- Jan Risher

I first watched Les Miserables nearly 25 years ago. I was young (and unafraid, and dreams were made and used and wasted). I left the theater a changed person. Seriously. It moved me to a degree that I have lived my life differently since. At least, I've tried to live it differently. I took Victor Hugo's words to heart — to love another person is to see the face of God.

I saw the musical on my first trip to Los Angeles. I was with a friend who had grown up there. She knew her way around — and I certainly didn't.

When we left the theater, we went straight to a music store, and I bought the musical's CD.

There was only one problem. CDs were just hitting the scene, and I didn't have a CD player yet. The next day when I flew back home, I went to a store and bought a portable CD player. That double CD set of the London original cast recording of Les Miserables was the only music I had for the next six months.

Here's the thing — I didn't mind it. Jean Val Jean's forgiveness of self and his dedication to others changed me profoundly and made me want to be a better person. Every time I sang the songs (oh, and I sang loud and proud — if you could find the people who lived in the apartments beside or above me, I'm certain they could testify to that) — at any rate, every time I sang the songs, my conviction to be a better person was brought round again.

When I heard they were making a movie, I was hopeful, but cautious. The more I read and saw of it, the more hopeful and cautious I became. Yes, there are things I would do differently. As fine of an actor as Russell Crowe is, I don't believe he did the character of Javert justice, but all in all, I think it is beautiful and conveys the message well.

Go see it. It may not change your life as profoundly as it did when I first saw it long ago, but I can honestly write that I've lived a better life because of Les Mis — and maybe someone else will too.


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