In Part 7 of our series of interviews with the director and cast of Kensington Arts Theatre’s Les Misérables, meet Cole Edelstein and Shira Minsk.
Cole: Hey! I’m Cole Edelstein. I’m 11 and in 5th grade at Chevy Chase Elementary, and I’m excited to be be Gavroche in this show. You may have seen me in KAT’s Ragtime last spring, also with Darnell. Last year, I played Ainsley in Appropriate at Woolly Mammoth, and was in WNO’s The Lion the Unicorn and Me. Another of my favorites was Winthrop in The Music Man Jr. with BRAVO@KAT. If anyone wants to see more of me, I’ll be playing Jack in Into the Woods Jr. with them in June.
Shira: Hi, I’m Shira Minsk, and I play Young Cosette in KAT’s production of Les Misérables. I have recently been in A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre, as well as Ragtime here with KAT.
Joel: Why did you want to be in this production and play the character you are playing? What do you admire or not admire about your character?
Cole: When I was 9 and first saw Les Misérables I said, “I am forever changed!” Ever since, I have LOVED the show and all the songs. I always admired the determined, awesome, incredibly brave Gavroche. He’s actually the first character I’ve played that I really admire. He’s so scrappy, cool, and tough, he’s a larger then life kind of a guy — a symbol of the revolution.
Shira: I have always wanted to be in Les Misérables because of the sheer powerfulness of the show, and playing Young Cosette is such a great honor for me. I have seen so many amazing, younger girls do the role, and since I am on the “older” side of people who would play Young Cosette, I am excited to make my character a bit more mature. There are many thing people may assume about Cosette, like that she is ditzy, and young, and just wants a way out of her terrible life. But her character has more depth than that. She does not only dream all the time, but she has a sense of reality and I admire that about her.
What did you perform in your audition and when did you find out that you had the role?
Cole: I sang “The Kite” from You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. I found out that I was Gavroche when Darnell called us about four days later.
Shira: In my audition, I sang “The Girl I Mean To Be” from The Secret Garden. Later in the week I had callbacks for Young Cosette, and that evening Darnell (the director) called me and offered me the part.
Talk about your solos or ‘big numbers’ and what does the audience learn about your character when you sing these songs?
Cole: My first solo is in “Look Down” and I’m introducing myself, the poor, and where we live. I’m showing what a proud and scrappy kid I am. Clearly, I’m not short on confidence! I also sing “Little People” and it tells people “Don’t mess with me!” Even when I die, I’m still singing the same song with the same purpose.
Shira: In Les Misérables, I get to sing the song “Castle on a Cloud.” When I sing this song, the audience learns that Cosette’s life is terrible and miserable, and that she dreams about a way out of it. They also learn that she is not just a ditzy little girl, but that she has a sense of reality, and knows that her dream will not come true.
What have been some of the challenges preparing for your role and performing in the KAT space?
Cole: Well, the amount of energy this kid has is ENORMOUS so I really had to work to match his power. I have to literally fill my body up with adrenaline to bring Gavroche to life.
Shira: For me personally, everything has gone totally smoothly. But, I do know that in general, the lack of offstage storage space in the theater has been a challenge.
Why do you think Les Misérables is still so popular almost 30 years after opening on Broadway?
Cole: I think when people see this show they find it heart warming and human. It really portrays the spirit of the people. The rebellion shows people sticking together even in terrible times. They all rely on each other, and even die for freedom. Watching the people unite is a powerful thing that inspires the audience.
Shira: One thing that sets Les Misérables apart from any other show is that there is almost no spoken dialogue. Every scene is performed while singing, instead of talking. And, the score itself is amazing and compelling. The plot is a whirlwind, taking the audience through different time periods, and it is rich in twists and turns that intrigue the audience.
What character that you are not playing is your favorite and what song that you are not singing is your favorite?
Cole: Character: Monsieur Thènardier, because he’s all about getting the best of life, no matter what it takes. Even if he wouldn’t be my best bud, he would be awesome to play!
Song: “One Day More” is my favorite song. All the characters are singing about all their different goals, but their voices blend together and they are all united with the same message.
Shira: Out of the characters that I am not playing, Eponine is my favorite, and her song “On My Own” is my favorite solo song in the show. Eponine is such a brave character, despite always being neglected, and “On My Own” is such a powerful song. My dream role for the future (when I am old enough) has always been to play Eponine.
What is the best advice Director Darnell Morris and Musical Director Stuart Weich has given you about shaping your performance?
Cole: It has been amazing working with Darnell and Stuart! They have helped me to think about how the lyrics relate to my character, to be fully engaged in my character always, and to really own the stage!
Shira: They gave me two pieces of amazing advice which have helped me shape my performance. The first is, “Do not listen to the track, or CD, or iTunes album and shape your song like theirs. Make it your own.” And the second follows closely saying, “You do not need to sing the song exactly the way it is written in the music. You do not need to emphasize the same words as everyone else, you do not need to sing the rhythm perfectly, you just have to make the song your own.”
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing Les Misérables at KAT?
Cole: Their used tissues!!
Shira: I really want audiences to take away how the story itself shows so many characteristics of human living, and how honest and truthful the story itself is. I also want them to take away how Darnell and the cast have put their own “spin” on the show, and how much they have invested themselves in their characters.
Les Misérables plays through May 24, 2014 at Kensington Arts Theatre performed at Kensington Town Hall-3710 Mitchell Street, in Kensington, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (206) 888-6642, or purchase them online.
Meet The Director and Cast of Kensington Arts Theatre’s ‘Les Misérables’ Part 1: Director Darnell Morris.
Meet The Director and Cast of Kensington Arts Theatre’s ‘Les Misérables’ Part 2: Paul Tonden (Javert).
Meet The Director and Cast of Kensington Arts Theatre’s ‘Les Misérables’ Part 3: David Merrill (Jean Valjean).
Meet The Director and Cast of Kensington Arts Theatre’s ‘Les Misérables’ Part 4: Harrison Smith (Marius).
Meet The Director and Cast of Kensington Arts Theatre’s ‘Les Misérables’: Part 5: Ethan Miller (Gavroche).
Amanda Gunther’s review of ‘Les Misérables’ at Kensington Arts Theatre on DCMetroTheaterArts.