One of the longest-running musicals of its time, “Les Misérables” will visit for an eight-show set the week of Feb. 4 at the IU Auditorium with showtimes ranging from 2 to 8 p.m.
The cast will return to Bloomington as a part of its U.S. tour following a three-week break the group took in December. Since then, there have been new additions to the cast and changes to the atmosphere.
“There’s just a freshness in the show right now that’s very exciting and thrilling,” musical director and conductor Brian Eads said. “Even though we’ve been on tour now for almost two and a half years, the show is not tired, and I think the Bloomington audiences can expect something that is very much alive.”
The production depicts the lower classes of 19th century France during the revolution.
In contrast to previous performances of “Les Misérables”, the upcoming shows at IU will feature new staging and lighting designs and new scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo, the original author of the work. Some of the musical arrangements have also undergone alterations.
The production team is also hoping to organize a Q&A in collaboration with “Project Jumpstart”. "Project Jumpstart" is a student leadership team that offers opportunities such as career development and entrepreneurship workshops for students of the music school. The group works to inspire students of the Jacobs School of Music through entrepreneurial presentations and resources.
“We’re doing as much as we can to get the word out about the show and also open it up to music students, theater students and students of other disciplines who love music theater,” Eads said. “I’m happy to be a part of that.”
Eads currently studies orchestral conducting as a doctoral candidate at the Jacobs School of Music at IU. He studied at Florida State University for his undergrad and Delta State University for his graduate studies. He said that over the past years during his studies he has learned his two most important pieces of advice.
“As far as your musical craft, you have to put the work in,” Eads said. “There’s no shortcut around good, old-fashioned hard work and you have to treat people well, how they deserve to be treated.”
Eads currently lives in Nashville and returns when he is off tour, but he is originally from Mississippi. There, “Les Misérables” introduced Eads to musical theater and inspired him to pursue a career in conducting.
“It’s literally a dream come true for me,” Eads said. “‘Le Mis’ was the first show I saw as a kid. I couldn’t afford the good seats so I had a seat way in the balcony and I remember peering down into the orchestra pit and watching the conductor.”
Eads was approached with the offer to conduct in the “Les Misérables” while he was studying at IU, and despite the time needed for him to balance his career and studies, Eads shared that both the school and his career have prepared him. He is still working on his dissertation but he feels that Jacob has prepared him to balance his schoolwork and his work on the show.
Eads said that he feels as if the upcoming Bloomington shows are a homecoming for him after his time away from the city and campus. He is excited to invite his peers to enjoy the original Broadway rendition. Tickets may be purchased at iuauditorium.com.
“To have been to IU as a student, ready to work in the professional arena, and doing so and coming back to the place that made it all happen is really special to me,” Eads said.