UC-CCM proudly presents LES MISERABLES opening tonight! This week, we’ve been spotlight various members of the cast with an interview. Today we’re joined by Julian Decker, one of the two performers cast as Jean Valjean.
1. Tell us about your background before CCM and what you’ve learned and accomplished while at CCM.
Before CCM I was really big into Community Theatre. I grew up performing at the Erie Playhouse, at age 5. Everything I knew about theatre, I had learned from them. Not necessarily the right ways to act or sing, but the basics that any performer should know. At a very young age I started getting into the behind the scenes aspects of theatre. By the time I was 12 I had stage managed my own production. I ran sound, and spot lights, as well as the light board for many productions. In high school I worked as the Theatre’s Assistant Set and Lighting Designer for a summer. Tech theatre was a strong passion of mine. My High School was small and we did two musicals a year. I designed the sets and lights for those productions, and on more then one occasion played the lead in productions. I was so busy performing and doing tech stuff that I didn’t have time for voice lessons or dance lessons. I had my first dance lesson and voice lesson at CCM. Eventually I had to decide on a Career. It was a tough decision because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Tech theatre was just as much a passion of mine as Performing. I took a step back and weighed my options and came up with this idea. I had a better chance at being a performer and involving myself in Tech theatre, than being a tech major and performing professionally. So on a whim I found myself at CCM.
2. You’re playing Jean Val Jean, a role that was double cast for Les Mis. What’s the rehearsal process been like . . .have you and Blaine been there together? How do you make the character your own while also being consistent for the other performers?
This rehearsal process is a tad different than other shows. The show is completely sung through so we had to come in with our music memorized. It would have been a traitorous process with librettos in our hands. Nothing would have gotten done. So we had the show up on it’s feet; improving, on the first rehearsal. Yes, it was SCARY!
Blaine and I are at every rehearsal together. While some may think being double cast might be a terrible process it actually isn’t. For a show like Les Mis it’s nice because we get the opportunity to rest our voices. The truth is that no 22-year-old should be singing this score. Especially after a full day of school. Our voices are not completely developed yet and it’s written for middle aged men to sing. The rest time is an amazing gift.
3. What’s it like working with Aubrey Berg, especially on this show?
Aubrey Berg is a wonderful director in the sense that he creates a structure for you as an actor. He gives you movement directions, where to enter and exit. This helps in keeping consistency for the other performers. What you choose to do acting wise is your choice. Blaine and I never feel the need to copy one another’s choices. He plays his Valjean and I play mine. What’s exciting is that audiences will get a different show if they have the opportunity to come see both casts.
Working with Aubrey on this show has been a wonderful process. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity this summer to work with the original Associate Director of Les Mis, Richard Jay Alexander. He was the creator of the “Les Mis step” in “One Day More.” Some of the stars in the cast were Hugh Panaro and Norm Lewis. It was directed exactly like the original production. Aubrey has made it very clear that this production isn’t going to be like the original. It’s CCM’s production of Les Mis. He wants it RAW and HONEST. Story comes first, and fascinatingly enough the notes come out the way they are supposed to when it’s acted well. Aubrey is a brilliant man and has created a really nice production of Les Mis for the Cincinnati audiences.
4. What’s next for you?
Next is Senior Showcase in NYC. I have summer stock auditions coming up and hopefully some new opportunities will come from showcase. Here is my website: http://julian-decker.wix.com/julianrdecker.
UC-CCM will present LES MISERABLES opening Thursday, February 27 through Sunday, March 9th. Tickets – if any are available – can be found here. Julian will be performing on 2/28, 3/1 (8:00 show), 3/2 (7:00 show), 3/4, 3/6, and 3/8.