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Cast Shines in Re-Imagined 'Les Mis' Production

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Full disclosure: my younger brother, Justin Spiro, is the executive producer of "Les Miserables," which opened at the Meadow Brook Theatre yesterday and runs through Wednesday, July 3rd. And full disclosure: I don't know how he did it.

Justin just wrapped up his second year of law school in Chicago. He just got married a little less than a year ago. He has four pets. And yet mere months ago he dreamed a dream (see what I did there?) that he could put on a production of "Les Miserables." No doubt my sister-in-law, a fabulous singer and fellow theater fan, was a key inspiration for this big, wild idea.

It seemed so out of the blue, such an undertaking. But as I sat in the audience for opening night last night, our parents and cousins and family friends just a small percentage of the sold-out, electric crowd, I couldn't help but beam with pride.

As a fan of theater, there is nothing more fun than to go see a show when I know someone in the cast. It's exciting to watch a friend or family member blossom on stage and show off their talents. 

Because my sister-in-law Lynn was a member of the women's ensemble, I was still able to have that experience as an audience member. But more importantly, knowing that my brother was responsible for taking on the magnitude of this production became a completely different kind of experience for me. Seeing the people crowding into the theater, pouring over the beautifully-designed programs, it was wild to think that this was the culmination of what my brother set out to do. 

And he doesn't even do this for a living! Though maybe he should consider it.

It takes a village to do this, not doubt, and from Justin's initial dream came an all-star team of the show's director, Katherine M. Carter, music director Jim Territo, orchestra, and a multi-talented cast.

Two of Michigan State's finest performers, the classically-trained Steve Martin and Zachary Niedzwiecki as leads Jean Valjean and Javert, have voices one might expect from a Broadway rendition of this beautiful show. Each was pitch-perfect, along with the rest of the cast, who were expertly chosen for their roles.

As for how this production creates its own fingerprint, Carter uses a framing device to help shape the show: Jean Valjean, at a table downstage right, writing his last confession. The show becomes a memory instead of happening in the moment, a reflection on a tough life that twists and turns on a road to redemption.

For such a popular and fine show with years of history and associations, this production handled the task of breathing new, beautiful life into it. 

Tickets for all of the performances have been sold out for days, so unfortunately I can't encourage anyone without tickets already to go see it. 

All I can do is what I did in the Meadow Brook Theatre: sit back in awe, beaming with pride at what my little brother and his talented team has accomplished...

...and try to get "Lovely Ladies" and "Master of the House" out of my head.

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