Fri, May 14, 2021
The Australian School of the Arts’ recent 6 show run of the iconic international musical, Les Misérables, was a resounding success, not only in terms of the incredible performances and stagecraft, as well as Community attendance and enjoyment, but even more so because of the educational journey it represented.  For the 130+ students involved in the Cast, Band, Backstage, Lighting, Sound and Media Crews, the 6 month preparatory journey was just as significant as the spectacular and exhilarating 6 show run. 

From the auditions, through months of rehearsals, the final gruelling tech runs and dress rehearsal, to the gamut of opening night nerves and exhilarating highs (and sometimes lows) of the shows, the entire process represents a real-world learning opportunity, equipping students with critical skills required for success, both in school and in the world beyond.

The musical journey impacts on students’ emotional intelligence, from self-awareness and the ability to evaluate and improve their contribution to the show; to self-regulation and taking responsibility for their part in the process.   Students learn the importance of failing first, in order to understand what it takes to succeed; and to receive and proactively act on feedback.  The process of setting high standards for the quality of their own work and the subsequent joy and satisfaction in achieving them, is also crucial to student growth and the building of self-esteem.

Embarking on a musical the size of Les Misérables was always going to be a challenge.  However, The Australian School of the Arts fundamentally believes that our students have the raw potential, and the size of the task we set them is evidence of our belief in their capacity to perform to the highest standards. In a study involving 300 million students worldwide and designed to investigate factors that impact student learning, leading education researcher, Professor John Hattie, showed just this.  Two of the top three influences on student achievement are: student expectations of their own performance and teacher estimates of student achievement.  Les Misérables was, therefore, the ultimate illustration of the extraordinary results that can be achieved when students and teachers work together to achieve stretch goals.

A message received from one of our Cast member parents captures the essence of this perfectly. 

“Author Jason Versey sums up the value of the Musical Teaching team.  ‘When you believe in someone you profoundly increase their ability to have faith in themselves and achieve. When you love someone, you imprint on their heart something so powerful that it changes the trajectory of their life. When you do both, you set into motion, a gift to the world… because those who are believed in and loved understand the beauty of a legacy and the absolute duty of paying it forward.’ Through your love and belief, you are ensuring our children become gifts to the world.  Thank you.”  Cast Member Parent

Apart from the obvious educational benefits, the success of the Les Misérables Musical journey is perhaps best illustrated through the feedback received from patrons, parents, teachers, and students alike.

“We have recently been to performances at QPAC, The Conservatorium and now (Sheldon College) and were literally blown away. The acting was so convincing that I must admit to getting quite emotional during certain scenes. It's hard to realise that these are all school aged performers and musicians who I'm sure have bright futures ahead of them.”  “We live in Alexandra Hills and really do regret not going to your previous shows over the years. But we will from now on.” Show Patron 
“What a performance - still blown away that the whole show is performed by students - I was struggling to hold in my emotions by the end - well done all” Show Patron

“My sister and I saw it tonight, no kids at the College, just two Les Mis tragics, and your production did not disappoint. It was absolutely BRILLIANT. A big congratulations to everyone connected with this show” Show Patron
“It’s very hard to believe that this was a (school) performance, but what about the costumers, and set designers, without whom these incredible performances would not have been possible.  They must have spent many, many hours creating their masterpieces........what a MONUMENTAL PROFOUND ACHIEVEMENT, this event was for all.” Show Patron
 “The musical was the perfect way for me to make what I already believe will be life-long friendships. The motto, Achieve the Extraordinary rings true with my experience of Sheldon College and the Arts opportunities on offer.” Student Cast Member
“Musical this year has helped me in ways I never thought it possibly could. Rehearsals quickly became my favourite part of the week.  I have made so many friends and met so many amazing people. I have developed strong relationships with teachers that will last the rest of my schooling.” Student Cast Member

The Les Misérables Musical journey was thus one of growth, learning, challenge, empowerment and equipping young people with the student exit outcomes that will set them up for success in their lives beyond school.  So, while Les Misérables may be over, the closing lines of the show sum it up perfectly “When the beating of your heart echoes the beating of the drums, there is a life about to start when tomorrow comes!”