If anyone reading this lives near Harrisonburg, Virginia, let me encourage you, in the strongest possible terms, to check out the high school’s production of the musical Les Miserables. You have until Sunday. I’ve seen some good high school shows in my time, but this is really something special. The high school seems to have an exceptionally deep bench of very talented people this year.

I am something of a Les Miz aficionado. I regard it as quite simply the finest novel ever written. I haven’t decided what number two is, but it’s pretty far back. I even have a vague idea for a book (which I’ll probably never write), using Les Miz as a vehicle for discussing connections between literature and mathematics. At any rate, while nothing beats an unabridged version of Victor Hugo’s novel, I’ve long felt the musical does an excellent job of capturing the spirit of the story. It certainly does a far better job than any of the movie adaptations I’ve seen, especially that dreadful 1998 version with Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean. I’ve seen two professional productions of the show, and I have listened to the soundtrack so many times that I have most of it memorized.

My point is that when it comes to Les Miz, my standards are high. When I found out the high school was attempting it I was very skeptical, since it is a difficult show to pull off. In this case, my skepticism was misplaced. Badly misplaced. It was so good, I’m planning to see it again tomorrow.


  1. #1 starskeptic
    February 16, 2012

    One of my favorite novels as well- one that I periodically re-read…

  2. #2 James Sweet
    February 16, 2012

    I wrote a song for my band called Eponine… though I can’t pretend to be as much of a fan as you!

  3. #3 Wowbagger
    February 16, 2012

    It’s probably my favourite musical – slightly beating out Sweeney Todd.

    I read the book last year and, while I loved it, I found myself vaguely annoyed by some of the translation choices, which – for me – didn’t seem right; one I distinctly remember is Valjean saying ‘baloney’, and there were others that I felt didn’t work in the context.

    What I suspect I need to do is find a different translation (I can’t remember who the one I read was by) – well, either that or learn French and read it in its original state…

    How do you feel about the impending big-screen musical version with Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter?

  4. #4 Jason Rosenhouse
    February 17, 2012

    The translation I have is the one by Charles Wilbour included in The Modern Library. Seems like a pretty good translation to me.

    I’ll go see the movie version of the musical when it comes out. I’m sure it will be enjoyable. The trouble with movie musicals these days is that they always go with A-List stars instead of real Broadway people who usually have stronger voices. For example, the movie version of Chicago was pretty good, but you would never confuse Catherine Zeta Jones, Renee Zelwegger and Richard Gere for Broadway performers.

  5. #5 tomh
    February 19, 2012

    @ #2

    I found myself vaguely annoyed by some of the translation choices

    There is a wonderful book on translation (and language) titled, Is That A Fish In Your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of Everything, by David Bellos. A fascinating read for anyone who enjoys the subject of language.

  6. #6 nanci phillips sharp
    February 20, 2012

    i’ve seen many musicals in Boston, New York City and the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.
    unlike any of the others this was sheer perfection. BRAVO!

  7. #7 Andy Perrine
    February 22, 2012

    Great review. The production was unusually good for high school. Heck, it was unusually good period. Check out this FB site for photographs of the production.


  8. #8 josh
    March 9, 2012

    Nothing beats the unabbridged version? The one with the 100 page historical tour of the Paris sewers? 🙂

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