Theater Monday: Les Miserables

31 Mar

Quick refresher: Les Miserables is Victor Hugo’s mastodon of a novel, painting the fresco of all humanity. It mostly follows the life of Jean Valjean, recent ex-convict who’s feeling a little savage when he finally gets out of jail after nineteen years (he broke a window and stole the bread inside, got sentenced for five years, tried to escape three times and saw his sentence increase with each attempt) but is restored to humanity by meeting a generous priest, and later by adopting the daughter of a girl he accidentally forced into prostitution and who dies of TB. There are a lot of other people he meets along the way, but except for the adoptive daughter, her future husband and his grandfather, everyone either dies or immigrates to America, and only two people take door number 2.

The only version of Les Miserable I knew, before 2012, was the movie with Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, and Uma Thurman. In hindsight, that movie is terrible and has only the most vague resemblance to the actual novel, and even at the first watch, I don’t think it impressed me that much. (I think I remember a French version, starring Gérard Depardieu, but I think that’s because Gérard Depardieu was starring in every French movie back then.)

The musical adaptation by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg is a completely different story. I felt a connection to the story that the Liam Neeson movie certainly hadn’t brought me. It makes me yearn for a Disney adaptation so bad. Just this once, everybody lives. (yes, I know that’s Doctor Who. Still appropriate.) And I’ve yet to see a really bad actor in that show. (There were one or two disappointing casting choices here and there, but no one was actually bad, imo.)

First, I saw the 25th anniversary concert, filmed at the O2. It played on PBS in either late November or early December, I can’t remember, but I had already made the decision that I was going to go watch the movie. So many amazing performers: Alfie Boe, Norm Lewis, Lea Salonga, Samatha Barks, Katie Hall, Ramin Karimloo, Matt Lucas, not to mention all the great actors in smaller parts!

Then I saw the movie version of the musical, starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Samantha Barks, and Aaron Tveit, among others, but I’m only naming the ones that made an impression on me. I didn’t hate Amanda Seyfried and Russell Crowe as much as others seemed to, Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman were all right but didn’t blow me away, and I fell a little bit more in love with the voices and the talents of Aaron Tveit and Samantha Barks.

Then I heard that the musical was returning to Broadway. But first it was coming to Toronto. Ramin Karimloo, whom I remembered from the O2 concert, would be Jean Valjean! I was so psyched! I checked the site every day for weeks, jumped on a ticket the first chance I got.

The music was as great as ever, the actors were brilliant (Melissa O’Neil, Gevenieve Leclerc, Perry Sherman, Mark Urhe, Earl Carpenter; they were all beautiful and amazing!) and I only wish that my seat had been better. I was at the extreme left up in the balcony, so there was a 10% of the stage that I couldn’t see, among other issues.

And now Les Miserables has opened on Broadway. Am I going to see it when I make my Easter trip? Meh, probably not. I still love the show, but it feels like I just saw the show, and those I loved the best in Toronto didn’t make it to Broadway. The ones who did make it, Mr Karimloo, Samantha Hill and Cliff Saunders, they are good, don’t get me wrong, and everyone should see them at least once. Twice in six months, thought, that’s a bit much.

If Alfie Boe, whom I’ve never seen live but loved at the O2 concert, if he’d been Valjean on Broadway, that would be different.

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Posted by on March 31, 2014 in Uncategorized


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