What strikes Mary Kate Moore about the musical “Les Miserables,” returning to the Peace Center on March 3, is how real, relevant and often raw the story seems.
Take, for instance, the character Moore plays, Fantine. Jilted by her lover, Fantine raises her child alone, suffers physical abuse and falls into destitution, losing her beauty and her health.
“What she experiences still happens to millions of women around the globe,” Moore said. “I think it can be hard for people to watch, but it’s really a powerful story because it draws attention to the fact that it’s still happening.”
“Les Miserables,” based on Victor Hugo’s epic novel, centers on Jean Valjean, imprisoned for 19 years — for merely stealing a loaf of bread — and later trailed obsessively by the self-righteous police inspector Javert.
The main plot is set against the backdrop of the Paris uprising of 1832 with students and workers fighting for “les miserables” — the impoverished and starving people of France.
It’s really a story about social justice, redemption and forgiveness, Moore said, and the national tour of “Les Miserables” emphasizes the timelessness of those themes.
“In past productions, it’s been more about the music than the story, but we represent our characters as very human, honest and real,” Moore said, speaking by phone from Cincinnati during a tour stop. “These characters could be alive now.”
With a cast of 38, this production is based on the 2014 Broadway revival, featuring scenery inspired by Hugo’s paintings. Eight performances are scheduled at the Peace Center.
The musical spotlights songs and ensemble numbers that have become Broadway classics, including “On My Own,” “Stars,” “Bring Him Home” and “One Day More.”
And then there’s the heartbreaking “I Dreamed a Dream,” sung by Moore’s Fantine.
“It’s an awesome responsibility,” Moore said. “I’m really honored to play this role simply because of the amazing female performers who’ve gone before me.”
Among the acting legends who’ve portrayed Fantine in the past are Patti LuPone, Andrea McArdle, Lea Salonga and (in the film version) Anne Hathaway.
Moore’s favorite part of the show is the Act I finale when the chorus, ready for battle, sings the rousing “One Day More.” At that point, Moore, in a dark wig, is no longer Fantine but has rejoined the ensemble.
“I love marching in the famous ‘V’ formation with the red flag flying above us,” Moore said. “It’s an iconic moment in theater history.”
Paul Hyde, a longtime Upstate journalist, writes about the arts for the Greenville Journal. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @PaulHyde7.
If you go
What: “Les Miserables,” by Claude-Michel Schonberg (music), Alain Boublil (original French lyrics) and Herbert Kretzmer (English lyrics).
When: 7:30 p.m. March 3-5; 8 p.m. March 6; 2 and 8 p.m. March 7; 1 and 6:30 p.m. March 8.
Where: Peace Center.
Tickets: $45 to $115.
Info: 864-467-3000 or www.peacecenter.org.
- “Les Miserables” has been seen by more than 130 million people in 44 countries; it has been performed in 22 languages around the globe.
- The musical opened on Oct. 8, 1985, in London and is still running in the West End, the longest-running West End musical in history.
- “Les Miserables” premiered on Broadway on March 12, 1987, and ran for 16 years and 6,680 performances. At that time, it was the second-longest-running Broadway musical after “Cats.”
Cover photo by Matthew Murphy