For a play whose title itself calls all its characters miserable, you can expect a few tears to be shed in the process of watching it. The first time I saw Les Miserables in theaters, I choked up in several parts. That is saying something for someone who is not a crier.
But even I will admit that the first time I saw it, I did not quite get it. I did not completely get it the second time I saw it. In fact, it was not until I became a part of MC’s production of Les Mis that I really understood the depth of the story. And that left me with, not tears, but a smile on my face.
Despite the tears, the sadness, and the death throughout the story, there are still places that showcase the power that love and grace can have on a life.
The bishop’s kindness is one such place. Jean Valjean had spent 19 years in prison, and when he was released, no one would give him work because he was a con. This bishop opened up his church, fed him, and allowed him to stay the night and Valjean thanked him by stealing all the silver that he had.
When the police caught him and brought him back to the bishop, the bishop told the police that he had given the silver to Valjean. By doing this, he kept Valjean from going back to prison for the rest of his life. However, he did more than just give him his freedom.
The bishop showed him love, something Valjean had never experienced. The world hated him and cared nothing for him. But by one person’s act of kindness, Valjean himself learned to love. He put aside the person he was and changed his life, trying to show others the kindness the bishop had shown him—to Fantine, to Cosette, to the poor and less fortunate than he.
When released from prison, Javert called Valjean a thief, saying he broke into a house, when really all he did was steal a loaf of bread. The world will always exaggerate the wrong that we do. The best thing, then, is just to exaggerate the love that they deserve. That is exactly what Jean Valjean did.
The amount of death in this show can be overwhelming, but do not write it off as a tragedy just yet. Death is not always a tragedy, and that proves the case in all but one of the deaths in Les Mis.
Fantine died knowing her daughter would be taken care of. Enjolras and the students died fighting for the sake of their country and for what they believed in. Eponine died in the arms of the man she loved. Jean Valjean died knowing Cossette would be safe with Marius, and that he had lived a righteous and honorable life. Although their situations in life were not ideal, they all died in peace.
The only really tragic death is Javert’s suicide. He is the one that never understood grace. When the one man whom he had hunted all his life decided to spare him instead of kill him, he did not understand. Javert knew him to be a criminal, someone who hated the world because the world hated him, someone not worth sparing because of the crimes he had committed.
He asks himself if Valjean should be forgiven. He is so close to understanding grace. He understands that what he thought is not so: “The world I have known is lost in shadow.” But what is sadder than Javert not understanding grace is his not being able to live in a world where grace was offered.
Instead of accepting this world, he chooses to leave it. Because he believed that people like Valjean could never change, he never could imagine a world where sins could be reprieved. But the beauty of Les Mis is witnessing, although some will never understand it, how God can take the most hateful of hearts and teach it to love. This is what Javert failed to see; change is possible, but only if that change comes from God.
These were the things I missed the first several times I saw the musical. It took being a part of it, hearing the words over and over, becoming too familiar with them, and then trying to listen to them as if it were the first time for me to really understand the depth of the story.
The music still gives me goose bumps even while I am the one on stage singing. Anyone can sit and devote three uninterrupted hours to watching a movie or a musical and find themselves so enthroned in the story that it brings them to tears.
But I think it speaks volumes to the story that someone as distracted as a cast member, whose focus is on a thousand things during the course of the show—costume changes, making sure you have your props, making sure the right furniture is on stage, even simple chatting with your fellow cast-mates—can stop for just two minutes to listen to a song and be moved to tears.
I hope you get a chance to see the show. Our original six shows sold out, so we added two nights. When those sold out, we began selling tickets to the dress rehearsals. I think that says more about the story than it does the people putting it on, but I hope you enjoy our interpretation of it as well.
These actors and actresses, along with director Chris Roebuck and musical director Carol Joy Sparkman, are some of the most talented people I have ever had the pleasure of working with, and their hard work and dedication to this show is something you won’t be able to miss when you come and see it. Here is some of the talent you will see when you come:
Jean Valjean—Christopher Adams
Fantine—Emma Wilson and Jennifer Smith
Madame Thenardier—Kayla Fuentes and Mandy Kate Myers
Eponine—Olivia Broome and Ashley Elizabeth Murray
Cosette—Sarah Proctor and Lee Lee Waits
“To love another person is to see the face of God.” –Victor Hugo
– Kimberly Dingess, Contributing Writer