“Do you hear the people sing, lost in the valley of the night?
It is the music of a people who are climbing to the light
For the wretched of the earth there is a flame that never dies
Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”
The first comments and reviews of the new screen adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic novel Les Misérables are in, and sacre bleu, they’re good. I was very worried about this film when I first heard about it happening as I am not the biggest Russell Crowe fan in the world, and the idea that he would be playing the iconic role of the righteous and God-fearing Inspector Javert caused my head to crash down with such despair on my keyboard, it left me with a Harry Potter-esque scar on my forehead. As time has gone on however I can no longer deny that my opinions have changed and upon obsessive views of the 02.31 international trailer, I can honestly say that I have never been this anxious or desperate to see a new-release film in my life.
So the lucky swines that have had the privilege of seeing the previews have been in full praise and the word ‘Oscar‘, excitedly, has not been omitted from their opinions either. It’s fantastic news for the fans of the stage musical of Les Misérables who like Trekkers, Duranies, Browncoats and Twihards, are fierce in their passion for what they love and woe betide anyone whom screws about with a Monet.
Les Misérables is the second longest-running stage musical in the world and the longest-running musical in the West End. Not bad achievements for a musical that was rubbished by critics when it first opened in 1985 and had to win the love of the masses to prove how good it actually was. We Will Rock You knows what I mean. Tom Hooper’s (The King’s Speech) film adaptation of Cameron Mackintosh’s crowning glory might have felt like a long time coming, but I have every confidence that it is going to be more than worth the wait. Vive la France!
To say I am excited about its release is an understatement of cosmic proportions. Never mind popcorn, as admitted I shall be watching the film in the cinema from behind an enormous bowl of humble pie. Damn you Crowe, and your amazing singing. But before you all gloat, can you actually blame me? Look at Joel Schumacher’s attempt at filming a stage musical with Phantom of the Opera in 2004. For every Cabaret there is a Phantom as far as their screen adaptations go, that should give you an indication of how I felt about Phantom on film. And believe me on stage I love Phantom, but the film could’ve been a lot better and deserves to stay in the confines of the dungeons underneath the Paris Opera House.
One of the most exciting things I am looking forward to seeing in the film of Les Mis however is how the cast sound singing live. And by that I mean no studio-recording then dubbed over, actually live on scene with full musical accompaniment (off-screen, of course). This is genius if not certainly ambitious of Hooper and I can’t wait to hear the results. I believe Anne Hathaway’s I Dreamed a Dream is in one take. Incredible.
The casting of Les Misérables is superb as well. A natural choice of ingénue Cosette is Mamma Mia’s Amanda Seyfried, and how wonderful it is to see Samantha Barks reprising her role as the tragic Éponine, the character she made her own in the West End production and the 25th anniversary concert at the O2 in 2010. I am going to be highly interested in seeing Sacha Baron Cohen as Monsieur Thénardier as he wouldn’t have been my first choice to play him, nevertheless I am eager to see him take on Les Mis’ most colourful and corrupt character. Helena Bonham Carter’s vocals might not be giving Jenny Galloway sleepless nights but she’s perfect to play the cruel and heartless Madame Thénardier. I’m sure we’ll be reminded of Bellatrix Lestrange and Mrs Lovett in her performance. And what’s this? Wolverine playing Jean Valjean? I promise you I’m not worried any more.
If you look closely you’ll spot a wealth of current and classic West End musical theatre stars with uncredited roles too, the best one of the lot is Colm Wilkinson, the original 1985-stage Jean Valjean, playing the Bishop of Digne. Mon dieu!
Musicals have always divided people in popular culture in the same way Marmite does when selecting the breakfast condiment. Most of them are too happy and showy, “all that singing and dancing stuff!” But Les Misérables is not a happy musical by any stretch. It deals with prostitution, suicide, depression, war, uprising, unrequited love, poverty and murder to name but a few themes. But if you’re a fan of the stage version and are as excited in seeing the transition to cinema as I am, then I sincerely hope you have a very Misérable Christmas.
Les Misérables is released in the UK on 11th January 2013.
For further miserable delights you can check out the official website here.
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