Many a musically inclined man has coveted the role of Jean Valjean.

He’s the protagonist of the Tony Award-winning 1987 musical “Les Misérables,” based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel.

“There’s a reason the show’s been running for 33 years and the original production is still running in London,” said Nick Cartell, the New York City-based actor who stars as Valjean in the national touring production.

“It’s the story of a man trying to make the world a better place, and to find forgiveness for the things he’s done and to find forgiveness for others. It resonates with people.”

The show will be at Pikes Peak Center through June 9.

Valjean, a peasant in early 19th-century France, is freed after spending 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s child. After meeting a bishop, who grants him an act of mercy, he breaks parole and must flee from police inspector Javert, who’s dead set on capturing him. Along the way, Valjean gets involved with a group of young idealists who try to overthrow the government.

The nearly three-hour show features memorable Broadway hits including “I Dreamed a Dream,” “On My Own,” “Stars,” “Bring Him Home,” “One Day More” and “Do You Hear the People Sing?”

Cartell knows he has “big shoes to fill,” he said from a Los Angeles tour stop, but whenever he needs inspiration or to reconnect to his character, he turns to Hugo’s novel, which is brimming with elaborate character details.

“It’s about making smart choices and doing good things,” he said. “That’s where I connect with the character most, in trying to reach out to people if they’re feeling down or having a bad day.”

It was a seventh-grade school trip to see the musical “Cinderella” that cemented Cartell’s musical theater dreams. Six months later, his father saw an audition for a show about Pinocchio, and he’s been a stage junkie ever since.

Cartell graduated with a bachelor’s in theater from Arizona State University, and his resume is lush with acting credits, including his Broadway debut in the 2012 revival of “Jesus Christ Superstar” and a role in a touring production of “The Phantom of the Opera.”

He considers his current job a big break: “It’s taken me to another level,” he said.

“Our political climate is one that, regardless of what side of the aisle you sit on, people are trying to stand up for what they believe is right, what is true and what will make the world a better place,” Cartell said.

“That’s what the characters in our story are fighting for. People recognize the show, the music, the characters, and walk away feeling inspired.”

Jennifer Mulson, The Gazette,

Contact the writer: 636-0270

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