The Rich & the Miserable

June 1988By John C. Cort

My wife and I recently had an amazing exper­ience. One of our children is reasonably well off, and she and her husband gave us orchestra tickets to Les Miserables. This was not the original Broad­way company, but one of several road companies touring the provinces.

Even so, these tickets cost $42.50 apiece! The balcony tickets were not significantly cheaper, and the theater was packed. So I think it fair to say that we were surrounded, especially there in the orchestra, by a good many rich people. I had pretty much forgotten both the story and the life history of Victor Hugo. So my first amazement was the discovery that this magnificent production was al­most literally a glorification of Christian socialism.

There are scenes in the show that you would think a rich person wedded to the capitalist system, as I am sure most of our neighbors were, would in­evitably view with horror: revolutionaries on the barricades, revolutionaries waving the red flag, rev­olutionaries engaged in the class struggle of poor against rich.

And so my second amazement was the sight and sound of these rich people around us applaud­ing like crazy the enactment of a social revolution on the stage before them. Of course, you might say they were applauding the beauty and excitement of the production, the excellent acting, the tuneful music, etc. I suppose this was true to some extent. But I can’t believe that explains the intensity of the applause and acclamation. I believe that many, if not most, were genuinely moved by the content of the story, were so caught up, almost despite themselves, in this struggle for justice and freedom that somehow it reached down inside them, beneath the encrusted surface of a rich person’s normal bias, and struck a chord of basic human feeling and sym­pathy.

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