March 28 2012 12:00 AM

Andrew Varela looks for the more sensitive side of Inspector Javert in ‘Les Miserables’


How do you make a case that Inspector Javert isn’t the villain in “Les Miserables”? Andrew Varela, who plays the character in the 25th anniversary tour of the musical, is willing to try.

“My job is to make sure that it isn’t too easy to write him off as the bad guy,” Varela said in a phone interview.

Javert, of course, chases the downtrodden Jean Valjean for years to bring him to justice after Valjean steals food to survive. But although Javert is obsessed with order, structure and a strict adherence to the law, Varela says he has real emotions, too. 

“Javert’s been living in the world of right and wrong,” he said. “At one point, Javert is captured by people who will kill him, and Jean Valjean is there to set him free. In a sense, the world that Javert is living in never existed. There is humanity in Javert. He always dealt with the law as final, but when he is set free he is shown compassion — and he can’t deal with that.”

Varela knows every facet of Claude-Michel Schonberg’s musical, having played Jean Valjean over 300 times on Broadway and during an earlier national tour.

He´s thrilled to get a chance to see the material from a different perspective.

“I’ve learned that nobody is bad for the sake of bad,” he said. “Everyone is doing it for power, lust, or passion. What I’m doing here, though, with this character is that Javert is just doing his job.

“Making him a human being has been a wonderful experience because there is no black and white in the world. Even for someone who thinks only in terms of black and white, it doesn´t work out that way.”  

‘Les Miserables’

Wharton Center

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 3, Wednesday, April 4 and Thursday, April 5; 8 p.m. Friday, April 6; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, April 7; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, April 8

$32-$70; $25 Michigan State University students with ID