Les Miserables was the first musical I saw in person. It may be cliche to say the experience changed me forever, but it did. A new appreciation for music was born that day when I watched a group of amazing performers on the rotating stage of the Curran Theatre in San Francisco. This is by far my favorite musical. I have seen it live five times, including a production in Paris. It didn’t matter that I didn’t understand all the French because by then I knew the lyrics by heart.
The story itself is a mix of tragedy and triumph. The music is like nothing else I’ve ever heard. The heartbreak of Fantine losing her child and her dreams. The determination of the students to make their revolution worth their lives. The obsession of Javert to find Jean Valjean. The pure heart of Eponine. The will of Jean Valjean to become an honest man and do right by those he is responsible to and for. It all makes for a timeless story.
Rarely does a day go by that I don’t listen to at least one song from this musical. It does something to my spirit that I can’t describe, something that can’t be achieved by any other experience. I have listened to many different versions of the production, but my favorite is the Complete Symphonic Recording. This compilation brought together the best voices from all the performances around the world.
Though there are many songs that I will listen to over and over again, one in particular never fails to give me chills. An amazing song in its own right, it becomes unforgettable when sung by Kaho Shimada, a Japanese actress who learned the English necessary to sing this song for the Symphonic Recording. Her voice is beautiful. Her rendition of this song is the most emotional of any I have heard. There are notes she sings in this song that never fail to bring me to tears. She is simply amazing.