Due to the weather, some customers may experience late delivery of The Roanoke Times. We apologize for the delay.
Sunday, March 31, 2013
I recently attended the Patrick Henry High School production of “Les Miserables.” As an “objective” grandfather of two of the cast members, I can say that it was wonderful. It was staged Friday and Saturday nights on two successive weekends, and I attended three of the four presentations. I regret that I missed opening night.
The play is a musical, and the singers were excellent, especially Isaac Anderson as the main character, Jean Valjean. At one of the many high points of the play, Valjean, now an older man, is seated at a street barricade among a group of sleeping young people. Their uprising is about to be brutally put down, and many of them are soon to die. His attention is focused on young Marius, who is the love interest of Cosette, the young woman whom Valjean has raised. He sings “Bring Him Home,” a haunting and passionate prayer that Marius will survive.
Relatively early in the play we meet the character Fantine, who has been abused by the people around her and the culture at large. At one point Taylor Zadell, playing Fantine, stands alone on a bare stage and sings “I Dreamed a Dream.” Tears flowed freely from my aging eyes down into my gray beard.
I am now in my eighth decade of living. However many years I have remaining, I am certain that I will continue hearing, over and over, Isaac Anderson’s “Bring Him Home” and Taylor Zadell’s “I Dreamed a Dream.”
One of the characters, Marius, has conflicted interests. His friends say join us at the barricade, revolt against the unjust powers of the day. His heart tells him to focus his attention on the girl he loves.
Marius’s struggle reminds me of my four grandchildren who are students at Patrick Henry. Their teachers and parents offer advice on how to live their lives. Pay attention, be respectful, do your homework and get enough sleep — color between the lines, so to speak. Their peers and their hormones tell them to forget about coloring between the lines. They should, figuratively speaking, join their friends at the barricades, and in words from “I Dreamed a Dream,” they should “leave no song unsung, no wine untasted.”
At another point in the play, Fantine looks back at her past and laments that she felt “there was no ransom to be paid” regarding youthful choices. Families and teachers know that there are terrible prices to be paid when unfortunate choices are made. Fantine’s life is ruined by a relatively innocent mistake.
On the final night of the play, more and more chairs were brought into the auditorium to try to meet the demand. There happened to be one vacant seat on my left. An elegantly dressed, beautiful woman asked if the seat was available. She took it and chatted with my wife and me. We were happy to tell her about our grandsons in the play and about the giant wagon that our son-in-law built for the production. She proudly told us about teaching Raekwon Moore in elementary school. He played the evil character Javert and has a glorious and powerful singing voice.
By the close of the play, almost all of the characters have suffered great pain, if not death. But in the end, forgiveness has triumphed over revenge, hope for the future is still alive. During the rousing last number the entire cast sings, regarding the wretched of the earth, “They will live again in freedom/In the garden of the Lord /They will walk behind the plow-share/They will put away the sword . . .”
Many in the audience wept.
When the applause finally stopped, the beautiful lady on my left, with passion in her voice and tears in her eyes, told us what we had just seen was reason for hope regarding the future. The talent exhibited by these young people was inspirational.
As we were leaving, we learned that our new friend’s name is Anita Price, member of Roanoke’s City Council. If she is as wise as she is charming and passionate, our city is in good hands. I left the auditorium feeling hope for my grandchildren’s future and for the future of the city.
Weather JournalSo ... WHERE is this storm?