are you new to performing in musicals?
No, I’ve actually newer to songwriting. I could sing before I could talk, and I first did musicals back in middle school. I played Tom Sawyer in a musical. From then on, I was hooked. I was fortunate enough to have a steady stream of musicals in high school. Things really turned around for me when I played Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors. I’d like to say I was a Gleek before it was cool! It wasn’t long before I got the inclination to study theater.
I originally wanted to go to college for musical theater, and I luckily got into a few great programs. At the recommendation of my mom, I also auditioned for an Acting conservatory program at the University of Connecticut. Once I had my U Conn audition, I immediately wanted to go there. While I had been in a lot of musicals, I was so green to acting. The professors who facilitated my audition worked with me on my monologue, and I really loved flexing those muscles. When I got that acceptance letter, it was a done deal – best decision I could have made! I learned a lot about acting, and people in general that influenced my performances.
Do you find Marius a likable character? Do you view him as a hero? What are his weaknesses?
I’d like to say he is likeable. He is very much stripped down in the musical; he starts out as Romeo but then goes through a lot to make him stronger. In the novel, he has a lot more going on in that blockhead of his. While he is not the most likable character in the novel, there’s a lot of depth there in his relationships with his grandfather and Valjean that I have tried to bring into my mind for this performance.
I’d say he is a hero in the end, but he struggles with allowing himself to be defined by his surroundings, rather than within him. He’s too wishy-washy about the rebellion in the musical, once Cosette enters his life. By the end, I think that the passing of power from Valjean to Marius turns him into a strong person for the future; he realizes that he has to be a source of strength for Cosette. In some ways, I think he ends up as “Valjean-lite.”
Why do you feel that Marius chooses to fight at the barricade instead of staying with Cosette?
I think he does have a sense of duty, and some integrity. Even though he becomes enthralled with Cosette, he owes something to the cause he believes in, and can’t live with deserting his friends. That feeling comes back to haunt him, doesn’t it?
What is your favorite scene Les Misérables that you are not in and are in, and why?
Favorite scene I’m not in – “Master of the House.” There is so much going on that I see something new and hilarious each time.
Favorite scene I’m in – I’d say “A Little Fall of Rain” and its aftermath. SPOILER ALERT – but some heavy stuff goes down that changes the dynamic of the play quite a bit. It’s a very vulnerable place for many of the characters, and I think the audience can really connect to it.
What has been the biggest challenge for you performing the role of Marius?
By nature, the show is vocally-challenging production. We never stop singing! For me, Marius is quite a vocally-intense role. The range is right in the top of my wheelhouse, without going too far out there. But it is such beautiful music to get to sing!
To go along with what I mentioned about his character, I just try to make it honest. Hopefully that translates; he’s a character that I can relate to, and his arc is really interesting to work on. I can’t say it’s been easy, but the struggle is part of the fun!
Do you have any specific rituals or preparation for performing?
Do I? Hahaha, too many to list!! I like to arrive early and clear my head. Once I put on the costume I try to shed my own worries, etc. That’s all I’m willing to share.
What theme of the show moves you?
I’m really taken with the idea that the closest French/English translation of the title is The Outsiders. If you think about it, it’s true – each main character struggles with being isolated in some way. What each of them wrestles with is some side effect or form of love. For those characters that overcome their obstacle, they do so through love.
What do you like about this particular production? Why should people see it?
This production has a really great energy. I think that everyone brings a great excitement to the show, which makes it an awesome team experience. Also, the other principal actors have such a strong commitment to their roles that is equally matched by their talent. Bottom line: what makes me love this production so much is that I feel everyone is as excited as I am! The performances, the direction, and production teams bring so much heart to it!
What other role in Les Misérables would you like to take on?
Hmm… that’s a tough one. I would love to have the chance to take on Valjean at some point, since it is such a challenge, but I’m just grateful to have had this experience.
They can expect to see a guy with deep-set eyes and messy brown hair. Beyond that, I’d hope they sense a lot of passion, energy and joy. Since I play a lot of covers, I love to sing songs that people love to sing to. I’m as likely to sing a Beatles song as I am a stripped-down Katy Perry ballad. You might even hear a show tune or two!
I describe my sound as a “pop/folk/explosion.” That just struck me as being very memorable. I think my sound is really honest and hope it’s engaging.
Of the songs you cover, “Purple Rain” was a favorite when I saw you perform, as well as “I Dreamed a Dream,” which I understand isn’t normally on your set list. Tell us about A Weakness for Blondes, your EP released this year. What inspires your songwriting?
Songwriting for me is a fun challenge. I like to think of it as a drawer that I struggle to get open. I will work and work at coming up with melodies, and then one day everything flows at me! I can’t predict it; it seems to be influenced by everything. “Listen to the Birds,” which is on my album, was inspired by me being mad at the birds that woke me up at 5AM one morning. It then involved into something entirely different. One thing that is true – in one way or another, the songs on the record were all inspired by blondes!
What’s next for you as a performer?
I don’t know! I have nothing big on the horizon just yet. This came out of the blue, but I am so happy it did. I look forward to being a part of the GAP family in one way or another for years to come! As far as my music, I’m working on lining up some gigs for the fall. I’d love to explore some new avenues for that as well.
Here is the cast of Les Misérables.