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How to capture cosetteHi everyone!
I just got cast as Cosette in Les Mis, School edition and I am so excited about the role!
I absolutely love Cosette's music, but i have a few questions for you les mis geniuses in this forum if you wouldn't mind giving me some advice so i can prepare for the role?
Everyone says Cosette is one of the hardest parts to play-- how can i capture her full character in the time on stage?? What emotions are most important? WHat is often over or under done by her actress? What are some annoying things to avoid?
Thanks so much for your help!
Congratulations on getting the part!
It's not that Cosette is a hard part to play exactly, more that some directors aren't inclined to give her the time they give other characters. So really the onus is on your director to do you and your character justice, but here are a few things to take into consideration as rehearsals progress and possibly (very politely and respectfully of course) raise if you think they're not being addressed and you're nearing the full run stage of rehearsals.
There are, however, two crucial scenes where it's always painfully obvious the director hasn't bothered to, you know, direct, as in too many non-professional productions you see Cosette just standing there like a dummy when there's quite dramatic things going on.
Firstly in chronological order, the attempted robbery on the streets of Paris where Thenardier recognises Valjean and Marius and Cosette see each other and fall in luuuurve.
Note that Cosette doesn't actually have any lines here. She's giving out bread and blankets to the poor, then she's making googly eyes at Marius, then Valjean's grabbing her and fleeing after Javert arrives.
Your director should know what Cosette is meant to be doing at any given point in this scene to explain why she doesn't intervene directly.
Done well, I've seen this start with her seeing Marius, and being drawn to him so she misses Thenardier's "Please, m'sieur, come this way..." bit, and then when it gets to the "Men like me don't forget" bit where Thenardier actually physically attacks Valjean, her seeing and lunging forward with a "Papa!" before she and Marius are threatened and held at bay by the rest of the gang - Cosette being threatened in the background here gives the Attack on the Rue Plumet scene extra implied threat - Marius holding off Montparnasse or whoever and not seeing when Valjena then grabs Cosette and races offstage.
Secondly, the Attack on the Rue Plumet. After Eponine's big moment, Marius and Cosette rush back on. Marius: "Dearest Cosette, my friend 'Ponine brought me to you, showed me the way." Your director should know how Cosette reacts to this and why.
Thirdly, the lead-up to "One Day More" with Valjean's "Hurry Cosette, prepare to leave and say no more...". Again, Cosette has no lines. But how is she reacting to having just met the love of her life, not able to breathe a word of it, and her dad telling her they're about to depart for the other end of the earth.
Lastly, the Wedding. God, I've seen this done terribly. The worst was a school production where Cosette was actually standing RIGHT NEXT TO MARIUS the entire way through his scene with the Thenardiers, not batting an eye when Marius decked Thenardier, then meekly following Marius out like a lamb. The best I've seen it done, Cosette was constantly upstage during the wedding, mingling with guests, talking to people, doing bride things. Once more your director should know what Cosette is doing to explain why she doesn't notice her husband with the Thenardiers until Marius punches Thenardier.
These are the moments where there is the heaviest onus on the director to know what they're doing with your character. Although Cosette isn't the flashiest part in the play, I do think that the material is there for a three-dimensional and satisfying portrayal.
"In My Life" and "A Heart Full of Love" are beautiful. "In My Life" perfectly encapsulates Cosette's blossoming as a woman and growing independence as she begins to question her father about her past. This isn't really relevant as it's not addressed dramatically, but my take on it is that Cosette has pretty much repressed the details of her horrific childhood in Montfermeil - only knows that life wasn't very good, then Valjean came and life began getting better - but knows that there's big gaps missing in her life that her father should be helping her fill. "A Heart Full of Love" speaks for itself: two people, instant immediate attraction and commitment the way that does, occasionally, happen.
"Every Day" and "Heart Full of Love" reprise, again pretty much speak for themselves.
The Finale: the only thing I'd suggest is not overdoing the drama on the "You will live, Papa you're going to live". Of course it's all up to your director, but I think this is played better as though Cosette is holding back tears, rather than letting them out in torrents. You have to have something saved for when he dies shortly, after all. Then, if your director has you reading the letter Valjean has written you: what does it say, how do you feel about it?
I could go on, but I don't think I'll be saying anything other people on this board much more informed than I could. I just reiterate, your director should not be dismissing Cosette as the "token love interest". The material is there for Cosette to be given as much respect as a character as Eponine or anyone else.[/b]
After reading the letter in the finale, don't break character and start to smile gleefully at the audience.
I. HATE. THAT.
Doesn't mean you shouldn't break character at all, in fact the entire cast is clearly meant to during the 2nd verse of the final chorus, but don't smile like a fool either. The message is serious. And nothing ruins the moment faster than the entire cast marching forward with HUGE grins on their faces.
It's like the ending to Annie, or something. And you feel they will launch into a spectacular tap dance!!!!!! It's just soooo wrong and it happens far too often. Ugh!!!
|Brother Marvin Hinten, S.
How to capture Cosette? That's easy.
1. Obtain a large butterfly net.
2. Wait till about mid-day (am I right?) when she comes out in her garden.
3. Sneak through it with cat-like reflexes.
4. Net over head.
Just hang out @ the woods. The one with a well near it.
You won't even need a net, lol.
Anyway, a detail I forgot to mention in my last post: don't think you should sob your eyes out or look utter depressed either. You don't want to risk giving the impression that "Oh my Gawd, this show is sooooo sad Wahhh!" Jesus, am I ever picky. But sometimes details matter and can change a whole scene! :S
But yeah, the worst offender of this to date is Joan Almedilla. I really enjoyed her Fantine...at least until the finale. She'd grab Ivan Rutherford's arm and hug/hold/snuggle it in a cutesy fashion, glance over at him and smile as she sang and generally have this extremely gleeful look on her face.
It was like..."Yay! Show's over!!"
At least that's what it looked like at times, haha. I don't think I've ever seen a Valjean pull that. Maybe they're so tired, they can't crack a smile even if they wanted to, lol.
||thanks so much for your help everyone!! if anyone has any more advice i'd love to hear it!|
I played Cosette last year and was very lucky to get an amazing director who made all the cast examine their characters and motivations in meticulous detail, and encouraged us to read the parts of the Hugo novel in which our characters featured to help us create our own interpretation.
Fortunately for me, I had already read the Brick cover to cover a couple of times, but I still dusted it off again to re-read the scenes in which Cosette features. There was one line that stood out to me and I based my characterisation around it: "It will be remembered that she was more of a lark than a dove."
Cosette is no shrinking violet. It's not always blatant (the Thenardiers did a pretty decent job of stamping it out of her, after all), but I liked to think that simmering underneath the surface is a spunky girl
Also, I would say that Cosette's relationship with Valjean is more important than her relationship with Marius. It's really the most important relationship in the show, but since they don't have much one-on-one stage time, I've often seen it underplayed. Please don't neglect it!
In spite of her relatively small amount of stage time, Cosette is the catalyst for most of the events in the show. It will take more effort to make her sympathetic to the audience due to the nature of her material, but if you put the effort in, it's a gorgeous part to play and will help you grow as an actress. I can babble about my experience of being in this show until the cows come home, so if you have any questions at all, feel free to shoot me a PM Best of luck!!
Thankyou so much Brackynn, for your amazing advice! It sounds like you had an amazing Cosette experience! I will definitely remember this, especially about the importance of the father/daughter relationship.
I may PM you later, once I know what my director wants more specifically.