Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Production Runs at The Orpheum: Q&A with Timothy Gulan

Updated: 02/18/2014 9:56 AM KSTP.com By: Sarina Long

Photo: Photo courtesy of Hennepin Theatre Trust

Les Miserables opened last night at The Orpheum in downtown Minneapolis and entertained a crowd of all ages. This timeless story of grace, love and sacrifice is in its 25th anniversary production and features an amazing live orchestra under the musical direction of Lawrence Goldberg.

I had a chance to talk to Timothy Gulan who plays Thenardier, a character you will grow to love and hate throughout this musical.

This is not your first time performing in this musical, tell me about the role you originally had 20 years ago.

It's actually pretty funny, there's a sewer scene where my character today (Thenardier) is dragging a dead body and robbing it. I was that dead body 20 years ago. I have my tour jacket from them.

What can the audience expect?

For anyone that saw the movie, there's that raw emotion coupled with world class voices which the movie didn't have because they were movie actors. Fantastic singing, the orchestra sounds enormous, it adds to the hugeness of the show. It's also very different every night for us, there's always something new that can happen with every show. Another difference from the movie. You get that immediate feel of all these people with their lives on the line acting, for the most part, not me (laughs) selfishly for each other which is really fantastic.

How did you prepare for this U.S. tour?

Everybody prepares differently. My job on this show is to keep things light but also to keep things realistic and dark. All I do is goof around with everyone before we start and goof around to see that everyone is prepared mentally.

I've done a lot of research to prepare when I auditioned years ago. Now, I spend a lot of my time talking to the audience. I come out and I play every night and I see what people respond to. The best way to prepare is to just be in that moment. For the audience, this only takes place once but for us the trick is to remind yourself that it also only takes place right now.

Which city that you visited on this tour has left an impression on you?

I grew up in Connecticut. [Editor's note: turns out Tim and I grew up in the same small town of Rocky Hill, Connecticut and on the same street. Small world.]

One of the really strange things about this piece is that Hugo said the reason why he wrote this story is because there are always going to be poor people, there's always going to be the miserable ones, the book title. When we visited San Francisco, that was one of the places that really hit home for me because the theater is in an area where there is a tremendous homeless population so everyday as you leave the theater you see these people and you go, "God it's still around." Most theaters are downtown so everyday regardless if we're in the U.S. or Canada you just see there are stories still needing to be told unfortunately. 

There's a point in the show where there's an uprising and you see the battle between the students and the government.

My favorite scene? 

The sewers. In the book Hugo writes that the sewers are the heart of Paris and you are whoever you are when you're in the sewers. To me it's the most opposite of my personality so it's the most fun scene to play. I'm not a psychopath. 

What advice would you give to anyone looking to pursue a career in theater? 

You have to throw yourself into the deep end and go after it. You have to work hard, learn as many songs as you can to get ready for every show. You have to go into every audition and keep saying yes to everyone -- directors, costume designers, whoever. 

Les Miserables the book is a classic. It's not a short read. Once you're at the theater you will understand that Valjean is every man. This performance stands on its own, like a piece of art.  

Les Mis runs through this Sunday, August 4. For ticket information, visit hennepintheatretrust.org. Prices range from $39 to $149. 


Sarina Long is an entertainment columnist covering the latest entertainment news for KSTP.com.