Way back in 1988, I went to Los Angeles for the first time. I was 23 and had just fallen off the turnip truck and was slightly traumatized by a presentation I had to make to a group of people. The whole thing ended up going great, and we finished early. I was traveling with a girl who had grown up in Los Angeles. When our conference finished, she turned to me and said, "Do you want to go see a show?" I said, "Sure." And minutes later, I took my first-ever taxi ride to a giant theater in the heart of Los Angeles and took my seat for a Saturday afternoon matinee performance of Les Miserables. I had never heard of the show but was happy to be there. From the moment the curtain raised and Jean Valjean was walking on that giant wheel going nowhere, I sat spellbound. I had always enjoyed theatrical productions in the small town where I grew up, but this show was beyond my wildest expectations. I found myself actually clapping for the sets themselves, never mind the incredible music, voices and story.
The show changed my life. Really, it did. In fact, it changed my life in a number of ways.
The first was that it opened my life more to music. The next day when I got home, I went to a store and bought the double CD of Les Miserables. There was one small hiccup there. I didn't yet own a CD player, but I saved my money and bought one a few weeks later. I listened to the music for months before I bought another CD.
The second was it made realize how accessible big things were if you just took the steps to make them happen — to be a part of your life.
The third was the message of the story — that those of us who have made mistakes in the past don't have to allow them to burden us for the rest of our lives. Those mistakes don't have to define us. We can live lives beyond the story we know and tell ourselves.
The musical version of the movie comes out Christmas Day. I cried when I watched the trailer on the link attached. The movie itself will be different from any musical made before, as the actors are actually singing and being recorded as they're acting, rather than in studios months in advance. I look forward to this incredible story becoming a bigger part of many more people's lives.

- Jan Risher

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