LOS ANGELES — When it opened in London in 1985, “Les Misérables” was revolutionary and not just because of its famous turntable stage. It grew into a global phenomenon, seen by more than 130 million people in 53 countries and in 22 different languages. It’s been revived, adapted into a film, celebrated in star-studded anniversary concerts and even done in a crosswalk during “The Late Late Show with James Corden.”

What You Need To Know

  • "Les Misérables" has been seen by more than 130 million people in 53 countries and in 22 different languages

  • The U.S. Tour plays at the Pantages through Sept. 10

  • The tour will be at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa from Sept. 19 through Oct. 1

  • It then moves to the San Diego Civic Center until Oct. 15

Now the show is storming SoCal, and among the cast is Riverside native Nicole Morris.

“This is all of my costumes,” she said, standing in front of a packed wardrobe gondola. “This is kind of crazy.”

Morris is a swing, meaning she covers about eight different ensemble tracks, stepping into the show when someone else is out.

“We sometimes have to jump from one character to another character all in one show,” she explained.

Growing up in SoCal, she is no stranger to the historic theater in Hollywood or musicals in general. Her mother, Diana Kavilis, performed on Broadway and on several national tours, and took her to the Pantages to see her very first musical — “The Lion King” — when Morris was no more than 4 years old.

“I remember we got a backstage tour,” she recalled. “It was a very early memory that I had. But I remember just being up on that stage and being like, this is so cool.”

After Hollywood, she and the cast head to the Segerstrom where Morris saw many touring productions over the years and even performed on the stage when she was a student at the Orange County School of the Arts. 

In addition to her swing duties, she also understudies the iconic role of Eponine, which is played by her friend Christine Heesun Hwang.

“She’s my bestie on the road,” Hwang said, giving Morris a squeeze.

(Spectrum News/Tara Lynn Wagner)

The two actually went to college together on the East Coast, and were cast in “Sister Act” but Hwang left halfway through rehearsals, having gotten cast in the national tour of “Miss Saigon.” 

She is not territorial about Eponine and said her friendship with Morris isn’t strained by their positions on the tour.

“We get to share the role and like, that’s the biggest honor,” she said. “Like I wouldn’t want to share with anybody else. If anything, I think it’s like strengthened our bond because we can have a deeper sense of empathy and understanding of what our job entails us to do.”

“And open communication,” Morris added.”

“And like we learn from each other,” Hwang continued. “I learned from you and, you know, it’s just a great honor.”

(Spectrum News/Tara Lynn Wagner)

Hwang said she is also continuously learning from the role, even though she has performed the show some 300 times so far. The story of Jean Valjean may be set in the early 1800s, but she said the topics it explores are incredibly relevant today.

“We’re talking about an ex-con, you know, who’s trying to rediscover his own life as well as the very complicated relationships within the police system and as well as the young students who want greater change for not only themselves but the generations ahead,” Hwang explained. “And that is so pertinent to what we’re dealing with within our country and globally, especially for marginalized groups.”

“As cheesy as it sounds,” she mused, “regardless of how the revolution ends, it’s the fact that the revolution started to begin with.” 


Morris understands that sentiment. Just as she gets her musical theater genes from her mom, social change is also in her DNA. She is a direct descendent of both Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, she said, the family trees intertwining she believes a few generations back with her Grandma Honey on her father’s side. She said she often reflects on her ancestors as approaches the show and her life.

“Them advocating for equality and justice, and everything is something that I’m advocating for today as well,” Morris explained. “And I think ‘Les Miz’ is a good connection with both of that.”

For those who come to hear the people sing, whether for the first time or the 14th, Morris hopes they walk away not just humming the famous tunes but buzzing with what she thinks is the central message of the show.

“Everyone deserves another chance in life, you know?” Morris said.

“Ooh!” Hwang reacted. “That was very good. Very good answer.”

“Yeah,” Morris continued. “Everyone deserves forgiveness.”