Blog September 26th Les Miserables – Part One

Love Is The Way featuring Lucy Stimpson- Maynard from the album Love Is The Way recorded and produced by John Hodgkinson

So for my birthday my lovely wife, Caroline took me to London to see Les Miserables in concert at the Gielgud Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue. The show starred Michael Ball as Javert, Matt Lucas as Thénardier, with Alfie Boe and John Owen- Jones taking turns to play Valjean. I was perhaps a tad disappointed when we found out that it was John Owen- Jones and not Alfie Boe that was singing at our performance – but not for long as Owen- Jones was absolutely brilliant – his solo of “Bring Him Home” was the best solo I have ever heard and the applause afterwards seemed to deservedly go on forever. All the cast were brilliant with Matt Lucus, together with Katy Secombe as his wife, so very funny. The set was also great and the sound fabulous.
I thought in today’s blog that I might list some facts and figures concerning Les Mis like the fact that it is the longest running show in the West End and the second longest running in the world- however I found this article on the net written by Rob Sumrall much more interesting :
Valjean serves 19 years for stealing bread for his sister’s starving child. He had become a hardened man, wrestling with bitterness and the lack of opportunities that life serves to convicted criminals. Finally, the Bishop of Digne, Monseigneur Beinvenu shows Valjean kindness. Valjean is offered a bed and a meal in the Bishop’s home, but returns the kindness by stealing the Bishop’s silver and slithering away under the cover of nightfall. The next morning, Valjean is brought back to the Abby by two constables who have caught him with the absconded silver. The lyrical dialogue is stunning:
Tell his reverence your story
Let us see if he’s impressed
You were lodging here last night
You were the honest Bishop’s guest.
And then, out of Christian goodness
When he learned about your plight
You maintain he made a present of this silver.
That is right.
But my friend you left so early
Surely something slipped your mind
[The Bishop gives Valjean two silver candlesticks]
You forgot I gave these also;
Would you leave the best behind?
So, Messieurs, you may release him
For this man has spoken true.
I commend you for your duty
And God’s blessing go with you.
[The constables leave.]
And remember this, my brother,
See in this some high plan.
You must use this precious silver
To become an honest man.
By the witness of the martyrs,
By the passion and the blood,
God has raised you out of darkness:
I have bought your soul for God.
Shaken by such an act of mercy, Valjean enters into his dark night of the soul. The Bishop’s kindness is doing war with his jaded view of a harsh, unfair world. He wrestles with the man he is, the bitterness that has ensnared him, and the mercy and grace that is just beyond his reach. Valjean has seen his share of injustices during his life. Now, he wonders how the Bishop could have been so kind:
One word from him and I’d be back
Beneath the lash, upon the rack
Instead he offers me my freedom
I feel my shame inside me like a knife
He told me that I have a soul,
How does he know?
What spirit comes to move my life?
Is there another way to go?
I am reaching, but I fall
And the night is closing in
And I stare into the void
To the whirlpool of my sin
I’ll escape now from the world
From the world of Jean Valjean
Jean Valjean is nothing now
Another story must begin!
What follows in Les Mis is the unfolding of Jean Valjean’s new story. After staring into the “whirlpool of his sin,” he emerges as a man touched by grace. He becomes a kind-hearted, upstanding citizen, albeit under an assumed name and on the run from the law. He spends his life caring for others and extending mercy.
What a message! A man encounters the grace of Jesus Christ expressed through the unconditional love of one of His servants and he is inexplicably and unalterably changed! He becomes a friend to the downcast, a father to the fatherless, a forgiver of his enemy, and a savior to the rebel. The criminal becomes the saint. That’s what redemption does!
I’ll conclude the article next week

Quote of the week
Whenever Christianity has been misunderstood it has been because it has been a miserable caricature and not the real thing
Selwyn Hughes in Every Day With Jesus