Good evening everyone. It’s time for Musical Monday (#4). This is a bi-monthly post occurring every other Monday. The first part talks about a specific musical and the second part gives five storytelling songs or songs with storytelling elements.
This week I chose Les Miserables as my musical pick. This is perhaps my absolute favorite musical I’ve never had the privilege of seeing.
Les Miserables is a French novel by Victor Hugo, published in 1862. The novel begins in 1815 and ends in 1932 going over several charter interactions and arcs. The novel speaks heavily on the history and architecture of France, Paris, religion, justice, morals, politics, love and redemption.
For the original French production, French songwriter, and French composer, Claude-Michel Schönberg teamed up to make Les Miserables a concept recording. In 1980, a stage version of Les Miserables was directed by Robert Hossein,
For the West End production, the musical was expanded and edited for english from the French production. The first production was produced by Cameron Mackintosh and adapted and directed by Trevor Nunn and John Caird. It opened in 1985.
Les Miserables premiered on Broadway in 1987 at The Broadway Theatre. Colm Wilkinsonand Frances Rufelle from the London Production, reprised their roles on Broadway.The musical ran on Broadway until 2003.
Les Miserables was first revived on Broadway in 2006 and closed in 2008. The musical was made into a movie which came out in December 2012. Since then there has been a Toronto revival and most recently, the 2014 Broadway revival.
~How I Discovered it~
I’d heard of Les Miserables mentioned briefly online at times, but I never knew any specifics. A couple years ago, I was home flipping through channels when I saw the 25th anniversary concert edition of Les Miserables on PBS. I decided to watch it because it was long over due and fell in love with it.
Original Broadway Cast:
Jean Valjean – Colm Wilkinson
A prisoner for almost 20 years for stealing bread, he breaks probation and lives his life better after the Bishop shows him love and forgiveness.
Javert – Terrence Mann
An officer who sees in black and white. He wants to capture Valjean no matter what and take him back to jail.
Fantine – Randy Graff
A woman who works in the factory Valjean runs. Fantine has a child named Cosette who lives with the Thenadiers at their inn. Fantine has send them extra money for medicine for Cosette.
Cosette – Judy Kuhn
Fantine’s daughter, who later becomes Valjean’s adopted daughter and Marius’ love interest.
The Thénardiers – (Thénardiers – Leo Burmester (Madame Thénardier – Jennifer Butt)
A married couple who con people out of money at their inn, cons Fantine into sending them more money, and have two children, Eponine and Gavroche.
Eponine – Frances Ruffelle
The Thenadiers oldest child who helps her parents con people for money. She’s in love with Marius.
Marius – David Bryant
A student who plans to participate in the June Rebellion until he meets Cosette and falls in love. He is also friends with Fantine.
Enjoiras – Michael Maguire
A fellow student and is in charge of The June Rebellion..
Gavroche – Braden Danner and RD Robb
Eponine’s younger brother.
My favorite cast of Les Miserables is the 25th anniversary one, which I may be a bit biased for since that was my first encounter with Les Miserables. I find the cast to be about flawless with Alfie Boe and Samantha Barks who play Valjean and Eponine, being my favorites.
~The Movie Cast~
Javert, – Russel Crowe
Fantine – Anne Hathaway
Cosette – Amanda Seyfried
Madame Thénardier –
Eponine – Samantha Parks
Marius – Eddie Redmayne
Enjoiras – Aaron Tveit
Gavroche – Daniel Huttlestone
Les Miserables is told in three separate story arcs spanning from 1815 to 1832 . The first story arc takes place in 1815 with Jean Valjean, or 24601 as Javert calls him, being released from jail (The Prologue). Valjean has been imprinted for 20 years for stealing bread to feed his sister and nephew and then trying to escape multiple times. Valjean got five years for stealing bread. This is something people can’t imagine happening these days, such a harsh punishment for a good deed, even if it included a bit of Robin Hooding.
After Valjean is released, he’s put on probation. which he ends up breaking and left on the run from Javert (Valjean’s Solilquoy). Valjean turns his life around and becomes mayor of a town eight years later (At The End of The Day).
