If you go
Where: Philharmonic Center for the Arts, 5833 Pelican Bay Blvd., Naples
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday Jan. 24 through Saturday, Jan. 28; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 28 and 29; and 7:30 p.m. Jan. 29
To buy: 239-597-1900 or online at www.thephil.org
Something else: Hear J. Mark McVey sing “Bring Him Home” at www.jmarkmcvey.com/about.html
In most of the 25 years the musical "Les Miserables" has been thrilling audiences, J. Mark McVey has been in it. And for most of that time he has been Jean Valjean, the conflicted hero of the Victor Hugo novel brought to Broadway fame by Alain Boublil's and Claude-Michel Schönberg's book and music.When "Les Miz," as it's known, returns to Southwest Florida for six-day run at the Philharmonic Center next week, McVey will be in it again as Jean Valjean, the fugitive turned father figure. But this time his role has a special meaning: His daughter, Kylie, is one of the cast.
Kylie McVey, 8, is in the cast as Little Cosette, the tot entrusted to Valjean, (and alternating as Young Éponine, the daughter of Cosette's mother's employer).
"Having done this role so many times, I enjoyed doing it with all the cast, but it makes a quantum leap if you're doing it with your own child," said McVey. "It makes all your protective instincts even stronger."
Young Kylie McVey is happy she has the roles — "I auditioned twice to do this play," she explains, and that the first "a little scary" feeling has given way to the fun of working with her father. Performing isn't new to her, however: The entire McVey family performs on occasion, including in church back in Ridgeway, N.J.
McVey may be familiar to audiences here for other roles as well. He's a vocalist on the Transiberian Orchestra's "The Lost Christmas Eve," which earned him a gold record. He was Captain Walker in the Who's "Tommy," played in Tommy Tunes' " The Best Little Whore House Goes Public," and has been featured in several PBS specials.
Amid it all, McVey has played Valjean through five different productions, including in London's West End, Broadway, Hollywood and on several tours.
This production has taken advantage of some new orchestral arrangements and — thanks to its longevity — new technology that will simplify the lighting for some of the projected scenes. But the real changes for the cast come from theater to theater.
"We all have to adapt to the theater space we're in. Although we all go into proscenium theaters, this one is a little small," he said of the Tennessee Theater in Knoxville, where "Les Miz" was playing before stops in Orlando and Naples.
"That's not from the audience perspective, but backstage. What goes on backstage is considerably changed when there's a lack of space. This is an incredible crew, however, and they always make it work."
In his years as Valjean, McVey says he's developed a real admiration for his character: "Jean Valjean is a man who changes his life. He has a complete turnaround, In 1890, he went from hating the world and hating his life to the most loving character he could be, and he does it all through human trappings."
It's a story of faith and grace, he says. His favorite song in the musical is Valjean's prayer, "Bring Him Home," sung for Marius, the student who loves Cosette.
"It's not only one of the most well-written pieces of musical theater. The message and the lyrics are so profound, it's a true blessing to be able to deliver it every night."