Last updated: February 19. 2013 11:02PM - 338 Views

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Movie fans may flock to Les Misérables because they admire Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman or Russell Crowe. Those who read Victor Hugo's 1862 epic might be curious about this latest adaptation.

But some area residents have an extra reason to head to the nearest cinema when the struggling people of 19th-century Paris appear on the silver screen on Christmas Day.

I was Jean Valjean, said Jonathan Wallace, 19, of Shavertown, who portrayed the valiant ex-con in The Misfit Players' January 2010 production at Coughlin High School.

I was Fantine, said Sarah Galante, 19, of Kingston, who appeared as the desperate single mother in a spring 2010 production at Wyoming Valley West High School.

As Les Mis cast members, student thespians had the chance to live, breathe and sing about the dejection of a chain gang, the pressure to sell one's body, the ill treatment of an innocent child and the empty chairs at empty tables that remain after a bloody battle.

Naturally, they're eager to see director Tom Hooper's version of a story that's been called one of the half-dozen greatest novels of the world.

I'm most excited for Samantha Barks. She was in the 25th anniversary concert, and she was amazing as Eponine, Wallace said, explaining he also expects Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen to be hilarious as the less-than-honest innkeepers, the Thénardiers.

I don't think Russell Crowe (who plays Javert) is the best singer, Wallace added, but maybe it'll be different when the whole movie comes together.

Alice Lyons, who directed The Misfit Players in Les Mis, said she had doubts about the movie at first, but now she's eager to see it.

When you're involved in musical theater, you wonder how a movie version will turn out, Lyons said. I was a little leery. But seeing every single new preview, I'm getting more and more excited.

Just what is it about this story, with all its misery, that makes it so compelling?

One of the main messages of the show is that you can find a way of bettering your life, Lyons said. Jean Valjean was arrested for stealing a loaf of bread. He was labeled as a criminal in that society. Yet he ends up adopting a young girl because he blames himself for her mother's death.

The most stirring moment in the play, for me, is when Jean Valjean is leaning over Marius' body and realizes Cosette is in love with him and he's praying to God, ‘Bring Him Home.'

Valjean's death scene is uplifting, too, said Galante, citing the lyrics that accompany it. To love another person is to see the face of God, she said. That's a really moving piece.

The idea of love lasting throughout the dark times, and the power to continue to love, comes through, said Wallace, who is studying musical theater at DeSales University near Allentown. Right at the end, Jean Valjean dies knowing he fulfilled his purpose. It was to bring Cosette and Marius together. And everyone who dies for freedom had the power to stand up for what they believe in.

Galante, who is studying directing and playwrighting at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, hopes to see the movie as soon as possible.

All my friends want to go at midnight.

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