by Bri Kilroy | photo by Joan Marcus
Les Misérables: a nominalization of the adjective that identifies a group of fictitious characters existing in the realm of early 19th century France; yet they are known throughout the world and across time as models of true human hardship, mistakes, resilience and redemption. Six years since Les Misérables last appeared in GR, the national touring musical returns to DeVos Performance Hall, sharing the story that has connected with international audiences since it first premiered in Paris in 1980.
“Les Misérables is one of the longest-running musicals in the world,” Meghan Distel, Broadway Grand Rapids’ marketing director, said. “It’s a story of triumph during difficult times, and that resonates with those who experience it.”
Les Misérables (pronounced: lay miz-ayr-ahb-luh,) is based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel. The play immediately pulls attention into the story as powerful music performed by a live orchestra takes the stage followed by a downtrodden arrival of prisoners belting ballads of their misery as they serve their sentence. Among them is Jean Valjean, whose history of crime devastates the possibility of starting over, even when on parole. With surprising kindness from the town Bishop, Valjean adopts a new identity and reroutes his path toward a new life.
Audience members find Valjean’s pursuit of redemption and effort to better himself reflective of the innate human spirit. Additional characters, major and minor, who appear throughout the story strike cords with viewers as each is conflicted with independent and shared peril. Fantine is a mother who desperately tries to provide for her daughter, but is battered by her un-wed label and forced into disgrace before falling fatally ill. Cosette is the now orphaned daughter who prays for freedom from the cruelty of her employers. Meanwhile, time culminates into the Paris Uprising of 1832 that envelopes the community with more tragedy.
The musical beautifully touches on dark topics that, one way or another, audience members throughout the decades can relate to. Whether it’s liberation from a shameful past, strongly holding on to hope when all seems lost, allowing love to be a prominent guide in actions or standing up for what you believe in, the characters of Les Misérables expose not just the natural faults of humanity, but the extraordinary strength we possess to make a change in ourselves and the world.
Touring all over the country, Grand Rapids is the only city in Michigan the Broadway production of Les Misérables is playing. An updated set design and vicarious energy that comes with a live performance gives longtime fans and musical novices an unforgettable Broadway experience.
What: Les Misérables presented by Broadway Grand Rapids
Where: DeVos Performance Hall, 303 Monroe Ave. NW
When: November 21-26. Showtimes at Devosperformancehall.com
Tickets: Starting at $55. Tickets available at Broadwaygrandrapids.com