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With a film adaptation that won three Oscars this year, and a musical adaptation that won thrice as many Tony Awards, the 150-year-old story of Les Miserables has withstood the test of time and continues to enthrall audiences today. Now Waltham’s Reagle Music Theatre is closing out its 45th anniversary season with its own rendition of this timeless tale depicting the events leading up to the June Revolution in 19th century France. Ivan Ruthorford plays the lead role of Jean Valjean, which he has performed over 2,000 times before, and is joined by Broadway vocal coach Doug Jabara as Police Inspector Javert, as well as Angela Richardson as Fantine and Mara Wilson as Éponine. Jabara, Richardson and Wilson all stopped by the WERS studios, with IRNE Award-winning music director Dan Rodriguez on piano, to perform a few songs from Les Miserables in anticipation of the Reagle Music Theatre’s production of the acclaimed musical, which runs from August 8 through August 18.
Angela Richardson started things off with her performance of “I Dreamed A Dream,” the same song that helped Susan Boyle become a household name a few years ago. The song begins with soft piano playing as Richard’s clean vocals describe the hopes and dreams her character Fantine once held dear to her. The song seamlessly weaves through major and minor keys as Richardson portrays Fantine’s feelings of hopefulness and hopelessness through a voice so powerful that it suggests Fantine deserved more from life than what she received.
Douglas Jabara takes the microphone next to sing the song “Stars” as he takes on the role of Javert, whom Jabara describes as someone who, “sees the world in two shades: black and white.” Before singing “Stars” Jabara further explains how Javert puts Jean Valjean in prison for stealing a loaf of bread and, after Valjean escapes his parole, pledges to god that he will recapture Valjean no matter what. “Stars” demonstrates Javert’s steadfast view of justice by displaying a firm conviction and an unshakable sense of righteousness, which outside the context of the story makes “Stars” sound like a hero’s anthem. The way Rodriguez bangs hard on the light keys of the piano emphasizes Jabara’s commanding voice and brings out the authoritative demeanor of Javert’s character.
Finally, Mara Wilson wraps up this brief preview of Les Miserables with her performance of “On My Own.” The song begins in a minor key to reflect the hopelessness of Éponine’s situation in the musical, but shifts to a major key as Wilson sings about a different life that her character imagines for herself. Although the song acknowledges this new life is just Éponine’s imagination, the song focuses on this ideal vision and shows that there can be light at the end of even the darkest tunnels.
All these performances express the intense passion these characters have for the people and things they love. Before leaving the WERS studios, Jabara explained what motivates these strong emotions by pointing to a single phrase from the musical: “To love another person is to see the face of God.” Richardson further elaborates, “[Les Miserables] deals with the human story. It’s love, love lost… desire to want something more for you and your family. These things never die.” In other words, Les Miserables is ultimately a story about how love gives people the strength they need to carry on and hope for something better. The vocal performances put forth by Richardson, Jabara and Wilson display a clear understanding of this belief, and are so strong that those who hear them can’t help but be inspired to feel the same way.