Q&A: Addie Morales, and How Les Misérables Continues to Attract Audiences and Stay Contemporary

Performer in Broadway National Tour of acclaimed musical talks about embracing the character of Cosette, escaping Hurricane Katrina, and how singing helped her come out of her shell 
Addie Morales plays Cosette in Les Misérables, the musical phenomenon which is 6th longest-running Broadway production of all time. Photo Credit: Broadway San Jose

Arturo Hilario
El Observador

Addie Morales is an actor, singer and performer who is currently on the Les Misérables touring production which arrives to San Jose on October 17-22, 2023 at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts.

Recently she talked with us about the show and her journey towards the stage, breaking down why there is an enduring popularity with the story of Les Misérables, and how being a Latina in the role of Cosette has been a special experience for her and her family.

Les Misérables takes place in 19th century France, telling a story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption – a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. This uplifting story has become one of the most celebrated musicals in theatrical history.

This version has been touring since 2009, when a reinvented version was created to celebrate its 25th anniversary. This is the first time the updated version of the Tony Award-winning musical comes to San Jose.

More information and tickets are available at broadwaysanjose.com.

I was reading that you are originally from New Orleans but moved to Texas as a child?

So my family and I relocated. I was about nine for Hurricane Katrina, so I do still have family in New Orleans. My dad’s side of the family’s from New Orleans, but my mom is from Corpus Christi, and we have a ton of family in Texas, and so it just kind of made sense for us to move over to Texas, and my parents ended up loving it and loved it for us, for the kids, and so we ended up staying. I go back and forth between them.

What was your journey to getting into performance arts? What inspired you, and how did that end up happening for you?

Yeah, funny enough, they are all kind of related. So we moved to Texas after Katrina, and that was a lot for a child to go through. It was a lot for my family to go through. Relocating is hard to do, especially all at once, like, last minute. So we stayed in Texas, and I became kind of a shy child. I was really outgoing when I was younger, but it had an effect on me, and it had an effect on my family, and so my parents were kind of looking for things for me to do, for me to express myself.

They kind of wanted me out of my shell and they had family members tell them, “oh, she’s got a great voice, you should train her, you should put her in voice lessons.” And I was so uninterested, I did not want to perform. We performed for my family, and that was different. It was game, it was fun. But being serious about it, I really didn’t want to do it. And so my dad asked me every day for months. He was like, “I want to put you in voice lessons. Will you take a voice lesson?”

I got into musical theater, and it just kind of helped me process some things, get out of my shell, deal with some of that trauma…it became a therapy, and eventually it became an art.

And I said, no. And the next day he asked me the same question, and I said no. And it went on for like, months, and I became so sick of it. I was like, “okay, I will take one class, like one voice lesson. And if I don’t like, like, I’m quitting. I’m quitting the day after.”

So I took voice lessons until I went to college from twelve to eighteen.

And I loved it. I never looked back. From there I got into musical theater, and it just kind of helped me process some things, get out of my shell, deal with some of that trauma, and I don’t know, it became a therapy and eventually it became an art.

Now, could you touch a little bit on the story of Les Miz and why it continues to kind of have this important space in musical theater?

Yes, of course. It’s a classic for a reason you know. It’s one of those that never goes away because it touches everyone. Basically, you know, we’re following Jean Valjean and his story where he goes from, basically just a petty thief to a moral man. That’s the story that we’re following.

And the story of forgiveness, redemption, overcoming tragedy and overcoming your circumstances, I think not only is relatable to everyone in every walk of life, but it sparks hope and it sparks inspiration. And I think that’s what keeps audiences not only coming back, but sharing it with the next generation, because that’s what we need so badly. We always do need it. And history does repeat itself. But as a world, we’ve gone through quite a lot these last couple of years, and I feel like people are hungry for a story of inspiration. And the music is too good.

Can you touch on your character of Cosette?

I play Cosette. The trope she functions as in the show, is ‘young lovers’. But really what’s funny is there’s this funny video that puts together a compilation of how many times the word Cosette, her name is said in the show, and it’s like countless times because she’s not on stage a ton. There’s so many characters, there’s so many things happening. However, she is the centerpiece of the show.

The concept of Cosette and how the show revolves around her and catapults Jean Valjean into redemption is cool. So, basically, she is the adopted daughter of Jean Valjean. She was born in poverty, and he takes her in after her mother dies, spoilers.

He’s responsible for her and for mentoring her, being her father as she’s growing up and basically keeping her safe, protecting her from the world. And she eventually falls in love with a young boy who’s a part of the rebellion, so drama there. I think all dads have a hard time with their daughters growing up, falling in love. But at the end of the show, she and Marius last. And to me, she’s the concept of bringing that lesson into the next generation.

She is the good that’s been created, the diamond in the rough that’s been created from unfortunate circumstances. And so she kind of ends up being the hope at the end.

For you, what is playing this character compared to the other work that you’ve done so far? And how have you related or do you see any relation to this character?

Yes. I will say I have played a lot of young lovers, for sure. It is a style of mine, I’d say. So it’s familiar to me and also Cosette, a lot of her work, a lot of her stage time and being has to do with her relationship with her dad. And obviously, I have a crazy great relationship with my dad, and so it’s very easy to pull from my own life and play on that.

What teenage girl hasn’t rebelled against her dad but also loves him so much? That’s very Cosette. So that’s helpful for me. But I’d say she’s different from other characters that I’ve played, because you have limited text to work with. So a lot of my job this time with this particular role has been filling in the blanks, coloring in the lines and bringing meaning into what very few lines she has.

Basically that just comes from research – we’re pulling from the hugest book ever. And so you just have to know what you’re talking about, where you come from and all that, because it’s not given to you too much. Within her text, she does not say much, but the key is she is saying so much, but saying so little, what she means is so much. That’s been a challenge, honestly.

And how does it feel to be part of such a storied and tremendous show?

It’s an honor, honestly, when you’re a part of something so much bigger than yourself, it feels bigger than you can imagine. And so many greats have been in this show, right? So many people who have gone on to do amazing things and become stars have been a part of Les Miz. And so you get to just add your little spin to that, you get to be a part of that.

You get to be another name that goes down on the list of amazing people who have been a part of this. So while it is like, “oh, this is a piece of my own,” right? Because that is my own. But she also belongs to everyone. And I’m like, oh, my gosh, she belongs to all of us. We’ve all done this together. And so I don’t know, it’s really cool to think about and I’m honored to have my name on the list of people who have played Cosette. It’s been amazing.

I’ve also been specifically honored to play her because I don’t look how she is traditionally cast as we move into a world where we’re not as obsessed with looks, with the character looks like you can kind of look anyway.

So that’s been really special for me, and I think that’s been really special for my family because that was not a role I always could play, and I always imagined that I could play. So it’s like, so special.

Why do you recommend that people see the show?

You will laugh, you will cry, and you will tell everyone about it. But most importantly, it will leave you with something you didn’t have before. Whether that’s a feeling, whether that’s a thought, whether that is the inspiration or the hope, you will leave with something new, and it is priceless. I encourage everyone to come see this show. We have something special going on.

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