Les Misérables is one of the most renowned musicals of all time that follows a novel of the same name by Victor Hugo. To understand the tale, it is essential to know its historical setting. In 1815, two decades after the start of the Revolution, France witnessed a time when the country was riddled with economic strife, changing political parties, and revolutions. As the lower class grew infuriated by their hardships and the arrogant attitudes of the upper classes, major events marked the dethroning of King Louis XVI, the execution of Marie Antoinette, and the "Reign of Terror," where many as 40,000 people were sent to the guillotine.
The story tells the tragic life of the character Fantine, a young woman who is let go from her factory job after it is revealed that she had a child (Cosette) out of marriage. Fantine is then forced to sell her personal belongings, including her hair and teeth, so that she can support her daughter. Unfortunately, Fantine falls into the lowest class of society when she becomes a prostitute. The character Jean Valjean is introduced as he promises the dying Fantine that he will adopt and protect her daughter. Fifteen years of peace pass for them until Jean gives his ultimate sacrifice by joining a rebellion to save Marius, the lover of Cosette.
During the summer, I had the pleasure of seeing the Les Misérables Musical at the William Saroyan Theater in Fresno. It was a great experience and one that I recommend to anyone interested in immersing themselves in the world of classic literature and musical theater. I was touched by the actress's performance of "I Dreamed a Dream" as it recounts the story of Fantine's dire situation and grips at the heart strings. Another favorite scene is the ensemble number "Do You Hear the People Sing?" where the red flag waves above the cast to symbolize the unification of the French revolution. Five stars must watch!
Les Misérables continues to have an huge impact hundreds of years later as similar challenges continue to occur in today's modern society. For instance, poverty is still a leading problem across the globe in which people from all walks of life are left in destitution. Politicians only make matters worse by taking advantage of such situations and subjecting people to more burdens. As the story of Les Misérables teaches us, when people have been pushed far enough, they will rise up and fight for freedom.
How To Experience:
If you want to experience Les Misérables for yourself, you can watch the 2012 Les Misérables movie starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway. As one of the most popular and well-known productions, there are also often local performances you can attend. There are several renditions of the soundtrack available on Spotify or YouTube.