It is in this new town where Valjean encounters a woman named Fantine who has been wrongly fired. Fantine has a child named Cosette. Since the Thenadiers have sent Fantine a letter saying Cosette’s sick, Fantine is desperate to make money. She then. who Valjean rescues from the Thenadiers, two cunning inn keepers after Fantine dies (The Bargain). Javert has again found Valjean causing the two to escape.
Nine years later, Valjean is still hiding from Javert and Cosette is left isolated with no one else. Cosette meets Marius and the two fall in love instantly. Normally this would bother me to no end, but the way it’s done is so beautifully. Especially the following passage from the novel:
The power of a glance has been so much abused in love stories, that it has come to be disbelieved in. Few people dare now to say that two beings have fallen in love because they have looked at each other. Yet it is in this way that love begins, and in this way only.
Marius is focused on The June Rebellion, a real event that Victor Hugo used as a big aspect in Les Miserables, until he meets Cosette (In My Life). The musical then picks up with the rebellion happening.
Les Miserables was adapted from Victor Hugo’s novel, changing quite a few things. One could say the musical was a disneyfied or glorified version of the book, but I think that’s a little extreme. There was a change in Eponine’s character in the book and the musical. In the book she’s spoiled by her parents while being mean to Cosette. Years later, her family’s lost their money, she’s left conning people with her parents to live who don’t really care about her, unattractive, uneducated, selfish, friendless and pining after Marius who acts politely to her.
After watching the movie, I had a new appreciation for the bishop that gives Valjean a second chance. Without the bishop, I don’t think Valjean would have changed because his heart was hardened from spending almost 20 years in jail.
In the beginning of Victor Hugo’s novel, there’s a large focus on the Bishop. I loved seeing the Bishop’s character in Les Miserables and it helped me understand his character in the movie and musical.
Friend of Marius and victim of unrequited love, Eponine is my first favorite character. It’s hard not to just shake Marius through the screen (or recording :P) and tell him how Eponine loves him. Alas, he’s blind to it all.
A common debate among Les Mis fans is the great Eponine vs. Cosette. Cosette has the ability to come off an early Disney princess copy. She’s had a tragic past, grew up poor for the first nine years of her life, has the ability to sing, and of course, lands the guy. When I first watched Les Miserables, I was Team Eponine all the way. It wasn’t until after I watched the 2012 movie that I really began to like Cosette.
The Bishop telling the guards Valjean’s done no wrong in The Prologue.
When Valjean shows up at the court in Who Am I?
One Day More
On My Own
Drink With Me
All the little singing/talking done between Eponine and Marius that don’t make it to actual songs.
~Favorite Movie Moments~
The Bishop forgiving Valjean
Valjean and Cosette’s escape scene
All of the song transitions
Marius and Eponine’s interactions that aren’t official songs
I love how Valjean’s Soliloquy and Javert’s Soliloquy mirror each other.
Empty Chairs At Empty Tables
One Day More
Do You Hear The People Sing
Seeing Marius and Enjoiras for the first time in Paris – Look Down
Any Samantha Barks scene
Les Miserables is almost an opera with it’s constant stream of singing. There’s an orchestra playing throughout the musical.
Who Am I
Paris, Look Down
One Day More
Bring Him Home
~You May Not Know~
Lea Salonga was the singing voice for Jasmine in Disney’s Aladdin and Mulan from Disney’s Mulan.
Lea Salonga played Fantine in the 10th anniversary and Eponine in the 25th anniversary.
Colm Wilkinson who played the original Valjean in London and Broadway, plays the Bishop in the 2012 movie, causing it to go sort of full circle.
~Why I Love It~
What’s not to love? Les Miserables has everything I love in fiction, relatable characters, a rebellion, redemption, strong emotions, romance, unrequited love, flawed characters, meaning, streetwise characters, and charismatic characters. I love that it is set in France, even though it’s not during the most glamorous time period. I love the three separate arcs that intertwine. The songs are amazing and fit so well together. I love the story of Valjean’s redemption, Fantine’s struggle and the rebellion the students have.
~I Would Recommend This For~
Fans of classic literature, street wise characters, unrequited love, forgiveness, multiple story arcs, ensemble casts, romance, rebellion, and redemption themes.