Victoria Huston-Elem (Les Miserable – Madame Thenardier)

Written by on March 19, 2024

Victoria Huston-Elem (Les Miserable – Madame Thenardier) By Niki Kaos – by Niki Kaos.

RRX: Les Miserable is one of the best known and longest running shows in musical history. Survival and love against the tumultuous backdrop of 19th century France, this show is packed with drama.

Victoria Huston-Elem takes on the iconic role of debaucherous inn keeper Madame Thenardier’s for the touring production at Proctor’s theater in Schenectady March 19th – 24th. We trade musical theater stories as I learn about life as a working actress.

RRX: What started you in theater?

VHE: I can completely blame that on my mother! (laughs) When I was in second grade my mom started directing plays in my elementary school drama club. Instead of hiring a babysitter me and my childhood best friend would sit in the audience while she’d run rehearsal.

My friend, who was very outgoing, tapped my mom on the shoulder and was like, we know the show. We wanna be in it. So, they put us up on stage and that was it. It was me doing my mother’s musicals every year for four or five years.

RRX: That’s very cool! So, you grew up around musicals.

VHE: Absolutely. My mother was a HUGE theater buff well before I came around. She did theater when she was a kid and in college.

I grew up on Long Island, so I had access to Broadway. My mother and I would go, and she would call it doing a double header or a marathon. We would get cheap tickets to an evening show, and then we would take the train into the city early and get on the line for TKTS to get tickets to a matinee and we’d see two shows in a day.

RRX: That’s fantastic. I think they still have that in Times Square?

VHE Yeah! It was kind of like a booth in the middle of nowhere. They would corral you around it. Then you would wait and hope that whatever show you wanted would still have tickets.

RRX: It was a total lottery!

Tell us about how you got connected to the touring production of Les Miserable.

VHE: I just got really lucky. My agent sent me an audition for Mme. Thenardier, and I thought… They’re not going to give me that job. I was surprised I kept getting called back, and I was thrilled that I got the role.

It is a stunning production of Les Mis. I remember sitting there my first day of work, having rehearsal and then watching the show. I was like, eh, I’ve seen Les Mis like a million times. Then I was fully crying by the end of it! (laughs) So it is thrilling to be a part of a production that resonates with people as much as it does.

RRX: It is an emotionally riveting show. The classic themes of justice, survival, love, and heartbreak are skillfully woven into the music and story.

To me, one of the most memorable scenes is the song “Master of the House”, showcasing the shady operation of Mme Thenardier and her innkeeper husband. You’ve gotta have a little bit of that bawdy character. I bet they saw that when they cast you for the role.

VHE: It’s funny, I feel like I’ve internally struggled in this industry with who I am. What is it that I do? I don’t know what to focus on necessarily.

RRX: I think this is a common challenge for artists in general. How do you find the things that you’re best at and connect with your audience? It can be confusing. You can like all these things, and not always know what you’re good at. Though this role was outside of your comfort zone, you’ve got a good agent who sends you the audition and you give it a shot. And look what happened!

VHE: My agent is always going to send me roles – we think you’ll be great for this. But I think every actor has that… fraud complex. There’s always that little nagging voice. So, it’s nice to have an agent who goes – okay, well, figure it out. Because you’re going to go in there and audition for it. Because we believe in you. I’m lucky to have them in my corner.

RRX: Absolutely! Speaking of your voice, whether it is nagging or crooning – I’ve got to say, that video of you singing “Skylark” on your website! Absolutely breathtaking.

The audience is making some noise, and I’m wondering, are they gonna talk through the whole thing? But they’re cheering you on – like, Get it Girl! And you’re really belting it out! I’m curious – is this like a secret side gig? Do you moonlight as a chanteuse in the jazz clubs?

VHE: Oh my, I would LOVE for that to be my reality!

RRX: I’m feeling it!

VHE: Come on chanteuse – let us call that into being!

Interestingly, that was a really specific evening because it was 54 Below celebrates Aretha Franklin. A good friend of mine was the musical director and he asked me to do it. And I was the lone white girl in the company.

They kept offering me songs, and I was like, nobody wants me to get up there and sing “Think” or “Respect” – I’m sorry, but I’m just not going to be able to do it justice. Let me do some research and see what’s in her cannon that I could potentially carry off. I looked up some of her performances of standards, and her performance of “Skylark” is stunning. So, I said let me do that – let me showcase that part of her career.

It’s a cabaret setting – so people are talking, eating, drinking as you’re performing, and that comes with the territory. I really love the cabaret atmosphere. I love folksy, jazzy music.

RRX: That environment, in a smaller room with the performers right there, as an audience, is very unique and special.

That’s very different than being part of a touring company for a major Broadway show. What is that like? Do y’all have tour buses?

VHE: It depends on how we’re traveling. Sometimes we travel by charter bus, but mostly it’s a lot of airplanes. We do a lot of flying on Mondays. Right now, we’re in the middle of a twelve-week production. We’re in Buffalo, and then we’ll be in Schenectady for a week. It’s twelve weeks, eight shows a week. It is very tiring, so you have to figure out how to maintain your body and your instrument throughout the stretches.

Then we’re heading to Toronto (sings…) For TEN WEEKS! It’s going to be so nice because we’ll have days off to use our time how we like.

RRX: You get to take Broadway with you and visit new cities.

VHE: Absolutely – I LOVE my job. I get paid to go on stage and do a show that just turned 37 years old and is beloved. People are nostalgic for it. They know every word – or they’re brand new to it. And they are crying, and they’ve never seen anything like it. It’s thrilling. I can’t believe that I get to tour and that’s what pays my bills. This is the dream. I truly couldn’t be happier.

RRX: Folks in the Capital Region know you don’t have to travel to NYC to see Broadway class theater – we have it right here in our back yard. Visit to learn about what shows are happening in Schenectady this season.



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