Dream a Dream in Crossville, Tennessee
Jean Valjean’s road to redemption; Fantine’s dream unrealized; Cosette’s rescue from the dastardly conditions of her relatives’ care; Marius’ fight for revolution; Eponine’s pining, heartsick love. These are the stories intertwined in Victor Hugo’s novel, “Les Misérables,” which has been turned into one of the longest-running, award-winning Broadway shows and four movies, the most recent becoming an Academy Award winning production. The Broadway show has been performed around the world, in countless theatres and concert halls. So it’s no surprise Cumberland County Playhousein Crossville, one of the 10 largest professional theatres in rural America, has tackled Hugo’s iconic story and succeeded.
To give you some background, the Cumberland County Playhouse, the only major non-profit professional performing arts center in rural Tennessee, was opened in 1965. It has an annual budget of over $1.8 million and features nearly 500 performances and 1600 classes in dance, theatre and music annually. It draws more than 100 visiting professionals from across the country and volunteers from a dozen of Tennessee counties. It may seem like a beautiful playhouse set against rolling hills but behind those double stage doors is a theatrical force. This same force beautifully staged their adaption of “Les Misérables.”
If you’re not familiar with the book, the movie or the play, “Les Misérables” is a story about seven main characters and their lives during revolutionary France. The musical begins with Jean Valjean imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread. He’s released and is on parole for the rest of his life. That is, until he encounters a priest who shows him kindness. He rips up his parole papers and embarks on a godly life, while also eluding the deadly grip of Javert, a police official. Valjean becomes a mayor and owns a factory.
Fantine works at Valjean’s factory. She has a child, Cosette, who she can’t take care of so she sends Cosette to live with her relatives, Thenardier, his wife and their daughter Eponine. They treat Cosette unkindly and try to swindle from Fantine every penny. Fantine gets wrongly accused of being scandalous at the factory and is forced to resign. She becomes a prostitute in an attempt to provide money for Thenardier. Valjean encounters her and she explains his foreman fired her unfairly. Seeing her sickly state, Valjean puts her in a nurse’s care and promises to take care of Cosette. He finds Thenardier, pays him off for Cosette and returns to Paris. Many years pass and Cosette meets a man named Marius while he and his friends preach to the crowds about status and revolution. Thenardier’s daughter, Eponine loves Marius but Marius falls in love with Cosette. It’s a love triangle that ends tragically in one way but beautifully in another. With beautiful music that lifts your spirit while also breaking your heart, it’s no wonder “Les Misérables” is one of the most well-known Broadway musicals.
The Cumberland County Playhouse has called upon the talents of Nathanial Hackman, part of the national tour, to play Jean Valjean and he doesn’t disappoint. Hackman’s voice bursts forth strong and sure as he takes the audience on a journey of Valjean’s life, from his imprisonment to his selfless acts as penance for his crime.
Every line in the musical is sung and the actors performed impeccably. “Les Misérables” plays in the Cumberland County Playhouse until May 3. Tickets are $29 for adults, $27 for seniors and $14 for children and students.
After you enjoy the beautiful performances of the actors, make your way to Halcyon Day’s Restaurant as you hum “I Dreamed A Dream,” “One Day More” and “On My Own.” Halcyon Day’s Restaurant is a great choice if you want succulent New York strip steaks or the highly recommended chicken marsala or even the stuffed quail where you’ll get two quail with smoked pork-mushroom stuffing, served with a bourbon sauce. The food is divine and the prices are just right.
All in all, a trip to Crossville for dinner and “Les Misérables” is a must-do this season.