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OPINION | MASTERSON ONLINE: ‘Les Miz’ coming

by Mike Masterson | April 24, 2022 at 2:01 a.m.


My favorite Broadway show is returning for a road-show performance on Jan. 19, 2023, at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis.

While I realize the 15 times I've seen Victor Hugo's immortal classic "Les Miserables" fall well beyond what most folks consider rational, the music and message of this compelling masterpiece clearly reaches the depths of my spirit, drawing me back like a nail to a magnet.

This moving performance, centered around the June Rebellion several decades after the French Revolution, is an onion, filled with layers of significance and meaning about the undeniable power of forgiveness, kindness, compassion and self-reliance and so many other lessons.

If you have yet to watch the spectacle unfold on stage supported by haunting music by John Cameron and Claude-Michel Schönberg, you haven't come close to experiencing its fullest impact.

As with everything it translates, Hollywood doesn't come close to doing it justice.

From the opening scene of protagonist and prisoner Jean Valjean being paroled after a lengthy sentence for attempted escapes and stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving sister and her children through the closing moments, I'm invariably swept anew into the story, the music and the performances.

Anyone who would sit through any play 15 times without popcorn either is smitten beyond help, or in need of serious counseling.

Early on, Valjean, who quickly sheds his yellow ticket of leave (identifying him as a parolee) is ridiculed and rejected by society. He finds shelter in a church led by a kindly older bishop who excuses himself after dinner to retire to his room.

Penniless and feeling hopeless under the crush of his circumstances, Valjean grabs silverware from the table and flees into the night, only to be captured by police who return him to face the church's wrath.

When they tell the awakened bishop Valjean had claimed the silver had been his gift, rather than be honest and have him returned to prison in chains, the clergyman lies and says he had indeed given them to Valjean.

Then he offered two silver candlesticks while asking why Valjean had forgotten to take them. He told Valjean he expected him to use them "to become a better man."

That transformative act of undeserved forgiveness and compassion set the stage for everything to come in Valjean's life.

The once-bitter Valjean, in a sudden change of heart inspired by the bishop's kindness, appeals to God in song, wondering how a stranger could show him such mercy and vowing to follow a God-inspired lifestyle from that point, which he does.

Even as a runaway parole violator relentlessly sought by a relentless policeman named Javert, he spends the remainder of his lifetime giving to others in many ways.

His acts of support and kindness (even toward Javert) endure until his deathbed under the light of the bishop's gift of those silver candlesticks.

In other words, he had gone into the world and treated everyone he met exactly like he wanted them to treat him.

The music adds enormously to the acting and script. The melodies and songs carry me to a transcendent place where my higher angels dwell.

I'll not review the play and all its laughs and drama here; couldn't begin to do it justice. I'd rather you witness the soul-enriching spectacle for yourself.

But I advise, if interested, that you act quickly as I'm sure this performance, even nine months hence, will sell out quickly.

In the interest of fairness, I'll even surrender my potential seat and forgo a 16th evening in the audience so another can have the opportunity to experience the magnificence of "Les Miz" for themselves.

Doggone it

Social media of late has taken note of the many dogs that continually disappear around Harrison. At least two or three vanish weekly. Some speculate there must be a dog theft ring operating in the area.

How about your community? Seem like an inordinate number of dogs have gone missing over the past year in your town?

I have a neighbor who says she drives to Connecticut and back to Harrison weekly (as part of a regional rescue organization) with at least a dozen area dogs in a cage-equipped van. She says they all have been pre-adopted via the Internet.

Got to admire anyone who makes such incredibly lengthy round trips weekly with a dozen dogs.

Tanks obsolete?

With so many damaged and destroyed Russian tanks along the side of Ukrainian highways, I wonder if the notion of using megamillion-dollar tanks in battle is obsolete, considering one soldier armed with a shoulder-fired missile can destroy a tank.

I might say much the same thing about helicopters being shot down in much the same manner and now, even warships being sunk.

Throw in deadly drones piloted from a different continent, and it's enough to make me believe warfare as we of the boomer generation have known it has become a much different animal.


Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.


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