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On this edition of THE INTERVUE, the crème de la crème of classic musicals has made its way to our Kennedy Center. Yes, I am talking about Les Misérables 

In 1986, the Kennedy Center hosted the pre-Broadway run of what has become, undisputedly, one of the world’s most popular musicals. Now, we are bringing her home. Seen by over 130 million people worldwide, this brilliant production has been hailed as “Les Mis for the 21st Century” (Huffington Post). Witness the epic story of love, passion, sacrifice, and redemption—a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit.

Our special guest is honored to make her national debut on the tour. While she’s not performing, she is a student at the University of Michigan and when you hear her performing the signature song “I Dreamed a Dream” you will fall in love with the special talented actress who plays Fantine – Haley Dortch

How are you doing, Haley? Welcome to THE INTERVUE!

Hi, I’m doing so well today. I’m so honored and excited to be here.

I’m so glad to hear. Now before we begin, I have to share one unique fact that we both share. When I did some research on you, you mentioned that you share a birthday with Oprah right?

Yes, this is true.

I do too. I am a January 29th baby as well.

Oh my gosh, that is insane. It’s so funny, because I’m actually a twin. So, I had a shared birthday my entire life. And now here we are, you can be our triplet.

Yeah, I think now I feel that our interview was kismet, it was because we share the same day!

The universe has drawn us together!

So glad to be talking with you. And as I mentioned that start, once I heard you sing that song, I was in tears. It was amazing. It was brilliant. I am so glad that you played Fantine in the show. Now the first question I want to ask is, I want you to talk about your experience of playing Fantine on your national tour debut and describe her as portraying her as a woman of color.

Yes, I mean is it plays such a large role into how I feel I interpret the character because I have such a different lived experience from other people who are not people of color. And so, what I bring to this role is different how it appears to the audience is different as well. It means a lot to me, and it’s immense pressure, but I have immense pride in it because it I see myself in the show of a Broadway in the audience of a Broadway musical when I was younger, just like, wishing that there were more people that looked like me and now I get to be that representation for people of color. And that means so much to me. I’m glad I can be that person for people. This has been so rewarding and so challenging. And so, rewarding because it’s been so challenging.

I came into this role thinking I was I was too young and I didn’t have much in common with Fantine and I saw myself more as like Éponine honestly. And through playing her discovered that we have so many similarities and I well one of the betrayals of her that I’ve made is very similar to me.

She kind of feels these negative circumstances and is just asking the universe “Why are you killing my dream, I’m dreaming this dream. And now that I am living my life, like, I can’t live my dream.” And, there are times that we feel that way that we can’t reach these dreams, but we keep fighting for, you know, what we need and what we want out of life, and she wants to protect her daughter, she wants to be there for her daughter, no matter what, no matter what she’s feeling, she is a protector, and she is a fighter. And that’s something I admire about her greatly.

Haley Dortch as Fantine in Les Misérables – Photo: Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

Absolutely, the play still resonates over 35 years later and here you are not only a woman of color, but you are a queer black woman of color. How does that experience influence or nuance Fantine, especially since we had many depictions of her before, but you bring something new to the element to this character?

I can relate to, here I am just being thrown out because of my circumstance. They see Fantine as a woman who had a child out of wedlock. And so, she’s seen as this awful human being just because of a part of who she is. And I can feel I can relate to the stripes of the character, because, here I am as a person of color as a queer person, and I just want to be who I am.

I feels like I can’t be that sometimes. But no matter what I’m going to prove that like, this is part of me, this is who I am. I will keep going no matter what, because that’s what it’s about. It’s not about listening to other people or other people’s opinions. It’s about who I am and how I will continue on.

And I’m very proud that you have stepped into this role, and show the world what you’re made of, and don’t fear anything.

Thank you, I appreciate it. You’re welcome.

I read that not only you are on the road performing, but you’re also a student at the University of Michigan’s musical theater program. So how do you handle that balance of being on the road, and yet continuing your studies back home in blue country?

Right, it’s crazy. So technically, I am still enrolled as a student. I have like all of these credits, and I am taking classes online. I haven’t taken classes within the musical theater school itself, because it’s just impossible to put on Zoom. I love to learn and it’s actually something that keeps me sane is to keep learning and keep expanding my mind and in anything besides musical theater. So, it’s a hard balance, you know, find the time for myself to take for myself to sit down and take a class. But I find it’s really rewarding. And I’d love to do it.

How many years left you to get your degree?

One more

Amazing, I definitely see it right in your path. So, keep it going. This is this is your national tour debut. How are you handling the tour life? Do you have a favorite city so far, or a city that you’re looking forward to seeing on tour one day?

Absolutely, I love the scene in DC. It’s always been one of my favorite places to be. I really enjoyed Philadelphia, I really enjoyed Richmond, Virginia. And it’s so excited, we are going to be starting our West Coast soon. I’m excited to get to Seattle, get to L.A. and go to wine country and Napa when we’re in San Francisco. There’s so many places I’m just dying to see.

I’m so fortunate that tour kind of provides this life for me and provides the fact that I get to travel around the country, which is insane. I would say that tour life been extremely difficult. It’s more difficult than I would ever imagine for it to have been. It kind of feels like you never get to rest and you’re always traveling and you’re never settled. And this is my first time personally being away from my family for so long and also not having a winter break from college or a spring break.

