From Jesus on the cross to Paul on the Damascus road, the Bible is filled with stories about the power of redemption. “Les Misérables,” one of the world’s most iconic musicals, tells the story of Jean Valjean, a former convict who spends a lifetime seeking redemption.
“Jean Valjean’s story is every Christian’s story,” said Ethan Rogers, an actor in the current national touring production of the musical. “He begins the story away from the Lord. Just like the parable of the prodigal son, he leaves and squanders his inheritance and his life. When he turns and comes home, the father runs toward him and welcomes him back with open arms. He turns his life around. It’s a story of what your life really can look like if you embrace the father. It’s a beautiful story. No matter where you are on your spiritual journey, there is something for you there.”
Rogers recently spoke with Metro Voice from Washington, D.C., where the musical is being performed at The Kennedy Center. The next stop on the tour is The Music Hall in Kansas City, where it will run from May 2-7.
Set against the backdrop of 19th century France, “Les Misérables” tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption — a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. The score includes the songs “I Dreamed a Dream,” “On My Own,” “Bring Him Home,” “One Day More,” “Master of the House” and many more. It has been by more 130 million people worldwide in 53 countries and 22 languages.
“It’s one of the great shows of our time,” Rogers said. “If you have seen the show before, you have never seen it like this. This show really meets you where you are. If you have seen the show at one point in your life, it’s going to mean something different to you now. If you have never seen the show before, it has some of the great music of the stage and one of the most eternal stories ever written. I couldn’t recommend it more.”
The scale of the production, which is underwritten in part by PNC Bank, is immense:
- Eleven semi-trailers are used to move the production from city to city.
- 1,200 costumes are used and require one entire semi to transport.
- The actors wear nearly 90 wigs, all made from human hair.
- Nearly 150 speakers are used for each show, compared to 32 for a typical Broadway show.
- The scenic towers are three stories tall.
“You haven’t seen `Les Mis’ like this,” Rogers said. “We have some really incredible voices from top to bottom in this production. We all are terrific singers and actors who love this piece and put our hearts and minds into it every night. It’s a big show.”
The Austin, Texas, native is performing in his first national tour after graduating from Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio, in 2021. His biography includes John 13:35: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Rogers has several favorite moments in the show.
“Toward the end of Act II, we get introduced to the revolutionary students,” he said. “The camaraderie we get to embody onstage every night is something I always find thrilling. I cover the role of Valjean as well and have done that a couple of times. For me, the prologue at the very beginning where Valjean makes the decision to change his life is one of the most thrilling and humbling moments every night. And of course, `Bring Him Home’, which is one of the greatest songs of the musical theater canon. You don’t want to miss it.”
Rogers encourages Christians to engage with the arts to gain greater insights into their faith, other people and ultimately, themselves.
“The spirit of inspiration is a real gift,” he said. “It has been one of the many gifts in my life. I think about the moments that gave me such direction and purpose in my own career. Not that everyone is going to see the show and become an actor, but you never know how a work is going to touch you, open your eyes, start a conversation and give you new insight. You never know what you are going to learn or what conversation you will have after the show that may help you think differently or articulate an idea differently.”
The upcoming performances in Kansas City will be an unforgettable experience, Rogers said.
“`Les Mis’ is one of the greatest shows ever written,” he said. “This is the definitive version. If you have seen `Les Mis’ before, you have never seen it like this. And if you have never seen `Les Mis ‘before, strap in. It will change your life. It will meet you where you are. There are a million things to fall in love with. There are characters for you to laugh at and to cry to and to open your heart and learn something new.”
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice