Another Day Another Musical

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Grace Daniel

Les Misérables visited Greenville’s own Peace Center to perform one of the most unique, tragic, and beautiful musicals on Broadway (Photo courtesy of Grace Daniel).

Downtown Greenville has quickly become a hub for cultural experiences. Home to multiple professional theatre companies, Greenville provides countless theatrical opportunities for its residents to enjoy. Les Misérables, the world-famous novel-turned-musical, hit the Peace Center stage and filled the building with fans during every performance. Les Misérables is an incredible story written by author Victor Hugo about the struggling citizens in Paris, France during a revolution in the early 1800s. 

The musical revolves a lot around the conflict between Javert, a prison guard played by Preston Truman Boyd, and Jean Valjean, a former prisoner played by Patrick Dunn. Valjean is able to make a better life for himself and build up a well-respected reputation. However, Javert discovers him, recognizes him as the former prisoner, and devotes himself to trying to ruin the life Valjean has created. The musical also tells the story of Fantine, played by Mary Kate Moore, and her struggle to collect enough money to send to a family that is taking care of her daughter, Cosette. When Fantine becomes ill and dies, Valjean promises to find Cosette and take care of her as if she is his own daughter.

Adult Cosette, played by Jillian Butler, is raised in wealth and luxury by Jean Valjean. She crosses paths with Marius, played by Joshua Grosso, and Eponine, played by Phoenix Best. Marius and Cosette fall madly in love, as Marius is blind to the love Eponine feels for him. While developing complicated romance, the musical also focuses on the revolution that has been taking place in Paris. The citizens are starving and angry, so a group of men led by Enjolras, played by Matt Shingledecker, and Marius lead a revolt. They build an enormous barricade and fight against France for their freedom. The plot of Les Mis, intertwined with both love and tragedy, is unmatched on Broadway.

This performance specifically was performed by the traveling tour cast of Les Misérables. I was able to see Les Mis once before on the Peace Center stage in November of 2017. During that performance, the set consisted of a turntable, which is a circle cutout on stage that revolves. Most of the movements and sets on stage were centered around the turntable, and I was expecting to see that same set design return. However, this time the set consisted of small grooves across the stage where various sets would slide on and off the stage. It was smooth, precise, and allowed the sets to glide seamlessly into the background of each scene. The sets, consisting of both interiors and exteriors of buildings, were breathtakingly beautiful; each scene transported you to the 1800s on France’s cobblestone streets. 

The musical’s lighting was also stunning. The story is largely a tragedy, and the lighting was used to convey the emotion behind the story. Most of the show was darker blue-toned lighting, which contrasted with the happier times, which used more bright yellow and white light. During Javert’s suicide scene, Javert is standing on the edge of a bridge completely defeated. The actor jumps up in the air and the lights begin to race past him giving the illusion that he is falling to his death. As he supposedly hits the ground, the actor vanished. After seeing the brilliant scene twice, I still have no idea how they do it!

As in any show, the actors are the ones that bring the story to life. Les Mis has some of the most beautiful vocals of any show, and this cast did not disappoint. Fantine, Jean Valjean, Cosette, Marius, Javert, and Eponine stood out above the rest, but the ensemble members had incredible harmonies and brought the emotion to the stage. The show even has “Mis Kids” who play some of the characters as children. There are young children playing Little Cosette, Young Eponine, and Gavroche, who is a child with no apparent family who helps the men in the revolution. Although they are young, they were extremely talented and truly earned their place beside their more experienced fellow cast members.

Although the musical involves some of the most deaths, heartbreaks, and tear-jerker moments of any show, Les Misérables is one of the most incredible musicals I have ever witnessed. Whether at home with the movie or in a theater with the actors, I believe everyone should witness the beautiful story if they get the chance.