Monday, December 2, 2013

TT Les Mis: Autumn Season Retrospective

For the past three months, I've been living a luxurious life: I've been able to see my favourite musical of all times whenever I've felt like it. Self-restraint and delayed gratification, pish posh! As long as Les Misérables is playing in Tampereen Teatteri and I have the means and the desire to see it, I'm going to see it too.

I guess after six times in the audience and the production now on holiday until January, it's a good time to talk about it a bit.

If you want to read my thoughts about the cast, check out my review. (It's finally complete with every single alternate, and includes a handful of understudies too.) This post is rather something of a sequel to this one. Before TT's Les Mis premiere I was worried. Would I like the show? Now I can answer that.

I first said this jokingly, but it has occured to me this is actually completely accurate: the small Finnish Les Mis sub-fandom I am a part of watches this show like others might watch sports. It's just that our sport is musicals, we've chosen TT's Les Mis cast as our favourite team, and we cheer for them.

Sports fans might wear a t-shirt with their idol's shirt number. Us TT Les Mis fans, too, have our favourite team members, in the form of principals, alternates and understudies. Sometimes all of us agree that a certain person simply is the ultimate choice for their post, sometimes even that a certain team member would be better replaced by someone else. But sometimes we disagree. Some of us just don't personally like the way someone else's favourite handles the ball, though we see they sometimes score winning goals too.

But, just as in sports, our team doesn't always score the winning goal at all. Sometimes the show is like a relay race gone wrong: when a couple of people don't run to the next person fast enough, the whole team fails to reach the finishing line. But then again, sometimes they finish first and then keep running for extra five miles or so, just for the joy of it.

Whenever it happens our favourite team doesn't quite reach the finishing line, boy, do we complain. We nitpick like mad and discuss details so small you need binoculars to see them. Once, a friend and I complained for full four hours after the show and proceeded to watch the 10th Anniversary Concert DVD just to dull our disappointment. But sometimes... Though we haven't yet brought any vuvuzelas to the auditorium, it really is party time after the show if our team wins the match.

It being my number one favourite thing in the world, it's easy for me to get really mean and nitpicky about Les Mis. I'm sure the performance we spent those four hours criticizing was fine to most of the audience. It definitely had good parts in my eyes, too. But, having seen the show live for 24 times now and having been an active fan for five years soon... I have seen so many great performances and have such clear ideas about the characters in my head that my point of view might be a bit warped. I'm there half for the show, half for analyzing it afterwards. And a bit for fangirlish glee.

Seeing we're talking about a live show with live people, there will of course be good and bad days. But the problem with Tampereen Teatteri's Les Mis is, to me, that the cast alternations change the show too much. There are a couple of performances, mostly alternates and understudies, that simply aren't what I want to see in the roles. That one time, they had four of these least favourites onstage, and when three of them had big solos back-to-back in the second act, there was no hope for me getting back into the proper mood anymore. But on the flip side, sometimes nearly every role is performed by someone I adore. I can tolerate one weak link if the rest is pure goodness, as has happened.

I've a feeling my least favourites have their fans too. As said, I have a clear idea of especially what I don't want to see in the roles. But maybe that's exactly what someone else wants to see? Some of my lesser favourites aren't doing anything wrong, really. Their take of their character is simply so different from my ideal interpretation that I'm not getting along with it.

I've seen both one of the worst performances of Les Mis I've witnessed so far and a new personal favourite in Tampereen Teatteri. Attach a heart rate monitor to me and you'll know exactly what I'm feeling. Sometimes, my heart doesn't beat any faster than usually, but sometimes, the whole second act feels like cardio workout. And seeing a heartbeat-fastening performance of Les Mis like that is so much fun to me that if the downside is the possibility of seeing some performances I can at least enjoy criticizing with my friends afterwards...

I think I'll keep coming back for a couple of times more.

Drawings by me.

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