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French Connection

Countless performances later, Les Miz still thrills its audiences -- and its star.

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Michael Kostroff, who stars in the touring production of Les Misérables coming to Playhouse Square this week, knows that the musical (based on Victor Hugo's 1862 novel about a fugitive evading a determined detective over three decades) has a rep. He knows it's come through town a few times before. But he insists, even after countless performances, that he and the audience are not tired of it. "I'm always surprised when it's over," he says. "I remember thinking that, when I'd [first] seen the show. At the end of it, you just want it to keep going. That's the reason people come back. It's just very engaging. It has a huge following, for good reason."

It also helps that it's the one show that the veteran of TV (HBO's The Wire) and stage (The Producers) long wanted to hitch onto. "It's really one of the best parts in musical theater," he says, referring to evil scam artist Thénardier ("Master of the House"). Whenever the part was available, he wasn't; when he was available, someone else already had the role. But when word got out that the national tour was hitting the road again, Kostroff jumped at the chance. "There are so many stories within Les Misérables," he says. "It appeals to something very deep in people."

The production unfolds on a stage that's set on a huge turntable. "It keeps turning, and the story keeps turning," Kostroff says. "It is literally always in motion. There is so much to watch." But mounting and dismounting the revolving platform is a challenge, he admits. "There's a particular technique for getting on and off the turntable without looking like you're drunk," he explains. "Fortunately, my character can be drunk. To be very honest, I'm still working on it. It is a little tricky."

But not even a spinning stage can dissuade Kostroff from performing in his dream production. "I really love this role," he says. "It's always fun to be evil."

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