ST. LOUIS – When “Les Misérables” takes the stage at the Fox Theatre this week, the cast will include one actor who sat in the seats as a child, dreaming of getting the chance to be part of a tour one day.
“I can’t even begin to imagine the feeling that I am going to have,” said Devin Archer when describing what it will be like to take the stage there.
The Edwardsville native is finally performing in St. Louis after traveling the country with four national tours.
Archer says he grew up and fell in love with musical theater at the Fox Theatre and was no stranger to “Les Misérables.” He told Spectrum News he played Jean Valjean in a 2006 production of the show at Edwardsville High School. Now, he’s playing Enjolras, a thoughtful and inspiring revolutionary leader in 19th century France.
“Les Misérables” has been a fan favorite for over 35 years and Archer says the fact it is still selling out theaters is a testament to the show itself. He thinks the show about loss, hope and survival of the human spirit is more impactful than ever.
“It’s especially important now post-pandemic, now that we’ve all had this collective experience of loss, and collective loss of time, loss of friends and family and loved ones, loss of sense of control, loss of sense of self, loss of purpose. It spans a broad spectrum of things,” explained Archer.
The company is over 100 shows into the tour and Archer points to the production company’s choice to have a youthful cast as another way to bring new energy to the popular show.
Haley Dortch, 20, plays Fantine. She was still in college when she landed the role.
“I submitted as a non-union, 20-year-old actor in Michigan and it worked out,” she recalled.
It’s her first national tour and while she said she has done eight shows a week before, being part of this three-hour show was a real “game-changer.” She said she realized she had to start training to get more stamina to perform.
“It is a marathon, and it is also a sprint at the same time,” she explained.
Performing is not just physically demanding, but also emotional.
“I cry every day at some point during the show because of how emotionally taxing it is,” shared Archer.
Archer said his character is such a complex individual and playing the role is “remarkably challenging.”
He read Victor Hugo’s novel to better understand his character. However, during rehearsals, he had to reflect on how to best portray the role.
“I realized I had to let go a little of the source material to make the character likeable. I became concerned I was up there just kind of a bad guy, and he’s not a bad guy,” Archer said.
When he’s up on stage in St. Louis this week, he may spot some familiar faces in the crowd.
“I’ve had so many of my friends and so much of my family travel to Chicago or Indianapolis or Kansas City and I am so thrilled I can finally come to them,” he exclaimed.
Among those friends, about 10 of his high school classmates from that 2006 production of “Les Misérables” will be in the audience, as well as his high school mentor Lynda Marshall.
“Lynda really took me under her wing as a young man and helped me prepare for my college audition. She was my one true mentor outside of my family growing up. I could get emotional talking about what it means for her to see me do this. She was there from the very beginning,” Archer said.
Marshall is expected to be in the audience along with 25 students from Kaskaskia College, where she now teaches.
Archer also is excited to get to share his hometown with his fellow cast members for the first time. He recently got defensive when he overheard some of them mentioning not wanting to go to Imo’s.
“I turned around on a dime and I was like you are going to Imo’s, and you are getting the toasted ravioli, and you are getting the square slices, OK, you are doing it, and you also are getting the Ted Drewes,” Archer said passionately.
The Cardinals fan says he is sad the team isn’t playing at Busch Stadium since he hasn’t been there in 7 years, but instead hopes to make stops at The Hill and The Loop and maybe even the St. Louis Science Center.
“Les Misérables” will be at the Fox Theatre from Jan. 17-22. You can learn more about showtimes and ticket prices on the Fabulous Fox website.