I love the musical Les Miz. It was the first Broadway show I ever saw and remains one of my favorites to this day. I am excited for the newest film version of the story, though I am a little nervous about some of the news I’ve been reading.
The thesis of Victor Hugo’s novel, the original Les Miserables, is that man spends his life trying to get closer to God, which is absolutely true. Be it family or fame or being a brony, the human race is engineered to seek a way to live on after we are gone. The psychological term for it is generativity: “the concern for establishing and guiding the next generation.” No character in the play/movie/musical/book/abbreviated School Edition embodies this thesis more than Jean Valjean. After, like, the first 100 pages or two songs he works assiduously to purify his soul. In musical theatre terms, this means singing approximately 700 tenor songs about redemption. I have listened to this musical a hundred times and at no point have I ever thought, “What this musical needs is another lilting tenor song, sung by the same guy who sings ‘Bring Him Home’ for 100 years.” But someone thought it because they have added a song about Jen Valjean becoming a father to Cosette into the movie.
An additional concern is that Anne Hathaway, who plays Fantine*, and lost 25 pounds for the role, chose not to belt “I Dreamed a Dream” in order to remain true to the moment. Um, no. Much like a Shakespearean soliloquy, a character in a musical bursts into song because speech is no longer enough to express his or her emotions. This is cheesy, but not untrue. Fantine sings “I Dreamed a Dream” because she can no longer grit her teeth against her heartache. That is the moment to which one should stay true. If you can’t belt “I Dreamed a Dream”, you shouldn’t sing it. Not because Susan Boyle did it on Britain’s Got Talent but because that is the song, much more so than losing a constantly discussed 25 pounds.
Anne Hathaway will probably win an Oscar for this role, and more power to her. She did lose 25 pounds. Every non-sung moment of the previews looks amazing. But musicals are not built around non-sung moments. I always awed by Anne Hathaway’s immense acting talent and radiant beauty. I am also impressed that all the actors sing live in the movie. Almost as impressed as when I see a cast of Broadway actors do it eight times a week.** While belting.
*When I saw Les Miserables on Broadway, it was Fantine’s b’way debut or something and she was given this giant bouquet of roses and cried during the curtain call. I am attached to Fantine.
**I have never seen a Broadway show eight times in one week. That would be expensive.