Student Actors Pay Tribute to Les Mis

For K. Eliza Harris ’03, who played young Cosette in the Broadway production of Les Miserables for two years, the great white way will always bring back memories.

She and another Harvard actress, Eden Riegel, Class of 2002—who also played young Cosette—will have a chance to recall their days on the stage come December. Both have been invited back to Broadway with other past cast members to sing at the celebrated Palace Theatre as part of a tribute to Les Miserables’ 16-year run.

The longest-running Broadway show, it will close its doors this spring.

“It’s kind of bittersweet. The reason that we’re doing this is that the show’s closing, and I didn’t know about that until I got the call,” said Harris, a Kirkland House resident and a biochemistry concentrator. “I knew some of the crew. The actors changed, but the same doorman has been there forever.”


The tribute itself is part of the 14th annual Gypsy of the Year variety show, a New York City charitable event which raises funds to combat AIDS and is run by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Many Broadway shows solicit donations for the charity before the curtains go up in addition to performing original skits for the competitive variety show, advertised as “possibly the season’s most dazzling talent show.” Celebrity judges choose two winners, one for fundraising and one for the best skit.


The approximately 120 former Les Miserables cast members estimated to return will sing “Do You Hear the People Sing?”—a song from the play—which Harris said holds special significance for her.

“During intermission, when it’s your last show, they always sing ‘Happy Trails’ to you in the basement of the theater,” she reminisced. “But I really liked ‘Do You Hear the People Sing?’ and so they sang that for me instead of ‘Happy Trails.’ It was just a really, really nice thing for me.”

Now, more than a decade after the South Carolina native first stepped onto a Broadway stage, Harris said the invitation to return to Broadway—if only for a short stint—was a complete surprise.

“It was definitely out of the blue. They’ve called and asked as many people as they can find to try to come down,” said Harris, who has sung in several Harvard productions including Merrily We Row Along and last year’s Dot-comedy.

Riegel, who could not be reached for comment, is currently on leave from Harvard to play Bianca on the ABC soap opera “All My Children.” Riegel’s long list of acting credits includes Sarah in American Pie and an Emmy nomination for her role in the soap opera.

The Palace Theatre, where the show will be staged, is one of the biggest theaters on Broadway, according to Harris.

For Harris, who is also president of Harvard Friends of the Red Cross, the fact that the show will be an AIDS benefit is just another reason to be excited about her role.

“I probably would’ve gone down anyway, but it certainly doesn’t hurt [that it’s for charity],” she said.

Michael Graziano, producer of the Gypsy of the Year show, said he hopes this year’s show is as successful as last year’s.

“Last year, over $2 million was raised, and we’re hoping that that’s the same case this year,” he said.