Described as "a re-imagined version of the show that everybody knows and loves" by baritone Josh Davis who plays Inspector Javert, Les Misérables will once again be arriving in Houston in a few weeks, but this time there's no turntable.
Instead, a very flexible set will be employed to move from one staging ground to another in the fast-paced story of love, hatred, betrayal, bravery and above all redemption, he says. And the back wall projections will now be of impressionistic art in the style of author Victor Hugo, who wrote the original book, and who as it turns out was also a painter.
Unaltered is the music by Claude-Michel Schönberg and lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer including “I Dreamed A Dream,” “On My Own,” “Stars," “Bring Him Home,” “One Day More,” “Do You Hear the People Sing” that over the years has been a propelling force to get audiences to see the show over and over again.
Brought here by the newly renamed Mischer Neurosciences Broadway at the Hobby Center, Les Misérables is the story of Jean Valjean, in prison for stealing a loaf of bread, who is released after 19 years but breaks his parole. He finds shelter with a bishop, but then steals his silverware. Apprehended by police he is freed when the minister tells authorities he gave Valjean the silver. Valjean then promises to become an honest man, although he begins this new life by masking his identity.
Valjean's reinvention works and he becomes the prosperous owner of a factory. Eventually he crosses paths with Fantine, a worker at his plant who is fired when it is discovered she has an illegitimate child and then becomes a prostitute. While he cannot save Fantine, who dies of illness, he does become the protector of her orphaned daughter Cosette. All this occurs amidst the stirrings of the 1832 Paris Uprising. And all the while, Inspector Javert relentlessly pursues him.
Davis says he auditioned five times for the role in the Broadway tour, the last time before producer Cameron Mackintosh himself. Since August of 2017, Davis says he has traveled to 30 cities while performing the role, one that has been special to him for a long time.
Growing up in Maryland, Davis says he was not great at team sports but was a good skier. But there was no ski team at his school so he got involved in drama after taking a class. He was in high school when he got to see a touring production of Les Miz. "I vividly remember sitting in the seat watching this guy singing "Stars." I thought 'Man, what a great song. And that would be so much fun to play.' Also, since I was a baritone I kind of gravitated toward it. My goal wasn’t to be on Broadway. I just wanted to be in Les Miz once and play that role."
When he went to University of Delaware he got a degree in marketing. He worked for an ad agency and then a production company but realized he loved acting and singing and quit his job in 2002. In 2004 he moved to New York and did what all beginning actors do, worked side jobs (he got a real estate license) while auditioning for parts. He was about to quit acting in 2012 — he'd had a serious injury to his shoulder — but he thought "I just want to play Javert and then I'll retire and do something else. I had my agent look for something and we found it in Pioneer Theatre in Salt Lake City
He got to play Javert in that and another regional production of Les Misérables in 2013 and, in fact, that year he booked his first Broadway show in Beautiful - The Carole King Musical as an original company member. From there, other opportunities fell into place.
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Les Miz has staying power because besides the wonderful music, it has heart, Davis says. "What I find most when I talk to audience members is that the story itself, the story of redemption, the story of a man who had done some wrong things and made some mistakes in his life and learned from the mistakes and ddicated his life to raising a child, people can relate to that, the humanity of it."
He said they've been selling out almost every time. "What happens is that after two or three days of being in the state the word gets around that 'Oh my gosh, this is not the same show I thought it was going to be. It's incredible; you have to see it.' We're completely sold out in San Francisco. We had a three-hour line yesterday.
"Whether you’ve seen it 20 times or you've never seen it, you will get something new out of this experience. It’s new because the creator spent 30 years watching the show to figure out what works, what doesn’t."
Performances are scheduled for September 25-30 at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-315-2525 or visit thehobbycenter.org or broadwayatthehobbycenter.com. $35-$380