Les Miserables? Not for me!


The face of Les Miserables, Cosette

During 2013 I’ve been lucky enough to see both the cinema version and the theatre (stage) version of the longest ever running musical.

Les Miserables (Les Mis) was the first musical me and my brother ever encountered (Disney films and shows do not count, neither does Mary Poppins)

Every day after school, my grandpa would pick me and my brother up and drop us home, and the cassette tape in the car?(Yes – CASSETTE TAPE!) You guessed it, was the Les Mis soundtrack.

Growing up knowing every word to such classics as ‘Lovely Ladies’, ‘Castle on a Cloud’ – and the unforgettable ‘ Master of the House’ meant arguments over favourite songs, favourite characters, and discussions on what these characters looked like.

Aged 16, I finally got to see Les Mis on the stage, and instantly fell in love. The storyline was far sadder than I’d realised, the characters more romantic and dashing, the music more intense and intoxicating, I was just in love 🙂

If you don’t know anything about this show – the storyline is based in France between 1815 and 1832, and follows a character called Jean Valjean, a prisoner on parole, and his trials and tribulations, his rivalry with Javert – officer of the law (the ‘villain’ of the story) and his relationship developed with Cosette, a young girl he rescues and proceeds to bring up into adulthood.

Later in the story, the revolution is taking place, and a bunch of students are sticking up for the poor folk in France, eventually fighting on their behalf against the French bourgeois.

SPOILER – Everyone dies. Pretty much every character you like will die during this show! Be prepared with the tissues!

The film, I found was true to the musical version of Victoria Hugo’s novel, so often films are a poor adaptation of their original subjects, but Les Mis the movie, I found was great! Watching it made me feel almost more a part of the story during the softer moments, for example when Anne Hathaway (an actress that this role has seriously changed my mind about her) is singing ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ – I almost felt I was with her, feeling her pain.

Even through several aspects of the film were criticised (American and Australian actors playing French characters, Russell Crowe’s singing etc) – it didn’t matter to me, or anyone I watched it with, the level of acting was brilliant, and even if the singing wasn’t 100% in parts, it didn’t matter – I was still just as invested in the story.

Last week, I was able to go to London and see the stage version. I was eager to see it live again nearly 10 years after the first time, and only 2 or 3 asks after I saw the movie, was interested to see some of the differences and which I would prefer.

Live, they performance gave me a sense of really being there – especially the large numbers, like ‘One More Day’, ‘Red and Black’ etc really made me want to join the ‘boys on the barricades’! I must also mention that during ‘Master of the House’ – the very topical lyric ‘shove it in the mixer and pretend it’s beef’ got a pretty big chuckle from the audience (re: the current horse meat scandal)

If you ever get asked to go and see this wonderful show – I highly recommend it, and take the tissues! The friend-zoned Eponine (my fave character) and her one sided love for the irritatingly sickening Marius, is enough to make me want to wrap her in a massive hug!

Sympathy can be felt for almost every character, even Javert (my second fave character) who sincerely believes he is protecting the people of France, doing the will of God etc, is a character many pity and sympathise.

Having watched the show again, I’ve become all the more obsessed, the cast’s Twitter accounts have become my latest dirty secret!

Having rabbited on quite enough, I shall leave you with one of my favourite lines from the musical:

‘Take an eye for an eye, turn your heart into stone, this is all I have lived for, this is all I have known’

Enjoy 🙂 (And go watch the film and/or the stage show!)

Jo x

The poster for the film version of Les Mis


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