Les Miserables Kicks Off a National Tour at PPAC

Do you hear the people sing? It’s probably coming from PPAC, where the cast and crew of Les Miserables are preparing to kick off the national tour. Fresh off of its Broadway revival, the beloved musical joins the ranks of the many shows that have chosen Providence as the first stop on their tours over the past several years — in part due to its convenient location (not too far from New York City) and the size of the theater.

Les Miz holds the record for the fifth-longest running show on Broadway. Though it’s now more than 30 years old, it still holds a place in the hearts of many theater-lovers. It’s been translated into 21 different languages, revived multiple times and adapted into a film. What makes it so beloved? It could be the adorable, albeit tragic, child characters, or perhaps the young strapping revolutionaries. It may also be the elaborate sets and memorable music. More likely, it’s the timeless tale of redemption at its center.

Les Miz is not thought of as a story for now, but it is,” Phoenix Best (Eponine) said. “It’s about forgiveness… Valjean has to learn to forgive himself.”

The story centers on Jean Valjean, a recently released prisoner whose life is changed forever by an act of kindness. He breaks parole and spends the rest of his life hiding from the law, first as a mayor of a small seaside town, then as an adopted father and finally as a revolutionary. There is unrequited love, bread-thievery, prostitutes, religion, barricade-building, flag-waving – truly something for everyone.

For Best, playing Eponine on the tour is a full-circle moment. “I first saw Les Miz in my hometown [of Philadelphia] at the Academy of Music, and I said ‘I want to be Eponine.’” The tour will make a stop at that very venue.

For a show that has been around as long as Les Miz, the challenge is to keep each production fresh. While the music and story remain consistent, the staging and scenic design has been updated to reflect the artistry of Victor Hugo, for in addition to writing the book from whence the musical is based and frequenting brothels, Hugo was also a painter. Helping to oversee these changes is the original composer, Claude-Michel Schonberg, who is in town and will be in the audience at PPAC — you might want to save those criticisms for the car ride home.

The transition from the New York rehearsal space where the cast learned the music and blocking to PPAC’s stage has been an adjustment, but Nick Cartell (Valjean) says the cast is “all raring to go and ready to get in front of an audience,” and Providence is ready for them.

Les Miserables opens Sep 21 and runs through Sep 30. Tickets may be purchased online at ppacri.org or over the phone at 401-421-2787.

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