Life on stage: Two Baldwin Wallace alums land roles in Les Misérables national tour

Intense days filled with wardrobe fittings, meticulous lighting decisions, full dress rehearsals—and the eager anticipation of countless opening nights across the country.

Actors Eden Mau and Ethan Rogers love every minute of it.

The recent Baldwin Wallace University music theater graduates are cast members in the national tour of “Les Misérables,” which launched earlier this month at Playhouse Square.

“One Day More” from Les MisérablesThe musical, based on Victor Hugo’s timeless novel that tells the tale of sacrifice and redemption in 19th Century France, runs through Sunday, Oct. 30 at the KeyBank State Theatre.

After the national tour launch in Cleveland, the production will wend its way to the west coast, stopping in cities that include Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Providence, Milwaukee, Detroit, and Nashville.

Here’s a look at these two BW alums path to becoming Broadway tour actors.

A family legacy
For Mau, 22, BW class of 2022, the magic of theater is a treasure lovingly handed down from one generation to the next.

During the 1990s, her father, Gary Mauer, played the role of revolutionary leader Enjolras on Broadway and in a national tour ofLes Misérables.” Now, his daughter is helping to breathe new life into the beloved musical as a member of the ensemble and understudy for the role of Cosette.

“My father loves this show so much,” Mau says, “and it has a special place in my heart, too. Cosette has such an interesting story. On the outside, you see this very prim, put together, wealthy girl with beautiful dresses and perfect hair. But you forget that she’s a rough kid who had a really tough childhood and went through a lot to get where she is. What I try to do with her is not hide that fact.”

Although Mau officially hails from West Orange, New Jersey, she spent much of her childhood on the road with her dad and mom, Elizabeth Southard. The couple was co-starring as the Phantom and Christine in a national tour of “Phantom of the Opera.”

“Bring Him Home” - Nick Cartell as ‘Jean Valjean’ from Les Misérables“People are surprised to learn I’m from West Orange because I don’t have a Jersey accent,” Mau says with a smile. “That’s because I wasn’t there very often. Theater was all I knew for a long time. My parents made it a point to remind me what a rough industry it was and not push me into it.”

But at age 13, after seeing her parents rehearse a triple-time step they’d perform during a benefit concert in Omaha, Nebraska, the teen was hooked.

“From the moment we got home, dancing was all I thought about,” she recalls. “I knew that studying dance, voice, and acting was the natural trajectory for me. When college time rolled around, I’d made up my mind that musical theater was the career for me.”

Mau graduated from BW this past May with a bachelor of music degree. “I moved to New York, had my first in-person audition, which was for ‘Les Mis,’ and here I am,” she says.

Mau’s choice of BW was one of happenstance. While attending a college prep master class in New York, she met Colton Ryan, who was an understudy in the Broadway musical “Dear Evan Hansen.” Ryan, a BW alum, described the university’s attributes and strongly encouraged her to visit the campus.

“Majoring in music theater is madness,” Mau says. “You’re advised to audition for so many schools. That was the first time I heard about BW, and I promised to check it out.”

She admits that her first impression was that BW appeared to be “in the middle of nowhere.” But Mau was quickly captivated by the campus’ homey ambiance and is grateful for the guidance the university’s lecturer of voice Sandra Simon and dance program coordinator Gregory Daniels provided.

“BW does an awesome job in really, really setting you up for real life,” Mau says. “During [university] shows, callbacks, and auditions, you get a taste of what it’s going to be like in the real world.”

“Red and Black” from Les MisérablesMau says that real world preview gave her a good base for auditioning for Broadway shows. “As an 18-year-old coming out of high school, that can be very daunting, scary, and intimidating,” Mau says. “But now, actually being in the industry, I understand how helpful that experience was.”

Mau was invited last spring to video audition for the role of Cosette, which led to her being called for a live audition on July 15. After singing selections from “Les Mis,” she was asked to go home, change into a dress and return for the final callback later that day. Her performance at the audition was recorded and sent to producer Cameron Mackintosh and his team in London.

“I felt good about the audition, but you never know,” Mau says. “While I waited for news, I told myself, ‘I left it in the room. I did everything I could. Now it’s time to move on with my life.’”

A week later, Mau learned she’d be part of the tour.

“This show feels very different than anything else you can experience right now on television or in other theater pieces,” she reflects. “Much of what’s out there is so pedestrian, where the costumes are jeans and a T-shirt and the plot is, ‘Oh yeah, that happened to my friend.’

“What I love about “Les Misérables” is the epic nature of it and the grandness of the sets, the costumes and the story,” she adds. “And despite how tragic the story is, it’s filled with a profound sense of new life and lessons we can all learn.”

A lifelong passion
Ethan Rogers, 24, BW class of 2021, doesn’t remember a time when he didn’t want to be an actor.

“As a kid, I couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t have the desire I had to be a performer,” he says with a grin.

These days, you’ll spot him as a member of the “Les Misérables” ensemble portraying a member of the downtrodden working class in one scene and a revolutionary student fighting for freedom in another.

As a high school students, it didn’t take long for the stage to be set for his future career to come. While a junior at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in his native Austin, Texas, Rogers was chosen to play protagonist Jean Valjean in a class production of “Les Mis.

“That was the turning point for me,” he recalls. “By the time the show closed, I knew 100% what I wanted to do with my life and began researching which schools might be a good fit.”

Baldwin Wallace was his hands-down choice.

“The university has a very rigorous music-driven program,” says Rogers, who credits associate professor of voice Cynthia O’Connell with helping him hone his range as a tenor. “The faculty makes sure you learn how to make the most of your talents and demonstrate them in an audition room.”

While pursuing his bachelor of music, Rogers had the opportunity to play roles in the BW academic premiere of “Kinky Boots,” as well as join the “Hair” ensemble at Beck Center. He also understudied Petruchio in Great Lakes Theater’s The Taming of the Shrew.

After graduating in 2021, the actor moved to New York and landed a role in “The Nutty Professor,” a new musical penned by Tony Award-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch and lyricist Rupert Holmes, at Maine’s Ogunquit Playhouse.

“The life of an actor is not an easy one,” Rogers reflects. “Typically, it’s a lot of rejection. At BW, you’re taught how to be stalwart in your convictions, understand your worth as an artist, and know that if you work hard enough and are persistent, you have a place in this industry.”

The actor took that philosophy to heart when he was called to audition for the “Les Misérables” national tour.

“[The casting directors] told me they knew this was a show for me,” he says. “They just needed to figure out where to put me.”

Five auditions later, the pieces fell into place. Rogers received the news he’d been anxiously awaiting.

He was in.

“I’m gob smacked with gratitude,” Rogers says. “Les Misérables” has one of the best—if not the best—scores ever written. Having the chance to tell this beautiful story about redemption and God’s love, mercy and justice is a real gift.”

Among the myriad roles Rogers hopes to play throughout his theatrical journey, there’s one that will always receive top billing on his bucket list: A reprisal of Jean Valjean.

“When I played the part in high school, I could only dream about being part of a production like this,” he says. “What a thrill it would be to come full-circle.”

Click here to purchase tickets to see Mau and Rogers in Les Misérables at Playhouse Square. 

Read more articles by Linda Feagler.

Northeast Ohio native Linda Feagler never tires of indulging her passion for arts and culture Her favorite pastimes include attending Broadway musicals at Playhouse Square, visiting one-of-a-kind bookshops that include Loganberry Books in Cleveland Heights and The Learned Owl in Hudson, and spending the day with Impressionists at The Cleveland Museum of Art.