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Kids bring ‘Les Mis’ to life on Lehman stage

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Christina Jimenez describes the musical Les Misérables as her “favorite show in the whole world.”

The 13-year-old student at St. Benedict’s School in Throgs Neck has read the 1,500-page, 19th-century Victor Hugo novel on which the musical is based and has seen a production of the show in Washington D.C.

She often wears a grey and black shirt with the numbers 24601 emblazoned across the front – the prison numbers of Les Misérables main character Jean Valjean.

Now, Christina is preparing to take her adoration of the story a step further. Beginning Feb. 6, she will perform in the ensemble cast of the Riverdale Children’s Theater (RCT) rendition of Les Misérables at Lehman College’s Lovinger Theatre.

“It was sort of like a dream come true because I’ve just wanted to be part of the show for so long,” she said at a recent rehearsal at Lehman College.

As an ensemble cast member, Christina will play a boy in the barricades, a factory girl and a “lovely lady” in the French Revolution era show centered on Valjean, a former convict who turns his life around thanks to a priest’s forgiveness and generosity, but is hunted by his prison guard Javert after breaking his parole.

The novel was a commercial success after its publication in 1862. Its story served as the basis for the fifth longest-running Broadway show in history, winning eight Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Original Score.

Renewed popularity

Les Misérables has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years, thanks in part to the 2012 movie version of the show starring Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, which won Best Picture at the Golden Globes in the “musical or comedy” category and garnered a “Best Supporting Actress” win at the Oscars for Hathaway, who played the tragic Fantine character.

It took in nearly $500 million at the box office and has led to a revival of the show on Broadway, set to open on March 1.

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