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A question for Quique, whenever you come back (I miss you) 
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Post A question for Quique, whenever you come back (I miss you)
... or for anyone else lucky enough to have seen the show before the 10th anniversary.

Some of the Lea Salonga nuts on Youtube and elsewhere claim that she was the first actress to ever play Éponine as a feisty character; that all the others before her were just sad and fragile and pathetic.

Now I'm sure that's an exaggeration, but is there any truth in it? Were most pre-Lea Éponines more fragile and waif-like, and did tough tomboy-style Éponines only come into vogue after the TAC? Or are those people just jumping to conclusions because Frances and Kaho sound more fragile than Lea on the recordings?

Wed May 01, 2013 6:45 pm
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Post Re: A question for Quique, whenever you come back (I miss yo
Awww, I missed you, too! *snuggle*

First saw the show live in the summer of 1989 with Michelle Nicastro as Eponine in the original Los Angeles production (2nd U.S. NT) who definitely portrayed her as tom-boyish and feisty; however, one thing that is true of almost all Eponine portrayals I've seen is they tend to really up the tom-boy factor and rough n' tough attitude during "Look Down" when they're first introduced, then it sort of gradually dissipates into the more vulnerable take.

I know--from just listening to OLC boots--that Frances' OLC Eponine was a lot more tom-boyish than most throughout. Unlike the many Eponines since, she really created a character. It wasn't until she landed on Broadway that she adopted the more neutral accent and played her more passionately than she did in London. I will never understand why that passion is always said to be "whining." I mean, I get that Frances has a voice that can get a bit shrill and in several moments on the OBC recording she seems to really stretch the little girl voice thing. The truth is, that's what she really sounded like and wasn't trying to sound like anything.

I have very murky memories of the second Eponine I saw on stage in 1991, Susan Tilson (1st U.S. NT), but I recall loving her in the role. I really wish I could remember more of her. I sat 2nd row orchestra, so was very close but that was the first time I saw the show after purchasing and getting to know the Complete Symphonic Recording inside out, so I knew the show very well by that point and the whole experience was probably even more overwhelming than the first time I saw it. The first time, the cast really made an impression on me, as did the experience of seeing a show live onstage. The second time, I was no longer a novice and was experiencing it for the first time as a fan, which is probably why the cast didn't stand out as much and the production itself was what really came at me. That, and Gary Morris' Valjean and Richard Kinsey's Javert are three things about that performance that left an indelible mark.

Third Eponine was Angela Pupello in 1992 (3rd U.S. NT) and she was the first to play her with an "edge" which was not so much tom-boyishness but she had a very unique way of phrasing and a belt that was ridiculously powerful. She sang OMO in a very dramatic fashion but was never melodramatic or hysterical. It came across a lot less like a lament and seemed to be Eponine actually forcing herself to come to terms with the harsh reality that she so tried to gloss over using her escapist reveries. And the result was more physically painful than just sad. That last "known!" was out of this world for how much pain in contained.

Fourth Eponine was Jennifer Rae Beck in 1994 (3rd U.S. NT). I had always wanted to see an Eponine who looked like a very young girl--not that the others looked old, but they looked like women--and Rae Beck had this perfect look and a very Frances Ruffelle-like voice in that it sounded very young. I remember her well and she too played her like much of the actresses at the time where they are tough and hard at their entrance and gradually soften. I always thought that was a clever approach because it really made their big, second act number much more striking since most used that opportunity to really go all out and give it their all when you didn't expect it. When someone starts off tough and even cocky and gradually becomes vulnerable, you expect them to whither away and die out, so when they take ownership of that stage in an emotional outpouring that ends in a cry toward the open air, it's one of those 'moments' you don't forget. Rae Beck was unique in that her Eponine was much more introspective, which was really effective during the first half of OMO and to see her emerge from that into the painful, conscious realm of the second half was breathtaking.

Jennifer Rae Beck was the final Eponine before the London 10th anniversary concert introduced Lea Salonga's Eponine to the world. I do recall watching Salonga for the first time in the concert and thinking she did seem more tom-boyish than most during a couple of scenes and I liked that. And although there is no doubt that Salonga is and always will be a great Eponine, I also recall hoping she'd tone down some of that feisty, ghetto attitude by the time we got to OMO, because I missed that climactic surge of emotion that characterizes much of the thrill of that second act number that I had witnessed on stage since first seeing it in 1989. I didn't get that with Salonga's OMO but I did love and always will love her vocal performance of the song. I just wish she had been more tortured.

I always tell myself, that the measure of a great Eponine is how her appearance at the end affects you. If you immediately want to begin sobbing, if you don't really know how to feel but know it's very moving to you, or if you get that distinct bittersweetness that makes the whole scene serve as a perfect closure to those three big tales of love from different perspectives, then you've seen a wonderful portrayal of Eponine, of Valjean, and of Fantine.

*Dis Jus In! People can be condescending on the internet.

Last edited by Quique on Sat May 11, 2013 11:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Sat May 11, 2013 11:10 pm
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Post Re: A question for Quique, whenever you come back (I miss yo
Yay!!! You're back!!! *big hugs* :D :D :D :D

It seems like Lea's toughness as Éponine did have some precedent after all... as I suspected it did. (Which doesn't take away from the quality of her performance whatsoever!) I guess it just shows, you can't judge a show's history by its studio recordings!

Sat May 11, 2013 11:17 pm
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