Monday, March 29, 2010

Les MiseRap

I cannot tell you how happy I was to find an extant copy of this.  If only I could find a video copy of it.

No doubt it hasn't aged well, but there was a time when it was the best sketch The Juanabees had in our repetoire.

The story of it's creation goes like this...

We were doing our first tour.  It was kind of limping along.

We had arrived at the Winnipeg festival but weren't scheduled for the first few days, so we took advantage by distributing a LOT of flyers.  One afternoon while working a line-up at someone else's show, Don was asked if we were "a rap group."  (I still have no idea where that came from - never will.)  Don explained that we weren't but that we would prepare a rap number and if the woman came to the show, she would see it.

Our original response to that was "For fuck-sakes, Don!  Don't make promises you can't keep!"  Later that night as we were making our trip home we were passing Centennial Concert Hall (which happened to be right across the street from our venue) where Les Miserables was playing.  We were all big theatre geeks and some of us had seen the show at least three times.  As we drove past, I looked at the sign out front and murmured "Les - rap...."  This actually turned out to be one of two times on that trip that week that something would get said along that stretch of road home that would result in a show-stopping sketch... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

We actually thought that we might be able to do something with "Les MiseRap."  I don't specifically recall, but we must have tossed ideas around in the van through the ride home, so pretty much everyone got to lay claim to some corner of the sketch, but when we got back to our billet's, it was Don and I who stayed up into the wee-hours hammering out the script, and figuring out what popular rap songs we were going to use throughout it, and when we'd rely on music from the actual show.

In the morning we shared it around, divided up roles and rehearsed the pants off of it.  Later that night we did our first show, and we took a leap of faith and made Les MiseRap our curtain call sketch.  It brought down the house.

As we were cleaning up after that first show, an audience member approached me and said "Hey, as a cast member, I have to say, you made my night."  I was confused.  He pointed at his hat - on which was emblazoned "Les Miserables - CAST."

His name was Sylvain.  He was a swing.  (Sort of a back-up cast member who understudies a bunch of smaller roles.)  They had got to intermission and no one had sprained an ankle so he headed out to see a show at the festival.  He picked ours, simply because it was close.

The next day as I was cleaning up after our matinee, a woman approached and handed me a note.  She said that Sylvain had sent it.

It was an invite to show up at the back door of their theatre at intermission to perform the sketch for the Les Mis cast.  We did.  They loved it and gave us tickets to a matinee show on the weekend.  A photographer for the Winnipeg Free Press showed up and took photos.  It was one of a few things that catapulted our show into the forefront of the Winnipeg Fringe that year.  Les MiseRap ended every show for the rest of the tour.

The touring cast of Les Miserables delights at the 5 minute condensed rap-version of their show.

The success of our show in Winnipeg not only made touring again a viable option, but it also resulted in Winnipeg being the cornerstone of every tour that followed for the Juanabees.  They loved us there, and while other cities approached the level of support that we got in Winnipeg, Winnipeg will always hold a special place in my memories of touring.

Here is the sketch.  For once I'm not going to present it as it appears on the page.  I'm going to include additional notes that will help illuminate how it was staged.  Note that there are way more than six roles in the sketch, but there were only six of us on stage.  Part of the fun was how we'd change characters simply by changing a prop - or perhaps a hat for costuming.  In the script I am identifying roles, not performers - you'll simply have to imagine that Javert and Marius were played by the same person; that Eponine and Enjolras; were the same actor, and so on.


CHORUS LEADER:  (Counting in the 'music.')  2 - 4 - 2-4-601!

CHORUS: (Hums two figures of the main melody of  "Look Down" from Les Mis.)

     The Chorus Leader breaks away from the group.


CHORUS: (Hums the main guitar riff of "Walk this Way.")

CHORUS LEADER: (To the tune of "Walk this Way" as performed by RUN DMC.)
   At the end of the day (CHORUS emphasizes the bolded words.)
   You're another day older
   All you say for the life of the poor
   Its a struggle  its a war
   That anyone's given
   Standin' 'bout what is it for?
   At the end of the day
   She's the one who would play
   With her skirt flyin' up in the air
   Singin' Hey diddle diddle
   Like a piggy in 'a middle
   She cut off all fo her hair
   She'd swear...

FANTINE: (To the tune of the chorus of "Just a Friend" by Biz Markie.)
   I... I dreamed a dream
   Life has killed this dream I dreamed
   Life has killed this dream I dreamed
   Oh, Cosette!

VALJEAN: (Generic rap.)
   And so Javert
   You see it's true
   This man bears
   No more guilt than you

CALLER:  Who am I?


VALJEAN: 2 - 4


   Javert breaks through the row of chorus members.

JAVERT:  (A la, the bridge of "U Can't Touch This" by M.C. Hammer.) 
   Javert time!

CHORUS: (Hums the bass line from "Super Freak" by Rick James.)

   Javert and Valjean circle each other like animals.

JAVERT: (To the tune of the verse of "Super Freak".)
   You're a very slippery eel
   The kind we like to put behind bars
   Twenty years ago in jail
   And you're on your way back there now

   They grapple.

VALJEAN: (To the tune of the "oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh" part of either of the above songs.)
   No-no.  No-no.  No-no-no...

