Just saw a most amazing production of Les Mis
at the Dallas Theater Center. So tired but OH MY GOSH.
-SET IN MODERN DAYS! COPS. POLICE BRUTALITY. GUNS AND EXPLOSIVES AT THE BARRICADE. Riot shields. Caution tape set up after the barricade fell. Hearing their radios reporting as they stepped over the students’ dead bodies. It was chilling.
-guns as an active part of the story, more so than the 1800s version. JVJ literally knocked a gun from Javert’s hand and took it when he ran after Fantine’s death.
-the only non-ensemble characters portrayed by white people were Javert, Enjolras and a couple other students (not including Marius), and the Thenadiers. Eponine MAY have been white but I’m not quite sure. The subtext of racism played into the story that already existed SO BEAUTIFULLY that it made me cry MORE than usual
-In “One Day More” they were holding signs that said “living wages for all” “everyone deserves clean water” “we are all God’s children” “freedom” “never slaves again” and I just !
-Thenardier during “Dog Eat Dog” song, which is always disgusting ANYWAY - but at the line, “Someone’s got to collect their odds and ends / As a service to the town!” He reached down and lifted up the head of one of the dead students, Courfeyrac I think, and squished his lips to “sing along” to the service to the town part, and I was so disgusted and angry I started crying furiously.
-The costuming. Not just cop uniform for Javert, but the SWAT-like masks and uniforms for prison guards, the fact that those were the SAME men who later showed up in “Lovely Ladies,” and later barricade police forces, orange jumpsuits for JVJ and the other convicts in the prologue, seeing the factory workers dressed crappily while the foreman got a white shirt and dress pants and the CEOs and Mayor walked through in their nice suits and barely looked at the workers, a home being foreclosed and a family being kicked out and the homeless men and women with their cardboard signs being “cleaned up” in the streets of Paris, and all the sudden the distance and “how could that even happen” in the historical version became “oh my gosh, I am literally doing this in my life, how many times have I been part of this problem and not known it?”
-ok lol hipster Enjolras and other students with their mac laptops and coffee cups at the cafe
-But SERIOUSLY, each cast member was so talented, and each of their heritage highlighted something about the story of the character and how those struggles exist NOW. Indian Jean Valjean. Black Fantine and Young Cosette. Asian Adult Cosette (it was a little awkward having her change ethnicity as she grew, but I’m SO HAPPY they didn’t just make her actress be Eponine because of the tradition of casting Asian women as Eponine ever since Lea Salonga…), diverse ensemble including latin@ men and women as well…I could cry. I DID cry. JVJ being punished more extensively for a simple crime and the implied subtext with his being easily mistaken for Middle Eastern. Fantine as a single black mother being singled out for aggressions at her factory workplace and later brutality. The tender, TENDER moment with her on a modern hospital bed in a hospital gown as she’s dying, and he looks at her and UNDERSTANDS the prejudice that she’s faced - that he played into! And that the privileged students were similarly diverse, so no one race was pigeonholed into a certain role of suffering, and, and, everythiiiiiing
-“Turning Through The Years” with police caution tape and red and blue flashing lights
-Realizing that I could read on the news about a riot involving students somewhere, under 10 dead, etc - and be sad but not have it mean as much to me as it should. Because it SHOULD. Every time this happens, now, and it IS happening now, it’s Les Miserables.
-“Will join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me? … Tomorrow comes!” This production effectively took the passion I always feel at the end of Les Miserables and directed it to look at myself and the true injustices of our age, our lives, our society. Bam.
I’m sure there’s more I’ll think of later but I was just so…wow.
If you live in the Dallas, TX area and want to see it! https://www.dallastheatercenter.org/show_details.php?sid=70