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Les Misˇrables

WILL SEBERGER/ Arizona Daily Wildcat
Les Misˇrables stagehands build part of the set earlier this week in Centennial Hall. The show runs through Sunday night. Tickets range from $20 ÷ $54.
By Lisa Schumaier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday February 27, 2003

Musical's story of rebellion remains relevant

Anyone who claims that musicals are silly has not been to a performance of "Les Misˇrables." Captivating audiences all over the world since 1987, the music and the story of "Les Misˇrables" will make its third appearance in Tucson.

"People wonder why this musical has played longer than any other. I think it is because of two reasons: The music is amazing and it is familiar, so people want to see what they have heard for 18 years," production stage manager Peter Van Dyke said.

"But I also think it has played longer because it feels universal, this search for redemption," he said.

Though the plot is common knowledge in popular culture, the story of "Les Misˇrables" delves deeper than mere entertainment.

"It is an adaptation of a novel so it is epic in that sense," UApresents intern and fine arts management senior Aimee Epstein said.

The novel , written by Victor Hugo in 1862, is embedded in history, philosophy and political theory.

"The action of the play begins in 1815, which was a year of great change in France. It was the last year of the reign of Napoleon and covers a period of great unrest in its history. The monarchy was restored but not successfully, and it fostered a very oppressive society. The rich loyals ran the country and everyone else suffered. And that is what concerned Victor Hugo when he wrote the novel. In fact, he was in exile because of his outspoken stance against the restoration of the world," Van Dyke said.

"The story starts with the main character's release from being a convict. It follows his adoption of this young girl and how she grows up. But it's in conjunction with the story of these students in France starting a revolution," Kurt Bradley, a UApresents intern and fine arts management senior, said.

"It is interesting ÷ the second act is really about students trying to change the world. It makes you think about the power of students and what students have to say about society ÷ and especially a society that reflects ours today, where we have a lot of differences between rich and poor and a government that is maybe not as responsive to Īles misˇrables,' the downtrodden," Van Dyke said.

"They want the world to be a better place not only for the rich and powerful, but everyone. I think that speaks to a mood among students these days."

More than a hundred years after the conception of "Les Misˇrables," the tale has become a chronicle of sorts across cultures and decades, and still has relevance today.

"It is funny because today everyone is heated about the issue in Iraq, and you have these students who are gathering and sharing their ideas about oppression or what the government is doing wrong in their eyes. And the characters actually stand up and do something about it. It echoes something powerful." Bradley said.

"It is about the societal differences between rich and poor. It is also about one person's struggle to behave well in a world where justice exists," Van Dyke said.

However, the social commentary of Hugo's work and its timeless bearing is not what made the musical a huge success. Not even the critics helped create its fame. It was the audiences.

"I have never seen a performance of this show where the audience did not stand up and cheer." Van Dyke said. "We have been in four countries, playing for 14 years nonstop, in all the states except for six."

"The first time I saw the show was back in high school. It was amazing because you go to the theater and you see these people on stage moving around with this huge turntable and the barricades coming from the sides. People are running around on top of them. The music in the show is great, and it is a really powerful story.

"It is a combination from something that is awesome to look at with the greatest music in theater history," Bradley said.

Praised by 47 million people from all over the world, the show has also won 50 major awards.

"I want audiences to leave thinking about the world and how it does work and should work," Van Dyke said. "This is the music of the people striving towards the light. That is Les Mis."

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