...which is to say, this is about a big movie, a stage production, and Tracey and me.
"It was magic. Just as well I came prepared – with tissues."
"I was bored out of my mind with it."
"Fantastic! Wonderful casting."
"Not a word of dialogue. All they did was sing."
"That's three hours I will never get back."
"The acting was wonderful. A pity they aren't singers."
"Hey, it's a movie. It's not meant to look like a concert."
Is Les Mis, the movie based on the stage musical, any good?
Les Misérables. I'll just call it what most people do – Les Mis. That's what it should be called, because it bears little resemblance to the brooding film (1998) of the same name, much less the Victor Hugo tale.
Let me nail my colours to the mast.
In 2002, the Armidale Drama and Musical Society (ADMS) performed a production of the show. It was a tremendous hit and played to full houses every night of a three week season.
It was the finest cast of singers and chorus ever assembled in Armidale up to that time for a musical, and, backed by a wonderful orchestra and crew, has got to rank with the best ever produced in the city.
In 2002, I had barely come into the world of musical theatre. Only the fact that Tracey was a stage performer had given me an interest. Until then, for me, the songs just interrupted the story. If it were a choice between Pygmalion and My Fair Lady, I'd have spurned the latter and stuck to good old GBS.
Tracey was still new to town and was happy to take a place in the Ensemble.
I decided, out of curiosity, to go to the rehearsals and see what the attraction of this form of drama was. The first evening I was there, they started with a warmup; Do you hear the people sing?
I can't describe the effect of hearing the melding of these beautiful voices from bass to soprano in this soul-stirring song, except for the thrill up and down my spine.
No, I wasn't hooked – not yet. The opening sequence didn't grab me, nor was I used to the concept that from start to finish, this had no straight dialogue. All singing! Was this opera or what?
Of course it's not all about the music. The complexity of the elements that combine to create a stage production you can barely imagine if you didn't do Drama 101 (I didn't) or haven't watched them unfold before your eyes (I did).
It's easy enough to understand the Director's role, though direction's no easy task. I learned what a Producer actually does (you have to be special to do that well) – or a Stage Manager. The subtleties of Lighting. The agony of Sound. Sight lines. The critical role of a good crew toiling away out the back. How it all comes together.
Laugh if you will at my ignorance. I don't mind. I can pan for gold and write backwards. Can you? Hmm?
What fascinated me was to watch others involved in the show, no matter what their role, as the rehearsals went on, week after week. As I got to appreciate the beauty of the musical numbers and the lyrics, word for word, and to wince when a singer was a fraction sharp or flat or was straining for that high note, I came to understand their passion.
Very often I'd see them in the wings, watching with great intensity as Eponine poured out her heart and soul with On My Own, tears and sniffles with the really soppy bits even though they'd heard them – maybe sung them – a hundred times. The sheer delight of the bawdy Thénardier establishment, the stirring Red and Black evoking images of the Marseillaise a half-century before, and the pathos of Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.
Of all the shows I might have begun with, I'd stumbled on the very one that the performers love most of all, or so they've said to me many times over.
So, what am I doing here? Establishing my creds, I guess. I'm just a nobody, with a blog. I'm not one of the scores of critics who write for influential newspapers, but I have my views about this 2012 film. I think I'm reasonably fair-minded. Unlike one critic, I didn't walk out 37 minutes from the end, but I do know this musical intimately. So here's what I think.
Damn. I've run out of words before I got started. Next time it's all about this movie, I swear.
|Scenes from ADMS production of Les Mis |