By Emell D. Adolphus
Bubbly accountant Alan Semonian is now bubbling with anger on stage as he stomps a few steps forward with a bread thief in tow. In a black tunic and pants fitted with leather belt, and tall boots, his 19th century dominatrix ensemble is complemented with a billy club. He scowls a moment before pushing Jean Valjean hard to the floor. After more than a few rehearsals, Semonian is a believable constable, one of three roles he plays in Les Miserables.
To put a turn on the famous verse, “I dreamed a dream in time gone by…,” Semonian is proof, at 51, dreams may go by with time, but can return to the dreamer to be just as satisfyingly sweet.
Semonian was contestant No. 2 of about 200 people hoping to get a part in Les Miserables. He arrived early to Stagecrafters at Baldwin Theatre in Royal Oak, thinking coming early to auditions, like job interviews, would better his chances. Everyone had a number, “like ‘America’s Got Talent,'” Semonian remembers, with a giddy grin.
During a recent rehearsal, Semonian leans back in an auditorium chair, explaining tryouts. He looks up with eagerness frequently to see if it is time to take the stage again.
He didn’t mind the anticipation to sing for judges. “I was trying out for the chorus because it was my first time,” says Semonian. “I just wanted to be in the show. To me, this is perfect because it’s not overwhelming. I can handle it.”
Numbers at musical auditions are the only familiarity for Semonian. After all, as a Certified Public Accountant, business owner (Ameritax Plus in Berkley), and the president of Berkley’s Chamber of Commerce, numbers are kind of his thing. Singing publicly is not. Semonian says he has never auditioned for any type of performance and can only muster the courage for karaoke when he’s out of town.
“I think for me, singing has always been something that I just enjoyed. I am always breaking out in a song when somebody brings something up that may have a song tune to it,” Semonian says. He shares with me the chorus tryout song, “At The End of The Day,” by singing a few lines with bouncy rhythm, “At the end of the day your another day older…”
“The key here is to actually feel the emotions of what you are singing and what you are singing about. So just trying to put yourself in that place of what it would be like to be in that role,” says Semonian, whose roles includes constable, student revolutionary, and monsieur No. 2. “It’s all new to me; that’s what makes it challenging. I am ueber observant of how things are happening around me.”
For someone whose only musical training comes from childhood piano lessons, Semonian may speak softly, but he sings with a sturdy voice that borders between baritone and tenor. Rehearsing on stage, his voice is loud with professional like theater diction when serenading his solo as constable.
“It’s kind of surprising I am not being intimidated by being on stage. I am still focused on what time you have to be out there, even what we were adding today; today was about moving,” says Semonian, sharing with me his favorite song in Les Miserables, “Do You Hear the People Sing?”
“For me, it’s giving 100 percent. I am totally into showing up for rehearsals and giving it my best and trying something new each time. What surprises me is that I am not intimidated by constructive criticism. I am not used to having someone say there is a better way to do this and that’s been a nice process,” Semonian explains, self-reflecting. “This (musical) is absolutely my favorite. That’s why I was so motivated to try out for it. It’s the only musical that I love all the music. This is what I would consider modern-day opera.”
While on the subject of opera, Semonian affirms, “I am having a ball.” But he’s also seeing his dream come true.
“What I learned from this is that there are things that maybe we have all wished to do and we think that we are too old to start. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you can go after your passion. That’s the message in it for me. This is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I’ve never made the time to do it. (At) 51 years old, I’m like, ‘You know what? I’m going to start.'”
September 6-8, 12-15, 19-22, 26-29
The Baldwain Theatre Main Stage
415 S. Lafayette Ave., Royal Oak