There’s just something special about theater that allows you to leave reality and float away to a different time, date, and place. This season of Dallas Summer Musicals has been full of adventures for me – and my lucky friends who get to tag along with my press pass.
I consider myself a pretty cultured person. I had a mother who often took me to the museum; I still remember the hours we’d spend analyzing the greats such Pablo Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, and my personal favorite Vincent Van Gogh. Or how we would sit outside of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California and wonder what The Thinker was thinking about. We’d go to the La Brea Tar Pits, hike in the San Gabriel mountains and write reports about the different plants and bugs we’d find, and we’d cherish family traditions like going to see the Nutcracker ballet every Christmas.
As I got older, participating in the arts became less of a priority in my life. And in it’s place, playing video games on my iPhone and binge-watching Netflix shows became more of a priority.
I wonder why that is?
I lost both of my parents this year. Their passing has kind of reminded me that I should get out and enjoy the life I have – you know, in a momento mori sort of way.
I’ve been doing a lot of that at the Music Hall at Fair Park.
First, there was On Your Feet, which literally had me and my friend Stephanie on our feet dancing, laughing, and walking down memory lane to when we were little girls and Latin artists like Gloria Estefan crossed over into mainstream radio.
Waitress, Sara Bareilles’ inspiring and empowering musical, filled me with total GIRL POWER vibes. Not to mention a newfound passion to bake.
And last night, Les Miserables had me in tears.
The incredibly powerful and unforgettable Broadway show is the latest production at The Music Hall – it runs through May 6, so get your tickets now at dallassummermusicals.org/shows/
The story itself is very complex, some character/plot development from the book not brought to the stage, and can be hard to follow if you’re not paying attention – or 15 minutes late like myself and a ton of other people because of the overwhelming traffic around Fair Park. Let’s just say this Tony Award-winning Broadway play is very popular, so get there early. (Did you know it is still the world’s most popular musical, breaking box office records everywhere in its 32nd year?)
That aside, it’s easy enough to fall in love with the singing (OMG), the incredibly detailed and ornate set, and the acting.
The story follows Jean Valjean, the French peasant, from his escape from jail, his encounter with a kindly bishop who shows him mercy (the part I missed) to an ill-fated Paris Uprising of 1832 to protest the appalling social conditions under the provisional French monarch. Along the way, he himself shows an act of mercy to a dying prostitute by promising to raise her young daughter.
The narrative of Les Mis is pretty dark.
So back to me being moved to tears.
It began the moment Nick Cartell, the actor who plays Jean Valjean, begins singing during the uprising and then builds and builds as he sings on his death bed (well chair to be exact). The emotion in that final scene was incredibly overwhelming and simply took my breath away.
And it wasn’t just me. The guy behind me was sniffling through it and my sister, mid-scene, grabbed my hand, squeezed it and just said, ‘Wow.’
The last moments Jean Valjean and his adopted daughter shared reminded me a lot of sitting with my dad in hospice before his death. It’s really hard to describe what that is like, but imagine having a million emotions at once. You feel a sadness that sits on your chest, you feel nostalgic as life and its memories pass by, and you feel at peace because your loved one isn’t going to be in pain any more.
But, it was more than my own father/daughter connection that had tears running down my face. Cartell has the voice of an angel. It’s just so pure and beautiful. Trust me, his voice alone is worth a trip to the historic Music Hall, the show is just mountains of cherries atop.