JAVERT & VALJEAN: (Simultaneously.  Generic rap.)
   You will go there.  (Javert.)
   I won't go there.  (Valjean.)

   Valjean throws Javert to the ground and escapes.

CHORUS LEADER:  Let's do it.

CHORUS: (Hums the guitar riff from "Wild Thing" by Tone Loc.)

   Cosette enters on her knees with a broom.

COSETTE: (To the tune of the verse of "Wild Thing" by Tone Loc.)
   There is a castle
   It's way up on a cloud
   Nobody beats me
   Ever mistreats me
   Ever talks too loud
   I dream of my Mother
   She's all dressed in white
   She sings me lullabies
   Never ever cries
   Holds me through the night
   (With a mighty stroke of her broom she leaves the stage.)


CHORUS: (Hums the guitar riff from "Wild Thing" one last time.)

CHORUS LEADER:  (A la, the opening of "Unbelievable" by EMF.)

CHORUS: (Hums the main guitar riff from "Unbelievable" by EMF.)

M. THENARDIER: (To the tune of the verse of "Unbelievable" by EMF*.)
   Welcome M'sieur, sit your self down
   And meet the best innkeeper in town
   As for the rest, all of them crooks
   Rooking the guests and cooking the books

   What a cruel trick of nature
   Landed me with such a louse
   God knows how I've lasted
   Living with this bastard in the house!

CHORUS: (To the tune of the chorus of "Unbelievable" by EMF.)
   The Master
   Of the house

   Hypocrite and toady and inebriate!

   The Master
   Of the house

   I'm unbelievable!

   Huh - huh!

   (Two chorus members grab chairs and majestically bring them together mid-stage as a very tiny barricade.)

CHORUS:  (Generic rap.)
   Red and black - red and black - red and black

   To the barricade!

   Red and black - red and black - red and black

CHORUS LEADER: (To the tune of "Colors" by Ice-T.)



   (The chorus forms into a wedge and marches in formation with a flag waving in the air behind.)
ENJOLRAS: (To the tune of the chorus of "Walk this Way" by RUN DMC... though admittedly the chorus of the RUN DMC version is pretty much the Aerosmith version.)
   This revolution's got...

   One more day
   One day more
   One more day
   One day more

EPONINE:  (To the tune of  "Joy and Pain" by Rob Base & DJ E.Z. Rock.)

   (A gunshot rings out.)

   And pain...

   And what else?

   (Eponine falls into Marius' arms.)
   A little
   Fall of rain
   Come on - here we go
   Don't die

   Help - help - help her up
   Don't cry
   For me...

   (Eponine dies in Marius' arms.)

MARIUS:  (To the tune of "this song" - to type it out would ruin the joke.)

   (The 'dead' Eponine looks at Marius like he's completely out of line.)

CHORUS: (Hums the bass line of "Ice Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice.)

PROUVAIRE: (To the tune of the verse of "Ice Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice.")
   Heres to pretty girls who went to our

   Heres to witty girls who went to our

   At the shrine of friendship never say

   Let the wine of friendship never run

   Bring it down

   White - white - rappers

CHORUS LEADER: (To the tune of "this song" - to type it out would ruin the joke.)
   Kick it!

   (Enjolras leaps up on another student's shoulders.)
  You gotta fight!


   For your right!


ENJOLRAS: (To the tune of "Red and Black" from Les Miserables.)
  To a night at the opera now.

JAVERT: (Spoken.  Well... shouted.)
   Yo, Blood!

   (Javert shoots Enjolras who falls to the ground.**  Valjean steps up looking upon the fallen body in horror.)

VALJEAN: (To the tune of "Bring Him Home" from Les Miserables.)
   God on high
   Hear my prayer
   In my need...

   (The chorus stands about confused as he sings.  Cosette steps up with a Pepsi.)

COSETTE:  Yo!  Valjean!

   (He drinks.)

VALJEAN:  Proper!  ...Urk!

   (Valjean dies.  Everyone is sad.)

   Do you hear the people sing?!

FIRST CHORUS MEMBER:  (To the tune of "Do You Hear the People Sing?" from Les Miserables.)
   Do you hear the beat box beat?
   (SECOND CHORUS MEMBER joins him.)
   Does it sound at all like drums?
   (THIRD CHORUS MEMBER joins them.)
   Real musicians have more talent
   (FOURTH CHORUS MEMBER joins them.)
   Than a rapper in their thumbs***
   (FIFTH CHORUS MEMBER joins them.)
   When you hear a record scratch
   Do you scream and hold your head
   (CHORUS LEADER joins them.)
   Just be thankful it's not disco you're hearing instead
   Dis-co in-stead....!

   (All pump their fists in the air.)


*Yeah, okay.  This stretches the definition of 'rap' to it's limits.  What can I say?  Van-full of white Canadian kids.

**If you are familiar enough with the show, you know that this transition makes no sense as it it Marius who Valjean sings over... but it's all in service to the humour in the end.

***I have to admit that my appreciation for rap has grown since then - this was, after all, written in the same year that Apocalypse '91, the album that got me interested in rap, came out and it wasn't 'til months later that I first heard it.

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