Sunday, March 13, 2011

Happy 25th, Jean Valjean

I spent Sunday afternoon crying. George didn’t even seem to notice, as long as I kept rubbing his belly. What, you ask, put me over the edge? It was PBS’ broadcast of the 25th Anniversary concert performance of Les Miserables.

(For those of you who aren't "theater people," this production is based on Victor Hugo's novel, and is a hugely popular musical that opened in 1985.)

It is almost cliché for a theatre person to like Les Mis. The snootier ones snub it as being too commercial, too pop, too popular. But I loved it long before it was popular to love it, before every Drama Club member or Thespian owned a Les Mis t-shirt.

Actually, the first time I saw the show, I didn’t like it. And, I slept through most of it. It wasn’t my fault, though. My high school theatre group had been to the Improv in New York City until 6am and then went to a matinee of Les Mis the following afternoon. We were destined to sleep – our seats were so far back that the actors were little dots on the faraway stage, and after all, it is three-hour-long, emotional show, which does not mix well with lack of sleep.

Three years later I sat third row center for the London production and was mesmerized. It was the first time I cried in the audience of a theater. Afterward I read the original novel and even did a school paper comparing the two. I even played the songs on the piano and of course sang "On My Own". I loved every bit of the show, every character. I think the best story is one that gives you reason to like the bad guys as well as the good ones. (Javert is my favorite.)

It’s easy to be moved by good theater. I’ve even put a CD in my car and cried to uptempo Broadway songs, just because they’re so damn good.

So, this Sunday I put in a load of laundry and then cried when Jean ValJean sang "Bring Him Home." I made myself some lunch and cried when Eponine died. I emptied the dishwasher and then cried when Fantine’s ghost appeared to take Jean Valjean “home.” And you can just picture me when the original cast members joined in for an encore.

I think it’s great to be moved to tears just because something is so good.

(p.s. I can't write all this without noting the fact that in this 25th anniversary production, Nick Jonas played Marius. He did a fine job, although his voice wasn't as strong as the rest of the cast.)

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