There is a moment in “Les Misérables” when Jean Valjean eases into song and all spiritual boundaries in the theater melt away. No matter if an audience member is a Buddhist, Christian, Jew or atheist, the prayer he expresses evokes the universal need for faith in something larger than ourselves to provide salvation in the darkest of hours.
"Bring Him Home" embodies the spirit of sacrificial love. And in the 25th anniversary production of the show in Boston, J. Mark McVey delivers the message with unforgettably evocative power.
On the show's second night, the audience was riveted — and had been for more than two hours before this number was performed.
It gave a standing ovation for Broadway in Boston's production of "Les Misé©rables." Featuring a cast gifted with a deep well of talent, this now classic production based on the novel by Victor Hugo, with music and lyrics by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Herbert Kretzmer respectively, should not be missed at the historic Opera House.
Now billed as "Forever Young," "Les Misé©rables" opened at London's Barbican Theatre on Oct. 8, 1985. It came to New York City's Broadway Theatre on March 12, 1987. It has garnered countless awards, including eight Tonys, becoming the third longest running musical in Broadway history, behind "Phantom of the Opera" and "Cats."
Given its popularity, few people are unfamiliar with the storyline and score which takes place in 1815 to 1823 France. It focuses on the life of Jean Valjean, a convict who is released after 19 years of imprisonment for stealing a loaf of bread. Unable to secure work, in desperation he is taken in by a kind bishop, Myriel, who feeds him and gives him a bed to sleep in, only to be robbed.
Valjean flees and soon is arrested. When the bishop is questioned by police, however, he provides the ex-convict an alibi and proceeds to also give him the silver candlesticks from the dining room table. Stupefied, Valjean is released. All the bishop asks of him is that he promise to become an honest man. To do so, Valjean masks his identity and the plot fast-forwards six years, when he has founded a prosperous manufacturing plant and becomes mayor of Montreuil-sur-mer.
Valjean's chance for true redemption comes with the promise to take in the child of Fantine (Betsy Morgan), a former factory worker who becomes a prostitute to support her illegitimate daughter, Cosette (Kylie McVey and Julie Benko). Fantine dies of consumption and Valjean rescues the girl from the Thé©nardiers, a corrupt innkeeper and his selfish, cruel wife (hilariously portrayed by Richard Vida and Shawna M. Hamic).
Throughout, Valjean is pursued by Inspector Javert (Andrew Varela), an adjutant guard at the Bagne of Toulon who discovers Valjean's true identity and makes it his mission to see him imprisoned for life. The story progresses to the French Revolution, spotlighting the Friends of the ABC, of which the young Marius (Max Quinlan) is a member. Cosette falls in love with — and ultimately marries — the young revolutionist, whose life Valjean saves during battle before going into hiding so that Cosette can be free.
The play ends with the couple at the dying Valjean's side, and few, if any, dry eyes in the house.
Calling out excellent performances at the Opera House is extraneous, as there is not a weak spot in the show. Along with the aforementioned cast members, special kudos go to Chasten Harmon as Eponine and Jeremy Hays as Enjolras.
Musical highlights are many, as the score includes such favorites as "Who Am I" (Valjean); "I Dreamed a Dream" (Fantine); and, of course, "The People's Song" — one of the show's most memorable moments.
Like the song, "Les Misé©rables" is a production for the people. Don't miss it on this run.
IF YOU GO
What: 25th Anniversary Production of "Les Misé©rables."
Where: The Boston Opera House, 539 Washington St., Boston.
When: Through April 1. Showtimes vary.
How: For tickets and further information, visit BroadwayInBoston.com, or call Ticketmaster, 1-800-982-2787. Tickets also are available at the Opera House box office.