‘Les Misérables’ 25th anniversary tour hits ToledoWritten by Sarah Ottney | Editor in Chief | firstname.lastname@example.org
After years of performing the role of reformed convict hero Jean Valjean on Broadway and with touring productions of “Les Misérables,” actor Andrew Varela has gone to the dark side.
For the 25th anniversary tour of the iconic musical, Varela will instead portray Javert, the police inspector who makes it his life’s work to hunt down Valjean and bring him to justice.
“When I was a kid I liked Darth Vader more than Luke Skywalker,” Varela told Toledo Free Press Star during a phone call from a tour stop in Providence, R.I. “So the idea of playing a bad guy always appealed to me.”
However, Varela said he doesn’t like to think of Javert as a bad guy; instead he enjoys the chance to humanize the character.
“One of the things I try to do is make it clear he’s not trying to be a bad guy; he’s just trying to do his job. He’s just doing what he thinks has to be done,” Varela said. “The reviews have noticed that and people always comment after the show they were struck by the humanity I brought to the role. Jean Valjean himself says ‘You’re just doing your job, I know.’ I hope I’m bringing not only life but humanity to the character. I’ve found playing him has been wonderful.”
Varela said one of his favorite parts of portraying Javert is singing “Stars.”
“It’s one of those songs you just get to belt out and has so much meaning,” Varela said. “It’s such an important plot point for my character. As an actor, you love the idea you get to sing this huge show-stopping number.”
“Les Misérables” opened Nov. 8 at the Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd., as part of the Broadway Series presented by the Theater League.
Performances are set for 8 p.m. Nov. 8-11, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Nov. 12, and 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13.
“It’s been going great,” Varela said of the tour, which started in Seattle in August. “We are the second-highest grossing show in the country right now, so that’s pretty good. The audiences have been huge, the response has been huge and the tickets sales have been even huger.”
Based on the classic novel by Victor Hugo, “Les Misérables” is set in 19th century France, a decade after the French Revolution, and focuses on the struggles of ex-convict Valjean and his experience of redemption.
Released from prison after serving 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread and subsequent escape attempts, Valjean can’t find anyone willing to give him a place to live. Finally, a bishop takes him in but Valjean steals his silverware. He is caught and arrested, but released after the bishop tells police the silverware was a gift. Touched by the gesture, Valjean vows to turn his life around, changing his name and becoming successful. But when Inspector Javert later discovers Valjean’s true identity, he makes it his life’s work to bring him to justice.
J. Mark McVey will portray Valjean. McVey’s 7-year-old daughter, Kylie McVey, is also a member of the cast, part of a new ensemble created for the anniversary production. She will also be part of the larger chorus numbers and portray Little Cosette and Young Eponine.
Varela said the 25th anniversary production maintains the elements that people loved in the original version while adding elements that allow the show to grow.
“This version is a wonderful update with new costumes and new orchestrations,” Varela said. “It’s really an amazing, amazing piece of theater.”
The new production features a high-tech projection system that projects images on the back wall of the set.
“It makes the entire thing feel cinematic,” Varela said. “For example, during the battle of the barricade, it rocks with each gunshot and each cannon blast. It makes the scenery a character.”
Producer Cameron Mackintosh drew inspiration from the drawings and paintings of Hugo.
“I’m delighted that 25 years after ‘Les Mis’ originally opened in London the audience for this marvelous show is bigger and younger than ever before,” Mackintosh said in a news release. “The new ‘Les Mis’ is a magnificent mix of dazzling images and epic staging, driving one of the greatest musical stories ever told.”
“Les Misérables,” which originally opened in London in 1985, has been seen by nearly 60 million people worldwide in 42 countries and in 21 languages, according to the release.
In 2006, it became the world’s longest-running musical, surpassing the record previously held by “Cats.” To date, “Les Misérables” remains the third-longest-running Broadway production of all time.
The score includes the classic songs “I Dreamed a Dream,” “On My Own,” “Stars,” “Bring Him Home,” “Do You Hear the People Sing?,” “One Day More,” “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” “Master Of The House” and many more.
Varela said people will regret not taking the opportunity to see “Les Misérables” while it’s in Toledo.
“It’s just such a fulfilling theatrical experience. If you don’t come see the show, you’ll never forgive yourself. You’ll have lived a life half-lived,” Varela said. “If you can’t watch ‘Les Mis’ and love it, then you have no heart, then you’re probably not a human being because it’s probably the most magnificent piece of theater that’s ever been written.”
Tickets are $23 to $80 not including fees and taxes and are available by calling the Stranahan Theater box office at (866) 381-7469, Ticketmaster at (800) 982-2787, or online at www.theaterleague.com.