A warning for those who don’t know what happens in Les Miserables. This post contains spoilers.
Les Miserables was the first show I ever saw on Broadway. I’m a theatre fan, and when I went to New York with my family I was just about to start my first year at theatre school. I cried. A lot. (To be fair, it’s really not that hard to make me cry. I get attached very easily to fictional characters.) Seeing Les Miz on stage was an amazing experience for me, at the time I was a shy girl who wanted to be an actress, and seeing the emotion portrayed in front of me just made that desire burn more. So I have a soft spot for Les Miz, it must be said.
When I heard they were making a musical of the movie I was ecstatic; I followed the casting closely and was excited and disappointed to hear some names come up, but I remained optimistic. A lot of people have problems with Russell Crowe’s Javert. Part of me agrees with them, it’s obvious that Russell is not the most vocally strong member of the cast, but the other part of me wants to hide under a blanket crying LEAVE RUSSELL ALONE! (Okay, that reference is ancient, but sometimes it’s justified.) I loved Russell’s portrayal of Javert; when listening to cast recordings or concerts, I really seem to lack empathy with Javert. I mean, he’s technically the villain of the piece so that makes sense, but I found that focusing on the acting rather than the quality of voice in Russell’s performance really brings out the humanity in the character. So I thought he was fantastic, and I didn’t really care that he wasn’t as vocally strong as the rest. As for Hugh Jackman, it’s not a secret to the world anymore that he can sing; his range doesn’t match that of Colm Wilkinson but who’s is? (Fun fact, Colm Wilkinson, who originated the role of Jean Valjean, played the priest in the movie! It was fun to see him.) I thought he was great, and super dedicated to the role. There was no point during the (first viewing) of the movie that I thought “hey, that’s Wolverine singing ‘Who Am I'”. I will save my commentary on Amanda Seyfried, as my dislike for the character of Cosette, paired with the fact that I already don’t really like her, would probably get in the way.
I really loved the visual representations they used in the movie. There are some things that just can’t be translated onto stage, and they really took that to heart for the film. The city of Paris was like a character in itself; constantly present and providing those little details that just suck you in. I loved the imagery of coffins used in the movie; first with Fantine and the captain, and then very prominently in the barricade; it was depressing and beautiful. The constantly putting Javert literally on edge; both foreshadowing and a metaphor for the way Javert sees the world as black and white, on the edge or over it, was inspired. The death of Enjolras was a perfect callback to that famous tableau from the stage, and of course had me in tears. (Not a secret: I love Enjolras. I bear an Eponine-like love for Enjolras.) It may not have translated as well for everyone, and it may have been because I was familiar with the stage show before seeing the movie, but I thought the reasons behind the revolution were more clear. I understood the implications and the fact that it wasn’t “The French Revolution”, which can be confusing for those who aren’t familiar with French history.
If you haven’t seen Les Miz, see it. (Also, sorry for the spoilers.) If you’ve seen the movie and haven’t heard Colm Wilkinson sing Valjean, listen to the Original Cast Recording. If you didn’t cry when Gavroche died, then you have a heart made of stone.