Thursday, April 7, 2011

Do You Hear the People Sing? I will!

My husband is amazing. He's not a big fan of musicals or live theatre. All that singing and dancing...not so much. He's more of a combine derby/tractor pull entertainment enthusiast. But he loves me and he knows just how much I love the theatre. So for the second year in a row I get to go see a show as late birthday/Christmas gift. Last year we saw 'Wicked' at the Stranahan in Toledo. And this weekend we're going to Cleveland to see 'LesMiserables' at Playhouse Square. I've been listening the soundtrack on my iPod to get me all pumped up and ready to see if I really need any pumping up....(((read on)))

I've been trying to figure out how to explain it to Curtis, in about 10 minutes or less. Which is impossible. The show is nearly 3 hours long and covers a time span of at least 20 years. I've decided to boil it down to the central themes and give him a few names to get through the first act. Intermission will be spent trying to prep for the second act. Which thankfully isn't nearly as complicated. But honestly, if you're not familiar with the book or show the specifics of this post may not make sense to you. But I ask you to keep reading anyway...ignore the names and song titles. Read my heart instead, because my heart sings with music.

This is a show I've seen twice before--once on Broadway and once at Playhouse Square. My dad first took me to see it when I was 9 or 10 years old. We were vacationing in Ocean City, New Jersey which is about a two hour drive from NYC. On the way there he wanted to get me ready for the he gave me some basic information about the plot, and then he had to tell me about prostitutes (one of the characters is one very briefly)...which is odd...because he hadn't told me about sex yet. And then he told me about flashers, which has nothing to do with LesMis but everything to do with NYC apparently. I've never looked at raincoats the same.

So there I was 10 years old, totally confused, and a little freaked out about the prostitutes and flashers...but I fell in love with it anyway. It takes place during the French Revolution (as if you couldn't tell from the name) and with all the French names I had no idea who was who but that didn't matter. It was the humanity, the music, the ambiance that had me completely spellbound. I didn't grasp it then, but it's a memorizing show about love, grace, redemption, sacrifice, war, liberty.

I can remember going back to Ocean City and talking to my older brother about it. To this day I have absolutely no idea why my dad took me and not my brother, but to be honest, I'm glad that he did (sorry, Adam...if you read this!). I tried to explain a show I barely understood, which has resulted in what will be a lifelong inside joke about John is John (the main character is Jean Val Jean) and 24601 (he has spent 20 years in jail and that is his prison number). Thankfully, my brother got introduced to the show in some other way and came to enjoy it almost as much as his little sister. If my niece had been a nephew, he would've gotten a homemade '24601' onesie. Sorry, Marissa...maybe I'll make you a 'Castle On A Cloud' onesie. dad bought the 3-CD complete symphonic recording, which I listened to religiously. I fell in love with the character of Eponine, who suffers from unrequited love. This is why 'On My Own' was my first real solo in 7th grade. I cannot tell you how many thousands of times I sang that song alone in my room, feeling the pangs of being unnoticed and unloved by someone I 'loved' very much. *sigh* The angst of youth.

Thanks to that CD set, I memorized the entire show. To this day you could pick a spot anywhere in the show and I could probably recite the rest of it to you. Which is probably why when I went through my first real heart-crushing, devastating break up at age seventeen I remember singing 'I Dreamed a Dream'...because it felt like my life was over and that music was all I had to express the agony.

Recently I've fallen in love with different aspects of the show. I'm older now and finally understand the deeper themes of this complex epic. I see the issues of grace and justice, the real struggle between Val Jean and Javert (the 'antogonist' always trying to get Val Jean back in jail). Themes of sacrificial love and redemption unfold throughout the show. Some characters give up all they have, including their lives, out of love for another, giving that character a chance at redemption--a new better life. It's complicated and painful, but beautiful...just like life.

I have many favorite moments, but my hands-down favorite line in the entire show is :
 to love another person is to see the face of God.

This line was printed on our wedding programs, and I quote it often. I've even scribbled it on the pages of my Bible...1 John 4:12 (No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.)
This line, like the entire show, inspires me. I want to be changed by that idea. I want to love my husband with grace-filled, sacrificial love so that he can see God through me. And someday, when I'm a mama, that is my deepest hope. To love them in such a way that they see God. Because it is true; when we truly love a person--a love that requires Grace and Sacrifice--we see the face of God.

'Les Mis' has been translated into 21 languages, been performed in 42 countries and 291 cities. In October 'Les Mis' celebrated its' 25th year with a concert and two productions in London. (Incidentally, Nick Jonas played one of the main characters in the 25th anniversary show, so that was a double geek-out for me. Yes, I shamefully admit to liking a Jonas brother...but really just Nick.) Approximately 55 million people have seen the show. Clearly, I'm not the only one who gets inspired and all wound up about this show, as complicated and messy as it may be. Perhaps its the messiness that draws us. Or maybe it's just the really phenomenally crafted music. Either way.
I'm ridiculously excited about getting away this weekend--the past couple of weeks have been especially draining. It will be great to just relax in a fluffy hotel bed, swim in the pool, and reconnect with the man I love very much. The man who loves me enough to buy tickets to a show that he knows nothing about and probably anticipates not liking. But I hope he does like it. I don't expect him to love it, especially not like I do (I'm a little nutty over it, if you couldn't tell) but I do hope he likes it. Or else...I might not get to see another show next year! Hmm...I wonder what's playing next year?? Is it too early to plan?


  1. Beautiful. Nice job, hubby! Have a great time!

  2. This is a great post Rebecca and I know how much Les Mis has meant to you over the years. Isn't it crazy how you feel and see different things, when you are in different stages of your life? Amazing. Hope you guys have a great time! :)


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