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Friday, December 22, 2017

‘Le Mis’ at National Theatre Ups the Emotional Gravity

Written by  Brynn Devereaux
Josh Davis and Nick Cartell in Les Mis at the National Theatre Josh Davis and Nick Cartell in Les Mis at the National Theatre

Victor Hugo classic brought to stage with a painterly sense of cinema

When Les Misérables debuted in London in 1985, the show was met with mixed reviews. Today, the show widely known as Les Mis is one of the longest-running shows on stage and is beloved by audiences around the world. Fans of the musical will be able to experience the drama, romance and revolution from December 20th to January 7th at the National Theatre in Washington, DC.

It’s hard to believe that a musical that has been around for 32 years can still surprise audiences, but actor and Maryland native, Josh Davis says that even longtime fans will be moved. “I’ve had people say to me, ‘I’ve seen this show 20 times, and this is the best I’ve ever seen,’” says Davis. In Les Mis, Davis plays Javert, a devastatingly rulebound inspector and adversary of the protagonist, Jean Valjean. It’s a part he knows well.

“The first show I ever saw was Les Mis. I was in high school,” recalls Davis. “I remember being overwhelmed with how epic the show was. I remember specifically listening to the guy sing ‘Stars,’ and I thought ‘I really want to play that role.’” Since starting professionally in 2002, he’s gone on to play Javert four times. Davis says, “I realized halfway in that being Javert is a lonely character. I don’t get to interact with many characters. It’s fun to watch my friends act and interact when I can.”

He says that the cast of Cameron Mackintosh’s production is young but talented. “I think we knew we had something special when we sat down and started singing the score,” Davis says. “It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with theatre. When you bring people like that together, and there’s synergy. Everyone has a specific job, and when everyone is doing their job, that is just awesome.”

Davis is quick to give credit to those who are not on stage. He says, “Our crew is amazing. I’m in awe when we go from one city to another, and the set is there. We take it for granted, but they work hard. The audience gets to see the actors, but there is a whole show going on back here.”

As for being on tour, Davis says the hardest is part is remembering where his dressing room is. “I’m guilty of coming off stage and not knowing where I am or what city I’m in,” laughs Davis. “There’s an excitement knowing that you get to perform for a different crowd every week.”

Longtime fans will notice that this production of Les Misérables will miss a few iconic elements such as the turntable, but they will be able notice new blocking and set design that is more cinematic. In fact, Victor Hugo’s original works of art are incorporated in the set design. “Victor Hugo was a painter. Many of them are used as projections on the back wall. Not only do you get to see his story, you get to see his art,” says Davis. “I’m an artist too. I do pen and watercolor, and his style is right up my alley.”

Davis urges fans and newcomers to see this production. “You’ll find something things you’ve never seen before. If you haven’t seen it, you need to see it,” encourages Davis. “There are shows that are entertaining, but they don’t have the emotional gravity. This show pulls people in. I think you leave a better person. There’s a deeper story being told on top of the plot that you’re seeing – the story of humanity, human nature, redemption. We can use that story right now.”

For info and tickets, it’s TheNationalDC.org.

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