Raise the flag of freedom high
Every man will be a king, every man will be a king!
There's a new world for the winning
There's a new world to be won!
Do you hear the people sing?
(In actual fact, nothing in particular is happening tomorrow [for me at least] other than school, chores, more school, blog-hopping, and did I mention school? Also exercising while listening to the Les Miserables cast album. Er-hrm. But I adore these lyrics and so even though I'm not waiting "one day more" for anything special, I decided to post those anyway.)
I'm studying World Literature this year in school, and the sixth unit in my textbook (I use Excellence in Literature, FYI) is a study on Victor Hugo's classic, mammoth novel Les Miserables. I read the book (well, the 642-page Borders edition, heehee), studied the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars and wrote two essays about the book... and then I watched the musical's 10th Anniversary DVD with my sister. One of my assignments was to "watch a live production of the musical, if possible, or at least get a copy of the DVD" and naturally I was happy to comply. (Last year, in British Literature, I had no problem fulfilling the assignment to watch Pride and Prejudice 1995, either. :))
I recently promised a friend that I would write her a less-than-300-word summary of Les Miz--so she would have at least a basic understanding of what I've been nattering on about lately--and I thought I'd post it here so those of you who are unfamiliar with the story will also have a basic understanding. :) I shall try my best to stay within 300 words--but song lyrics don't count, right? Right? Right??? Good. Song lyrics will be enclosed in quotation marks. (There are some young readers on this blog, so I'm going to be very discreet about some aspects of the story... just so ya know...) Also, I absolutely cannot resist sharing some of the amazing songs with you, so there will be links to videos here and there that I really recommend you watch. :) Unfortunately, I can't embed them here because YouTube restricts playback blah blah blah. Oh! And spoilers will abound because I'm summarizing the entire story. Be aware of this.
|Colm Wilkinson as Valjean and Philip Quast as Javert in the 10th Anniversary Dream Cast in Concert|
Valjean breaks his parole, moves to a small town, gets a job in the factory and eventually rises to the position of mayor. Ten years later, a woman named Fantine (Ruthie Henshall) comes to his attention: she is working as a woman of the town to provide for her daughter, whom she cannot care for. Dying of tuberculosis, Fantine begs Valjean to rescue her daughter from the cruel people who have her now. "I swear this on my life... [your Cosette] shall live within my protection. Your child shall want for nothing! And none shall ever harm Cosette as long as I am living."
|Colm Wilkinson as Jean Valjean|
|Philip Quast as Inspector Javert|
Meanwhile, the lives of Marius Pontmercy (Michael Ball), a law student, and Gavroche (Adam Searles), a street urchin (squee! favorite character!), are about to become intertwined. (And meanwhile, Miss Dashwood realizes that there's no way she's going to stay under 300 words and says "forget it, Melody!") Marius is part of the Friends of the ABC, a revolutionary group who dream of someday bringing freedom to the people of France, because "the color of the world is changing day by day! Red, the blood of angry men... black, the dark of ages past! Red, a world about to dawn... black, the night that ends at last!"
|Lea Salonga as Eponine Thenardier|
Eponine stops them in time, but Valjean hears the commotion and decides to get Cosette out of Paris. "We must get away from shadows that will never let us be... tomorrow to Calais and then a ship across the sea!" (okay, was I the only one who thought, "A ship at Calais? THE DAY DREAM!!" Once more Sir Percy saving the day!) Act One ends with everyone waiting just one day more until their world will change.
Enjolras (Michael Maguire), the leader of the ABC students, is planning an attack (this is all happening during the Paris Rebellion of 1832, in case you're wondering) and Marius decides to stay with his friends and fight in their barricade. The first attack begins, and Javert comes to spy on the students. Thanks to the sharp Gavroche (yesss! "We may be easy pickings, but we've got SOME FIGHT!") he is unmasked and sentenced to die. Marius sends Eponine with a letter to Cosette, saying he'll always love her, and Eponine--deserted by her father and now completely "on her own"--takes it, but is fatally wounded by a stray gunshot. Then ensues the saddest scene in the entire musical, the one that had me sobbing my eyes out... "A Little Fall of Rain." Okay, so maybe it's not the saddest scene in the whole entire musical (there are several competing for THAT place) but it's making me tear up just writing about it... ugh. And now I like Marius again.
