By Chelsea Royer
Les Miserables is a beautiful, tragic, and heart-rending story. One I swore I’d never subject myself to again after watching the latest film and bawling hysterically the entire way home. Hearing about the upcoming performance at the Bishop Center for Performing Arts, however, I promptly changed my mind – especially after remembering the dazzling job our local cast did in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera.
One of the most heart breaking and moving roles in the musical of Les Mis is that of Fantine – a young, single mother forced to sell herself due to societal injustice in order to support her only daughter. Her main melody moves me to tears and it takes a very feeling actress to convey the emotions, fears, love, and struggles of Fantine. Which is why I was so surprised to hear that Kerry Tadique, a woman who hasn’t seen the stage since high school, managed to land the central role.
Tadique is a mother of three children, a 911 operator, a vocalist, and most recently, an actress. Her vocal history began as a child in church and in choir, and led to four years of vocal training underneath Joy Sherman of Seattle University.
Despite her lack of acting history, Tadique stole the show from a handful of other applicants for the part. I’ve not heard her sing, but my guess is her lifelong love for the music of Les Miserables charmed the stage. “I think we went through two copies of the album growing up,” Tadique giggles. The Les Miserables soundtrack was her favorite as a girl and the music is very dear and familiar to her.
According to our conversation, Tadique isn’t all that interested in pursuing other roles as an actress. It was merely her love of Les Miserables that convinced her to try out for the role of Fantine. “I didn’t think I was going to get the part. I got lucky,” Tadique insists. “I love the story and I think it’s an important story that needs to be told about redemption and forgiveness – especially as we tend to not be a forgiving culture.”
Tadique says the acting experience has been fun yet challenging. “I think I knew one person when I first started. It’s a little intimidating. It seems everyone is in their early twenties and out there doing new things and there’s me…who was just home changing diapers.”
Ironically, practicing the scenes where Fantine is attacked have been the best for getting to know people. “There are a lot of scenes where she (Fantine) gets beat up so we’ve spent some time getting together coordinating that. It’s a great way to get to know someone…you know, as you come up with ways for them to hit you.”
Fantine, according to Tadique, is an easy person to relate to and that has helped ease her into the new experience. She credits her director, Brad Duffy, for helping her adjust. “Brad is a wonderful director. He helped me go over the character, history, and every bit of dialogue for Fantine. He asks questions like, ‘What does this make you feel when she says this?’ Understanding where she (Fantine) is coming from, or what she’s thinking and feeling is half the battle.”
Tadique’s children, who also love the music of Les Mis, don’t like the thought of their mom being hurt or dying in the classic musical. Her daughter’s solution made me chuckle: “What would happen if you just didn’t stop singing? You can’t die if you don’t stop singing!”
For Tadique, it’s convenient that her character dies relatively early on in the play. Being a full time mom and 911 operator, “dying early” has made juggling her rehearsals more manageable. “It’s very interesting being on the side of Fantine begging Javert to understand and being on the side of listening to people sometimes plead their case (at work),” says Tadique, drawing correlations between her day job and playing this role.
But despite the intensity a 911 center can bring to a life, Tadique says she rarely becomes stressed. She may be new to the Bishop Center stage, but she’s full of excitement for the upcoming experience of sharing the music of Les Miserables with the community of Grays Harbor.
The curtain raises on March 7 with seven performances across two weekends. More information, including show time and ticket information, can be found here.