Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Les Miserables - more like Les Incroyables

We headed out, the four cousins from the city, to the small town of Dawson.
The sun setting in front of us, we drove (well technically, I was driven) to the family farm.

The following day, we went on an incredible adventure inside an auditorium, as we watched my fantastic cousin perform in his High School musical. And no, I don't mean the High School Musical. There were no cheerleaders or angsty teenage power ballads about love and singing. Rather, it was a production of Les Miserables, an entirely lyrical musical. This would be a task for a school with 1,000 students, but this school only has 100. But both the talent and commitment of the students was undeniable. And the result was a musical that would supersede any large school production, or even a professional one at that.

Now, I am not easily pleased. I enjoy talent and I am not satisfied with anything less than perfection. This is a lie, but if it weren't, I would still have been satisfied. But these students couldn't just simply carry a tune, they could sing. They sung with gusto and heart. They were talented enough to be the Broadway production itself. The songs are all meaty, yet romantic. All about love, life, compassion, justice, redemption, and the power to change your stars. It is heavy material for high schoolers, but the performers portrayed their roles with maturity and grace.

This is a song from the original show - and then this is a photo of the production I saw. The original show does not do them justice. They were far better!

Les Miserables is the musical adaptation of the book of the same name written by Victor Hugo. It is the story of a man, Jean Valjean and of a student rebellion in Paris.

The play begins when Valjean is released from prison after 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. His life is in the pits now, for as a criminal he is treated as less than man. In this society, many social injustices limited the lives of individuals merely seeking survival. When a kindly bishop shows him grace and encourages him to reform his life, he is given a second chance.

Valjean breaks his parole and turns his life around. He becomes mayor of a town and a well respected man. Javert, an overly righteous man, believes that once a criminal always a criminal and that God does not have forgiveness for these people, and they should be forever condemned. Thus, he considers it his job to not rest until Valjean pays for his crimes.

As mayor, Valjean meets a young woman named Fantine, who was a worker in one of his factories. She is fired for having a child, and Valjean blames himself for her misfortune. He takes it upon himself to care for her daughter, Cosette, after Fantine dies.

Cosette and Valjean move to Paris after Javert discovers that Valjean is the mayor of the town. It is tough times in Paris, and the poor are being grossly oppressed.

While in Paris, Cosette falls in love with a young man named Marius, a member of the student army. Marius falls in love with her in return. However, a young woman named Eponine is also in love with him.

The most incredible figure in the show enters the picture at his point. His name is Enjolras (my cousin!), and he is the leader of the student rebellion. He is debonair and charismatic, encouraging the young men to join up with him and fight against the monstrosities and social injustices. He believes that it is better to die fighting for justice than to sit idly by. He leads his men to the barricades where they meet their fate. Undoubtedly, one could say that Enjolras is the true star of the show. 

However, through the fate of the men in the barricades, we see that true battles are not won through violence, but through love and compassion. 

The young man that played Valjean was fantastic. His warmth and gentle spirit were properly exuded from the stage. And when he sang, it was positively heartbreaking. If I were a crier, it probably would have made me shed a tear. 

Javert was great. He had the proper stick up his rear exterior, while letting us into the vulnerable interior. Javert is misunderstood, because he is blind. He sees someone for their class and societal role, believing that is the only thing that defines them, which is why he cannot get past this qualm with Valjean. He was perfectly portrayed, giving light to all of the character's hidden truths.

The character of Enjolras is very important, and he would fall flat if improperly cast. But, let's just say, that the only man talented and powerful enough for the role, was my cousin. His stage presence was superb, commanding and gripping. It was enough for me to want to join up with him and fight in his battle. His singing was incredible. He was so convincing as Enjolras that I almost forgot that I was related to him.

And I could go on to describe the great attributes of every single character, and how they all sang beautifully and made the play appear seamless. But I will just say this; what was trivial  for this musical was not only the ability to sing, but the ability to commit heart and soul to their words and actions. And everyone accomplished that.

The costumes, the set design, the rotating stage, the singing, the casting - this all contributed to three wonderful hours of my life. Which turned into six incredible hours with a second viewing!
Once was simply - not enough. 
Therefore, we delayed our departure from Dawson until after the Sunday matinee. 

The sun setting behind us, we drove home.
Not to arrive until 6 a.m. the next day. And, I leave for Baby's house at 6:30. But, I got a Redeye at Sbux and drank diet coke throughout the day, never felt too tired.

It was so worth it. It was worth the total of 20 hours we drove to be there (though I never actually had to drive, so I can't really complain). I wouldn't have missed it for anything.

I am so proud of my cousin and of all of the students. Les Miserables is an incredible undertaking that requires a multitude of stars to pull off. And somehow, in their itty bitty school, these stars were discovered.

Let me just conclude by saying that rather than Les Miserables, I think they were Les Incroyables!

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