Lyric Theatre opens its summer run at Civic Center Music Hall with an ambitious production of one of the most beloved musicals of all time. No big deal, right?
Based on the novel of the same name by Victor Hugo, Les Misérables tells the story of French peasant Jean Valjean and his struggle for redemption after serving 19 years in jail. Inspired to break his parole by an act of kindness, Valjean seeks to start a new life while pursued by a relentless police inspector named Javert.
“Like the novel itself, everything about this production will be epic and heartfelt,” Lyric Artistic Director Michael Baron said in a press release. “Lyric’s production of Les Misérables will be unlike any that our audiences have seen or heard before.”
The production will feature a four-story set designed by Michael Raiford, over 400 costumes designed by Jeffrey Meek and a company of over 100 voices backing up a cast of national and local talent headed up by Broadway star Chuck Wagner.
Wagner was a fan before joining the national tour of Les Mis in 1991 as the ruthless policeman Javert. Later that same year, he began a two-year stint playing the character on Broadway.
“I loved every minute as the dark inspector,” Wagner said. “This show is the best of everything musical theater can be, and it’s nice work if you can get it.”
For Lyric’s production of Les Mis, Wagner will go from hunter to hunted, taking on the role of tortured hero Jean Valjean.
“After years playing Jekyll and Hyde, I’m fairly comfortable exploring dualities,” Wagner said. “I love the challenge of exploring both sides of a story. I certainly think fully understanding both sides of the lifelong conflict between these two classic characters enriches my performance of either role.”
He said picking a favorite is difficult since both are dynamic roles with phenomenal music.
“Jean Valjean has such an amazing emotional journey ending in an explosion of transcendent love, so he may win,” Wagner added. “Though going to the brink of insanity in Javert’s suicide is a great moment too.”
In some cases, new insight into the characters comes from real life.
“Now that I have arrived at the true age of Valjean in the novel and having recently experienced my own parent’s mortality,” Wagner said, “the final scenes of Les Misérables are more moving than ever.”
Wagner added that he has been inspired by the caliber of talent and professionalism on this production.
“The entire Lyric Theatre team is a well-oiled, Broadway musical-making machine — and a pleasure to work with,” he said. “I hope this is the first of many visits for me.”