What I Learned Working In Hanoi's Production Of “Les Miserables” | Vietcetera
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Dec 01, 2021

What I Learned Working In Hanoi's Production Of “Les Miserables”

Vietnam’s 2020 production of Les Miserable, one of Broadway’s most successful musicals, spoke not just of creativity, but of resilience and teamwork at a difficult time for the world’s theater industry.
What I Learned Working In Hanoi's Production Of “Les Miserables”

Performance of “Les Miserables”. | Source: Nguyen Son Tung

Yen Nhi Cao is a staff member at Vietnam National Opera & Ballet. Story told to Anh Thu.

At the beginning of 2020, despite the difficulties brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, I was fortunate enough to participate in an art project of Vietnam National Opera & Ballet. It was Hanoi's production of the famous musical “Les Miserables”, based on the novel of the same title by the great writer Victor Hugo.

When it comes to musicals, the audience often remembers beautiful melodies, epic stage backgrounds, and the emotions of the actors under the spotlight. But to create a successful performance, dozens of people work day and night behind the curtains.

Due to the limited production budget and manpower, people on the team had to take on many roles at once. In this project, I was in charge of media, and at the same time led ticket selling on online platforms. I also dabbled in customer service. Outside working at the office, I often went to the stage to see the artists rehearse, both to relax and collect materials for media.

A rehearsal of the musical. | Source: Nguyen Thanh Trung

I have accompanied the actors since the early days of the production, when they still had to wear face masks despite the inconvenience when singing and pronouncing English words that were sometimes unfamiliar to them. There were moments when they slipped while performing difficult movements or shed tears in the climax, all for the emotional performing nights that made the audience linger longer.

The audience — oh, I remember the times when I gave them their tickets in person and saw the excitement in their eyes. After each show, I always sat down to read every message and feedback from them. They reminded me of the reason why I joined the production team in the first place.

Everyone’s love for the play was overwhelming. When our tour to Ho Chi Minh City was postponed as COVID-19 infections grew, the theater received messages of encouragement and support. The audience even wanted to still buy the program tickets, to help us overcome a hardship that was out of our control.

Yen Nhi was one of the people behind the stage. | Source: Nguyen Tan

Most memorable for me was that night when I had the privilege to host the program and stand on stage with the artists. As someone who worked behind the scenes, the feeling of being in the limelight was very special, especially when the whole crew came to the stage to greet the audience and was showered with endless applause and cheers.

That night, the crew and the audience joined together to sing “One day more”, a song of faith and hope for a brighter future, which was an apt reflection of what we were all feeling at that very moment.

All pressure and tension seemed to waft into the air as the whole theater all joined in something that seemed impossible — a big performance at a time when theaters across the world were closing.

Translated by Thao Van