Monday, September 20, 2010

It Has The Word "Miserables" in Its Title

To get some of my hype out before seeing Les Mis live in two weeks, and to distract myself from the looming exam week's horrors, I thought about a subject I can't believe I've never properly thought about before.

Why is Les Misérables such a totally awesome musical?
How in the world is it possible I have kept obsessing over it for over a year and it still feels like an interesting subject to think about?

The first thing that springs to my mind is the music.
I just got the new Les Misérables Live! Dream the Dream (will I ever stop mocking that name? I don't think so!) CD with the 25th anniversary tour cast. And when listening to it I realised something:
I get bored, if not extremely easily, pretty fast anyway.
Cats? I destroyed it by overlistening in a couple of months.
The Phantom of the Opera? I'm so bored of it I haven't listened to it for many months.
All of ABBA's music? Did I really like that sometime? Well, yes, I did, but the effects of an overload of Mamma Mia! and iTunes' repeat feature will still take a while to wear off...

But Les Mis?
When I got to listen to the new CD the music felt so fresh and new, even though I've probably listened to it more times than Cats, PoTO, Wicked and Chicago combined.
Sure, if I listen to it a couple of times in two days, like I already did with the new CD, it can start to feel a bit old.
But after a little while, often less than a week, it feels fresh and new again.
I'm not a music expert, but I'm certain that's a sign of a perfect score.

The other things that keeps Les Mis so interesting is the scope of the story.
It spans over two decades and mentions about every feeling and theme possible - live, death, love, hate, forgiving, ideals, reality, poverty, revolution, sacrifice... By squishing the giant book into a three-hour musical the show makes sure to has no boring moments.
What I find so great about Les Mis is that even when everybody dies and everything goes wrong the watcher still leaves the theatre feeling happy. One of my biggest favourite moments of the show is when Thénardiers come to sing Beggars at the Feast and the audience, desperate for a laugh after following the failing revolution and dying for the last hour, doesn't need but to see them before giggling out loud.
And the finale with the Do You Hear the People Sing reprise... Talk about uplifting!

Also: there are so many characters to care about. This is true with a lot of musicals, like RENT and Cats, but I think it's especially true with Les Mis.
There's the main character, Valjean, of course. But if you don't like him, no worries!
Fangirls can decide if they want to drool over Javert or Enjolras, both really interesting - not to add hot - guys. There's Eponine to identify with and Fantine to feel bad for, Marius and Cosette's love story to bring some saccharine in the show and Thénardiers to laugh with. And let's not forget the cute factor of Gavroche!
It's not like the show would have three characters for you to pick your favourite of. There are so many different people to identify with, care about and even hate with passion.
And if you don't care about any of them, no worries - they're probably dead by the end of the second act anyway.

Besides... If you're a Les Mis fan long enough you inevitably reach the level of fandom where a production with Javert with no sideburns will feel like a huge deal.
And by that point every day will feel like a little Les Mis adventure.
And your friends will finally take you to see the doctor.

Thinking about this text, there is probably nothing a Les Mis fan hasn't thought about already.
But I wasted a good hour of studying time and got all the stress about French and Swedish out of my system for a while by writing it. Maybe it deserves to be released just for those reasons.

I'd end this with a YouTube clip of John Owen-Jones and Earl Carpenter singing The Confrontation better than any people I've heard before, but I can't find a proper one.

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