I was a freshman at BYU the first time I ever heard “On My Own” from the musical Les Miserables. As part of my vocal major, I had to attend a MDT showcase (BYU has a major titled Musical Dance Theatre–MDT for short) and one segment of the showcase was highlights from Les Mis.
I fell in love.
So much so that after my freshman year concluded, I set about reading the unabridged novel. It took me a long time to finish–that whole summer plus the first month of my sophomore year of college. The last 100 pages had me on my bed, sobbing, surrounded by Kleenex. I’m sure my roommates thought I was crazy.
I didn’t see it performed on stage until 1995, when I splurged on a mezzanine seat and went by myself. And I cried through the whole thing.
So I was extraordinarily excited for the movie. I finally saw it on Saturday with my friend Kelly. And despite all the negative reviews and attention, my love for the story and the music made it impossible for me to join in the negativity-fest.
So here’s what I loved most about Les Mis:
1. I LOVED the insider-touch of casting Colm Wilkinson as the Bishop of Digne. Who is Colm Wilkinson, you ask? He played the original Jean Valjean on Broadway. As soon as the Bishop began to sing, I knew it…and then I confirmed it on IMDB when I got home.
2. The cinematography was riveting. Some elements of physical space are much more compelling on film than on stage–the grime of the city, the desperation of the commoners and the young men at the barricade, the “lovely ladies”–it created a much more powerful message of mercy and redemption to see a non-sanitized representation of the characters’ struggles.
3. One small lyrical change really affected me. In the Broadway cast recording version of “On My Own,” Eponine sings about her love for Marius and toward the end she concedes: “Without me/his world will go on turning/the world is full of happiness/that I have never known.” In the movie, though, it’s this: “Without me/his world will go on turning/ a world that’s full of happiness/that I have never known.” I get that articles are the most underrated part of speech, but the impact of that change, to me, was dramatic.
I left really only feeling one major slight: on stage, as Valjean is dying and Fantine appears to usher him to the other side, Eponine appears with her. I have an irrational love for Eponine (we have the unrequited love thing down to an art form), and the fact that she facilitates Marius and Cosette’s relationship warrants her inclusion in that final scene. Alas, director Tom Hooper decided otherwise.
I can’t wait for the DVD–I haven’t bought a DVD in years because of Netflix, Hulu, and Redbox–because I will be buying this one.