When the great French writer Victor Hugo was thirteen years of age, he began to write prize-winning poetry. He went on to add the titles of playwright, novelist, essayist, visual artist, statesman and human rights advocate to his name. Perhaps he is best known for his novel “Les Miserables” or The Poor, penned in 1862, about a man Jean Valjean who is imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving sister and her family and his ultimate tale of redemption.
This story, that met with great success even though it was banned by the government, is said to have been inspired by a true incident in Paris. Hugo saw a poor man arrested for a minor crime, in stark contrast to a woman in a nearby carriage, wealthy, wrapped in fur, who was totally unaware of the tragedy happening at her richly clad feet.
This epic novel that generated great excitement when published, when people fought to buy one of the 48,000 copies released on day one, was set to music a century later. Produced by Cameron Mackintosh, in a stirring new 25th anniversary version, ”Les Miserables” is a sweeping, majestic epic drama, history on parade, and is gracing the stage of Hartford’s Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts until Sunday, March 11.
“Les Miz,” set in 19th century France, follows Jean Valjean after nineteen years of imprisonment, his pursuit by the police inspector Javert and his new identity as Monsieur Madeleine where he becomes a wealthy factory owner and mayor. Valjean cannot escape his past as Javert doggedly pursues him. Valjean performs deeds of valor, saving lives and helping in a student revolt, proving that people can change for the good. This story, timeless in its appeal, unites with a soaring musical score, to applaud the survival of the human spirit.
For tickets ($22-100), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at www.bushnell.org. Performances are tonight at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Arm the battlements to fight for good over evil, for democracy over tyranny, for the triumph of love and justice, in this astonishing theatrical musical drama, “Les Miz.”