|Photo by Matthew Murphy|
Although Caissie Levy and Nikki M. James have known the Tony Award-winning musical Les Misérables by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg since a young age, their Les Miz co-star Keala Settle came into the show with fresh eyes and got acquainted with the "Madame of the House" prior to her first audition.
"It's so pressuring to me," admitted Settle, a Tony nominee for her show-stopping performance in last season's Hands on a Hardbody, who plays Les Miz's Madame Thenardier. "It's so daunting, and I didn't realize just how massive the show was until I got into rehearsal, and I felt — and still, at times, do feel — out of my element because I came from a different background, and this music is so classical, and to be able to be part of it scares me half to death! But, at the same time, you owe it the respect that it's garnered… Even having it reimagined — [although] I've never seen it before… But, being able to have this new blood — all of us, being a part of it… and for the first time, being able to do it the way we see this story — each character being portrayed is magic. It's absolute magic!"
Magic happens nightly at the Imperial Theatre, where the 2014, reimagined revival opened March 23 and where the original Les Miz was housed for nearly 13 years and 5,244 performances. Audiences begin applauding at the top of the show, when the orchestra strikes its first notes and theatregoers are transported to 1800s France.
Levy plays the musical's ill-fated Fantine, and — although the 2014 revival nixes the turntable staging and features fresh orchestrations — the heart of each character remains and is evident in powerful classics such as Levy's "I Dreamed a Dream" and James' "On My Own."
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