There are only a few more days left until the touring cast of Broadway’s Les Misérable is playing on the Kansas City Music Hall stage from May 2-7. (Get your tickets here.)
We talked with Christine Heesun Hwang, the actress who plays Éponine, about what she has in store for Kansas City.
Will this be your first time performing in Kansas City?
I don’t think I’ve performed there yet. I was in rehearsals for Miss Saigon when I went to Kansas City. The last time I was there was in December of 2019. I remember there’s one cafe I really loved that had really good baked goods—it was this huge café, and they made all the bread in-house.
—I bet you’re thinking of Messenger Coffee.
Yes! The biscuits were so good, that’s the main thing I remember about Kansas City—and the burnt ends I had at one place were just incredible. I ate so much when I was there! I’m excited to experience it again.
You grew up in Iowa. How did your childhood influence your career?
I saw Wicked, my first touring show, in Iowa—it was probably the second or third professional theatrical show I’d seen at that point—and I was blown away by it. I always listened to theater and music, but I didn’t really start until I got to high school and happened to audition for a show and got in.
You’ve played Éponine for the last six months touring with Les Mis. What do you most appreciate about her character?
She’s such a passionate girl. The way I’ve been buying into it, is she has so many walls up and so many defenses, but she wants to help her loved ones that she’s loyal to. In the case of her relationship with Marius—really my entire show line is revolting with him—I want to emphasize the fact that this is more than just another girl having a crush on a boy. It’s more about pinning your hopes and dreams on this idea of a person that you think will help you escape the life you’re living—this is a ticket out of this world. That passion is a part of her story.
You’ve been with the show for six months now. Are there any meanings you take away from the story now that you missed before?
Oh, definitely. You have to have darkness in order for there to be light, and you have to have light in order for there to be darkness. It’s helped me understand the qualities of the good times, the bad times, and the even worse time—especially in the context of what we’ve been going through the past few years. It’s so easy for us to forget that. It’s easy for me to forget where we were even a year ago. As horrible as the pandemic was and continues to be, it has impacted us in a way that we can never go back to the way it was before. It is easy to say that was such a horrible time, but you can also honor that time and the changes we made personally and on a social scale.
What message do you hope to leave Kansas City with?
Compassion for one another. That’s something that I’m having a reckoning with myself as I do the show. How can we have compassion for every person involved in our lives and the lives around us? How can we humanize the people that we might have preconceived notions or ideas about? It’s a timeless story for a reason because it comes back to who am I to judge one person’s story when I don’t even know the half of it?