Posted by: ritagone | June 5, 2019

Flying Past Grace

Last week my husband

and I saw a touring-company production of “Les Miserables,” the musical based on Victor Hugo’s 19th century classic novel of the same name.  Our daughter and son-in-law, both musical theater buffs also, were with us.  I had already heard some reviews by friends who had seen the show on previous nights, so I was anxious to compare notes, and to compare this production with those I have seen over the 30 years since the show originated on Broadway and in the West End of London.

This production had what I would call a very rushed first act, songs and scenes just flying by.  So much so, that the pivotal scene, the key issue of the entire story, both in the original book and in the play, I felt, got lost in the speed of delivery: the scene where Jean Valjean, an ex-convict who served 19 years of hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family, now out of prison and trying to decide his future, having stolen a bishop’s candlesticks and fleeing, is apprehended by Inspector Javert and brought back to “confess” his crime so that he can be returned to prison, where Javert firmly and completely believes he belongs.  Instead, the bishop, sensing the goodness of Valjean and wanting to be an instrument of God’s mercy (a great example, for a change, of the clergy being a good guy!), tells Javert that not only were the candlesticks given to Valjean, but he forgot other pieces of silver in his haste to depart.

Javert therefore has no claim on Valjean and must release him, and Jean Valjean, alone on the stage, recognizes that God, through the bishop, has given him a chance to redeem himself.  He vows then and there to make something of his life. He will make things right, he will do good to others, he will make his life count.

It is as close to a salvation/redemption scene in literature and theater as you will ever see…and it is quite moving when it is allowed by direction to play itself out a bit.

But alas, in the production we saw, apparently the director and cast wanted to get out of the theater as quickly as possible for their late dinner plans, because the scene and all its import flashed by a rather unsuspecting audience.  You really had to know it was coming, understand its significance to appreciate what was happening.  I wondered if most of the audience did so.

Too bad.

In a culture almost devoid of such metaphors and literary allusions to grace and mercy, I hate to see that when one does come along, it goes by so quickly that it isn’t appreciated for what it is.  If there were hints of grace all over the place, we could afford to let one or two slip by, but they’re in short supply, so we need to savor them, understand them, and learn from them when we can.

So my admonition to you, dear reader, is that you watch for displays of grace wherever you can, in movies, theater, TV programs.  Savor them, enjoy them, tell others about them.  The English poet Robert Browning said: “It is the glory and good of Art, that Art remains the one way possible of speaking truths…”  While I disagree that art is the “one way possible of speaking truths,” it is certainly a lovely way of doing so.  If it’s not done at mach speed, that is.


  1. Beautifully expressed. I agree whole heartedly.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: