Beginning Jan. 9, the world’s longest running musical, “Les Miserables,” comes to Philadelphia’s Academy of Music for its national tour. Set in 19th century France, at the beginnings of the June Rebellion (not the French Revolution), it tells the story of love, sacrifice and redemption set to some of Broadway’s most timeless songs, like “Stars,” “On My Own” and of course, the hauntingly beautiful, “I Dreamed a Dream,” performed by the battered but never broken Fantine.
Melissa Mitchell, who plays Fantine in the latest production, calls her a powerful and poignant character.
“She’s a woman of great grace, dignity, and strength, and lives selflessly for the good of her daughter,” she says. “Inhabiting Fantine’s story has been thrilling, challenging, heartbreaking and thought-provoking.”
When it comes to singing “I Dreamed a Dream,” Mitchell admits the song has taken on more meaning the older she herself becomes.
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“I love the solitary, intimate feeling of singing it,” she says. “I think I understand the song more fully and deeply the older I get and the more life I experience. Fantine herself is young, in her mid-20s, yet an old soul. In the song she is grappling with the reality of her life not following the path she had dreamed of, and while this reality is heartbreaking, she admirably does not let despair overtake her. Instead she grows into a more mature and authentic sense of hope – one that motivates her to continue living for the pure and powerful love of her daughter above all else.”
So what had made this musical stand the test of time with audiences? For Mitchell, it’s all about human connection.
“The characters are faced with suffering and persevere in the face of difficulty, fighting for the good of humanity and exemplifying the beauty of the powerful fight of the human spirit. It is inspiring, poignant, unifying and uplifting in a timeless way,” she says.
When it comes to her own dreams for 2018, Mitchell is looking forward to spending time in Philadelphia as well as continuing to grow as a person.
“My constant dream and desire is to grow more fully into the person I was created to be – the circumstances of life may develop and change, but I dream of becoming a more selflessly loving person, and growing in my relationship with God, my family and friends,” she reveals. “And Fantine is the perfect character to inspire me in this.”
If you go:
Jan. 9 through Jan. 21
The Academy of Music
240 S. Broad St.