The hit musical Les Miserable is coming to a theater near you

Victor Hugo’s epic novel, the story of a French farmer and his desire for redemption after serving nineteen years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s starving child, was a smash hit when he died in 1985 first appeared in the West End. Cameron Mackintosh’s adaptation has been running ever since, making it the longest-running musical in the West End.

But you don’t have to travel to London to see this epic as a UK tour is underway starring Dean Chisnall as Jean Valjean and Nic Greenshields as Javert. Ahead of the show opening at Bristol’s Hippodrome Theater on July 12, Mature Times sat down with Dean and Nic to talk about the production, their roles and what we can expect to see on stage.

They both play two of the most iconic roles in musical theater, Jean Valjean and Javert in Les Miserables. What is it like to take on roles like this?

Dean Chisnall: I’ll tell everyone, this is the dream role for everyone in musical theater. It’s the pinnacle of any male performer and I just feel very fortunate to be doing it and to have done it for as long as I have. I have now played over 500 performances as Jean Valjean and it still feels as magical as when I first stepped on stage. I pinch myself every day.

Nic Greenshields: It’s a great privilege to play Javert. I first saw the show when I was a teenager and to do so 25 years later is a great honor. I’m trying to bring out another side of Javert, give him multiple dimensions and make him more than just the villain by showing him a more emotional side.

Were you both fans of the show before you were a part of it, remember your first experience with Les Mis?

DC: I remember the first time I saw it. I’ve always been a fan, long before I even dreamed of pursuing a theater career. I was alone in London around the age of 18 and went to get a single ticket Les Miserables in the palace theater. I sat there and totally fell in love with the show.

NG: I remember when I was about 11 years old I bought a cassette of people singing songs from Les Mis. I remember listening to it and trying to imagine what the show would be like. Eventually I asked my mother to give me a ride and we queued for the return. I was just overwhelmed. I was really impressed by the show and I thought, ‘I want to be a part of it. That’s what I want to do.”

You’ve both played those roles for a long time. Have you noticed that your understanding of the character has changed since you first played the role?

NG: Definitely. I’ve changed since I first took on the role. I’m a father now, I’m older and more mature and have experienced life a little bit more. I am now able to identify many more layers for him. It’s a great role and there’s no other role on the show that I’d rather take on. I always like to learn more about him as I keep playing him.

DC: I tell people that we’re always trying to strive for perfection, which is unattainable, which means you never stop trying. In someone like Jean Valjean, it is very complex in many ways, but very simple in others. It’s always a challenge to develop and I love that about him. I think I probably played it a little differently every time I played it. You can always find something new in him and he is a wonderful person to play with.

What are your favorite moments on the show?

DC: I love take him home. I know it’s a song I sing alone, but it’s always felt like a whole company moment. The rest of the cast sleeps on the barricades, so it always feels pretty magical. I also love the absolutely iconic one more day, with the whole company there. To be honest, the whole show is two and a half hours of pure magic.

NG: I absolutely agree, one more day is such an iconic moment for everyone. There is no better way to end the first act of a show! I always like to hear Fantine sing ‘i dreamed a dream‘, it’s a great number and I dare everyone to come and see it and not love this moment. The moments I have with Dean are wonderfully dramatic. I love the beginning with the prisoners and the moment that moves me is the finale with Valjean and Cosette. It’s so beautiful musically and the lyrics are gorgeous too.

Does the role as a performer require a lot of stamina and what helps you perform every night?

NG: I started running during lockdown! I felt like I had to do something and just before we started rehearsals I ran a half marathon, which was quite an achievement. All roles are demanding, if you continue to deliver at the level we aim to achieve it’s hard work. You have to take care of yourself. Dean and I try to take care of our voices and our energy to make sure we’re playing well eight shows a week.

DC: Preparation is key! I’m trying to stay healthy and get some sleep. I love my job so it’s not a chore and I don’t find it tiring. It’s exhausting, but I have to say that it’s probably more mentally exhausting than physically because of the way Jean Valjean is and what a marathon journey he’s going on. We’re here to give the audience some sort of escape route, and of course actors like to escape into a role too. I definitely feel like I’m somewhere else during these two and a half hours, you have to live and breathe these characters. You can’t fake Les Mis.

Why do you think audiences still like coming to see Les Mis?

DC: The messages from Les Mis are still so relevant. Everyone has something they can relate to on the show, something they’ve experienced in their life. The show is as fresh as ever now, it’s wonderful company to have here and we’re excited to share it with people. There is no show that reacts like this one. It’s the biggest show in the world.

NG: The music is definitely a big part of it. The score is stunning and has really made its way into popular culture and brought it to new audiences. Ultimately, I think the show has remained so popular because of the themes. It’s a show about redemption and the human condition and everything that still moves us all today. We connect with the characters and delve into the story and the beautiful music pulls it all together. It’s clearly a magic formula.

Have you ever received a piece of advice that stuck in your mind?

DC: I think just absorb as much information as you can because you’re like a sponge in rehearsals. I always want people I’ve worked with before to want to work with me again. So just be nice, be friendly and be a team player. Those are the basics of being part of a show.

NG: Mine is really the same as Dean’s, it’s really so important to be nice to people and remember that it’s all a collaborative effort. I also remember my principal at drama school, Betty Laine, who really taught me never to be late. I have a real thing about it, and I always plan to be early!

The show plays at the Bristol Hippodrome from July 12th to August 6th and then tours across the UK. The full tour dates are below this link. to book tickets Click here.

The hit musical Les Miserable is coming to a theater near you

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