By Ilana Bernstein

It’s been 30 years since the popular musical “Les Misérables” first hit Broadway. The musical, based on the book by Victor Hugo, follows Jean Valjean and his journey through life while running away from a police inspector who tirelessly fights to punish Valjean. Valjean meets other characters along the way, and the audience watches as many stories unfold.

The original Broadway production opened March 12, 1987 and ran for 6,680 performances at the Broadway Theatre. Eventually, two more productions of the show joined Broadway. The first opened on Nov. 9, 2006 and ran for 463 performances. The second opened March 23, 2014 and ran for 1,024 performances.

The musical first opened in London in 1985 and has now been produced in 44 countries, translated into 22 languages, been a part of two large anniversary concerts and became a movie in 2012. It is a story that touched the hearts of many and stayed relevant through the years.

One main concept that runs through the show is the French Revolution. Many characters are asked to fight for what they believe in, and part of that fight is for freedom. Enjolras, a leader of those fighting in the revolution, urges others to rally in support.

He says, “Now there is a higher call / Who cares about your lonely soul? / We strive toward a larger goal / Our little lives don’t count at all!”

When learning that “Les Misérables” had hit its 30-year anniversary, I couldn’t help but think how timely the piece still is. We currently live in a world where we are asked to fight for what we believe in. Regardless of our political views or our defining characteristics, people from all sides are calling for support.

Rallies, marches and petitions are all things that have become commonplace in today’s society. People of all ages are voicing their opinions. The same happens in the musical. Gavroche, one of the youngest characters in the musical, asks others not to discount the power of young people.

He says, “And little people know / When little people fight / We may look easy pickings / But we’ve got some bite / So never kick a dog / Because he’s just a pup / We’ll fight like 20 armies / And we won’t give up / So you’d better run for cover / When the pup grows up!”

As written in the Playbill of the original Broadway production of “Les Misérables,” a quote from Victor Hugo:

“Will the future ever arrive?… Should we continue to look upwards? Is the light we can see in the sky one of those which will presently be extinguished? The ideal is terrifying to behold, lost as it is in the depths, small, isolated, a pin-point, brilliant but threatened on all sides by the dark forces that surround it; nevertheless, no more in danger than a star in the jaw of the clouds.”

The characters of “Les Misérables” had to choose who and what they were willing to fight for. The same is true for the people of today. Figure out who and what you are willing to fight for, and give it your support.

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Blake Patterson’s Flickr account.

Ilana Bernstein is a junior journalism and theatre double major and can be reached at ilanab@terpmail.umd.edu.

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