It’s a major mind tests for sure. But you know, I love these moments that I get to remind myself how difficult it is because I’m doing it. I have to remind myself that I’m doing it, and I’m doing it well. I get to share my art around the country and help inspire people and do these amazing interviews where I get to talk about how much I love to do what I do, no matter how hard touring, and it’s like, there’s so many rewarding aspects to it.

Since you mentioned DC is one of your favorite cities to visit, is this your first time visiting the nation’s capital at a while or is this your totally first time being here?

I have been here a couple of times. I came here when I was much younger. Then I was here, actually a few months back, my girlfriend at the time, and I had taken a quick weekend visit to the nation’s capital, and we had a blast. I’m excited to be back here now. I’m with my family and we just went to the Capitol yesterday in the Supreme Court and did so much walking. And it’s been such gorgeous weather as well. So, we really lucked out.

And make sure before you leave you try some crab before you leave. That’s advice from one Washingtonian to a visiting actor. When did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career in theatre?

It’s funny because I grew up being an athlete. And if you’d asked me. freshman year of high school, where I was going to what my plan in life was, I would say, “Yeah, I’m gonna try and go do one and get a business degree.” And the thought of that is hilarious to me now. It’s crazy how life can just change like that. I have always been in choir and I’ve loved singing. And then I got to be in a production of The Little Mermaid, my freshman year of high school. I was like, “you know, I really enjoy this.” And sophomore year, I took my first theater class, and it was like, “yeah, now I really enjoyed this.” And I would say, Junior year is when I really made the commitment to be like, “Yeah, this is what I want to do. This is something I really love doing. And I feel like I’m good at it.”

That’s amazing. I’m glad that you kept up the craft. Now we all know, Les Mis is a story that talks about the survival of the human spirit, change, and reckoning resonates with you, since the story was written back in the 1800s and here we are in 2023. What is it about this story resonates with you?

I find my Les Mis to be such a beautiful piece because of its timelessness. It’s amazing how it can just speak to anyone at any point in time it feels like and it has a message to convey to literally anyone. I find it beautiful, even the word that we say at the end, we’re coming down as an ensemble and as we’re coming down, we’re walking down stage, and we’re singing, “Will you join on our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you want to see?”

And every night, if I’m feeling like I had a rough show, or I’m not feeling my best, or I’m feeling anxious, like I remember those words, because I remember that’s what this is about. That’s what the story was about. What is the change that we want to see? And will you join us to make this change and to make the world the place that we want it to be and it’s beautiful message I love the story is amazing.

I think I have found my new motto to put into life. What does the representation mean for both audiences and young actors of color?

I mean, it means exactly that, like they see that. They can become an actor. One day because they see this representation on stage. I remember, I was actually saying “I Dreamed a Dream” for my sixth-grade talent show, funnily enough and for the audition for the talent show, which I did not get into. Yeah, I would like to give a shout out to that teacher, because it really worked out for me now. I would say, I sang it, and I was like, this is just a song that I’m gonna sing, I’m never gonna play this role because this role isn’t for me. This isn’t my type of role.

I don’t see people who look like me, or identify like me, in these roles in these leading positions in this production. We have so many leading roles, and who are filled by people of color. And it’s a really beautiful moment when Randy Jeter, who is one of our Belgian covers, when he goes on at the epilogue, literally, all of us are on stage, all the principles that are normally and Randy are on every one on color, or everyone on stage is a person of color. And that is such a powerful moment to see, you know, like, we are making strides and we are we are taking our place, we are taking our space. I can only imagine if I had seen that when I was younger, how much more confident I would have been. I’m very honored to instill this confidence into this younger generation and let them know like they can be a part of this and they can do it.

Absolutely, I felt the same way when I saw Phantom of the Opera. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the original New York run was just ended a few days ago. I remember seeing Phantom of the Opera that one time in Baltimore and seeing an African American man in the title role. And that brought me so much pride.

I’m glad that we’ve made strides in the theater world, in television, in the world of art – we can do anything. There is no limit on what we can and cannot do. Even though, you play the pinnacle role in Broadway history, when it comes to female roles, is there a role one day that you would love to play in your career?

Oh, there’s so many. I mean, everybody wants Elphaba, that’s real. I could see that happening one day. I would love to do it. Not quite yet. I think I need more experience and more training to be able to sustain that kind of work that is Elphaba, but I would also love to be Jenna in Waitress. I would actually funnily enough love to be Christine Daaé in Phantom.

Oh, wow. hopefully fingers crossed, they will have been on tour. Or they’ll bring it back and Broadway in a few years. Haley, my birthday twin. Thank you, thank you so much! This has been wonderful!

Thank you so much. I really feel honored to have been a part of it. And this love that we share the same birthday.

Les Misérables at the Kennedy Center Opera now playing until April 29th. Tickets can be purchased through their website kennedy-center.org, at the Box Office or by calling 202-467-4600 or toll free 800-444-1324. Get your tickets and for a thrill of a lifetime.

PLEASE NOTE: If a performance is sold out, check back later or call the box office. A limited number of seats could become available closer to the performance.

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