|Michael Ball as Marius and Lea Salonga as Eponine|
The next morning, Valjean asks permission to deal with the spy, and Enjolras tells him to execute Javert and get it over with... but Valjean lets Javert go. ("Vengeance was his, but he gave [Javert] back his life.") The second attack on the barricade begins and everybody is killed except Marius and Valjean. Even Gavroche. (WHY???) "The Second Attack" on the barricade (also known as "Death of Gavroche") is mercifully not included on the DVD, because if it were I would have run out of tissues. I think I sobbed through the entire second act. But then I saw it later on YouTube. If you really want to... here. (And do not ask me why people in the audience laughed at the first shot. o.O)
Marius is not killed, but he is shot and knocked out, so Valjean takes him through the streets (and the sewers!) of Paris to find a doctor (despite running into the evil Thenardier, who thinks Valjean has murdered Marius and is trying to hide the body). He meets Javert, begs him to let Marius go home before he deals with Valjean, and Javert lets him go. His whole world shaken and crumbling with this new idea of forgiveness, Javert drowns himself.
Marius recovers and is reunited with Cosette, but he is still mourning the death of Eponine, Enjolras and the other Friends of the ABC. "There's a grief that can't be spoken; there's a pain goes on and on... empty chairs at empty tables, now my friends are dead and gone." Cosette and Marius are married, but Valjean feels obligated to reveal his past to Marius. He promises to go away and never see Cosette again, and Marius doesn't try to stop him. (Then Miss Dashwood punches out Marius. Ooh, wait, was that not in the script? Sorry.) The Thenardiers crash the wedding and tell Marius that Valjean is a murderer (and Marius realizes that it was Valjean who saved his life--Marius himself was the "murdered man!") and Marius punches out Thenardier (and Miss Dashwood apologizes to Marius and gets him a Band-Aid). Stricken with remorse, Marius and Cosette go to Valjean and stay with him as he dies... and the entire cast reassembles for the Epilogue, a reprise of "Do You Hear the People Sing?".
Well. That was my summary. It was long, I know. But it was shorter than Wikipedia's summary, so I'm satisfied. :)
Now on to my thoughts about this bee-yoo-tee-full musical. Like I said, it's sad. Really sad. Very, very sad. But there is also an underlying current of hope, love and redemption. If I had to pick just one theme to describe Les Miz, it would be forgiveness.
There is, as yet, no movie version of Les Miserables (the musical). This DVD is Les Miserables in concert, which means that it's just the actors in costume singing the songs from the musical. Since there are thirty-some songs (depending on the version you see) it takes over two hours to do the whole thing. Les Miserables is sung-through, which means that almost the entire story is sung. The (very little) dialogue is spoken over music. So in watching the concert, you can get almost the entire story (and they provide subtitles on the screen between songs to summarize what's going on).
These are just a few of the things I loved about Les Miz:
- Colm Wilkinson's gorgeous voice. He IS Valjean. Alfie Boe is good... but...
- Philip Quast's epicness in the role of Javert. Role... nonsense. He IS Javert.
- Lea Salonga. Nobody else can do Eponine. Period.
- Michael Ball as the perfect Marius (even if he was a little too old). Nick Jonas? Forget it.
- Adam Searles' adorableness as Gavroche. ("Listen to ME! Listen, everybody!") Okay, so he's, like, 30 now and probably not adorable anymore. Hush.
- The gorgeous lighting, costumes, and overall awesomeness.
- The "Do You Hear the People Sing?" encore reprise with 17 Valjeans from productions around the world. Amazing.
Here's what I didn't like about the 10th Anniversary concert DVD:
Okay, so there were a couple of things I didn't like. :) Since this was the 10th anniversary, several members of the original cast were a little too old for their parts. Judy Kuhn (Cosette) was 37, and Cosette is supposed to be 18. But she has an amazing voice, so it's all good. :) There are a couple of songs that I did not appreciate (one of which, "Lovely Ladies", we skipped entirely). The song "Master of the House" sung by the Thenardiers, is funny in some parts ("charge 'em for the mice, extra for the lice, two percent for lookin' in the mirror twice") but it contains some rather foul language and I'd recommend just skipping it entirely.
But other than those few little bitty things, this DVD is awesomely, absolutely amazing and thou needst to get thee to the library (or Netflix or Blockbuster) to order it right now.
Do you hear the people sing? Say, do you hear the distant drums? It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes! Tomorrow we'll discover what our God in heaven has in store... one more dawn, one more day, one day more!