It was only five years ago. Phoenix Best was 19 years old and selling tickets to Les Misérables as part of her job at Ticket Philadelphia when she went to see the musical for the first time.
She remembers thinking, “I want to be in that show. I want to play Éponine so bad. And it’s crazy now that I’ve come full circle playing that role on the same stage.”
She’s talking about the stage at the Academy of Music, where eight times a week through Sunday, January 21st, Best is performing the role of Éponine in the touring production of Les Misérables (commonly referred to as Les Mis.)
Raised in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia, Best did musical theater in high school and at De Sales University in Center Valley, Pennsylvania before heading to New York City. She quickly found work with smaller and understudy roles in The Color Purple, and Dear Evan Hansen. Éponine is her first major role in a large-scale production.
“On My Own” is Éponine's big song in Les Mis, capping the character’s story of friendship, loyalty, and unrequited love. The key to inhabiting her character, says Best, is not to feel too sorry for herself.
“She has this tenacity, this bravery and this strength, even though she’s going through hard stuff. Everyone goes through something hard. The one thing about Les Mis is everyone is going after a goal. They’re not always the same, they’re always trying to achieve, and they’re very determined. Some people get it and some people don’t, and that’s just how life is.”
Phoenix Best is also very determined, and she can check off at least one goal, made five years ago as she sat in the balcony at the Academy of Music. A moment she was reminded of when she stepped onstage at the beginning of this run.
“The theater is really beautiful … and I looked up and saw exactly where I sat when I saw the show five years ago, and thought, I wonder if that person feels exactly like I felt?”