Thursday, November 10, 2005

A night at Music Hall

Last night Angel and I went to see Les Miserables for the third time. It’s my favorite play. As we settled into our center aisle floor seats about twenty rows back, I actually felt anticipation zinging through my veins. As the orchestra opened with the theme, goose-bumps popped up all over my skin. I don’t care how many times I see or hear it, I am moved beyond words.

Victor Hugo, may have been wordy beyond belief in his novels (trust me, the unabridged version trudges through chapters of battles that have no bearing on the actual plot.) but in the end, I believe he understood humanity and was able to portray it better than most people. Each character embodies a facet of humanity that is plain to see in the world around us, as well as within ourselves. Not only can we say, “I know someone like that.” But we can exclaim, “I am that person.” His works are truly classics.

However, it was the overwhelming talent of Alan Boublil, Claude-Michel Schonberg and Herbert Kretzmer, that gave us the musical – and it’s the music that gave Jean Val Jean to the masses.

“Who am I? Can I conceal myself for evermore? Pretend I’m not the man I was before? And must my name until I die, be no more than an alibi? Must I lie? How can I ever face my fellow man? How can I ever face myself again?” As Val Jean questions whether to accept responsibility or take the easy road, you suddenly realize that this man is you. Who hasn’t asked those questions at some point in their life? Forget that I’m not a middle aged convict on the lamb. I am Val Jean. And I feel for him as he struggles to shine light in a very dark place.

“I dreamed a dream in time gone by, when hope was high and life worth living.” Fantine’s fall and death is tragic, yet so full of hope as well. She lived a terribly sad life, but her love was one thing that could not be crushed or stolen. And that in itself is a beam of light to all those that see and know her. Her hope and strength gives Val Jean the courage to face his past again.

Eponine’s life was short, yet we are left with the image of one who was strong and brave, but also tender and vulnerable. She is a real woman. One who has been shaped by life, but not destroyed by it. You know where she’s coming from when she sings, “On my own, pretending he’s beside me. All alone, I walk with him ‘til morning. Without him I feel his arms around me, and when I lose my way I close my eyes and he has found me.” You know she’s in love, and heartbroken that Marius doesn’t really see her for the woman she is, but she doesn’t let that crush her. As she dies in her love’s arms she sings, “You’re here, that’s all I need to know. And you will keep me safe, and you will keep me close, and rain will make the flowers grow.” Hope still beats strong within her despite the fact that she is bleeding to death.

In fact, that is the underlying message throughout the story. We watch four key characters die and several more during the resistance, and yet despite the tragedy, you feel only hope. There are those in this world, like Javert, that refuse to believe that change is possible. That forgiveness is required. They will stand staunchly in their self-righteousness and condemn those around them. But even they can not be completely untouched by the light of those who would prove them wrong.

It only takes one man, one moment to change a life forever. The old priest bought Jean’s soul for God. Through his trust and love, he changed a convict’s life forever. Each one – Fantine, Val Jean, Cossette, Eponine – they each touched a life and changed the world around them. One life at a time, they brought hope.

“One more dawn, one more day, one day more.”


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