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Feb 08 2013

Les Misery

Oh, yay, someone thinks the same way I do. I saw Les Miserables this week, and let me just say…it was the worse movie experience I’ve had since The Expendables (but for completely different reasons, of course). And just to put it in perspective, I watched Warning From Space with the @MockTM gang last week. It didn’t make me moan in pain as much as this movie did.

Anyway, the review is spot on.

At 158 minutes, this is a long musical film (it’s was a long book, and I’m talking about Victor Hugo’s, not the libretto) but I was shocked to find that it has only one song, and that’s the "Dream-de-Dream-de-Weem-de-Weem" song. The other musical numbers seem to draw their melodic inspiration from the recitatives, the kinds of tuneless tunes you might absent-mindedly whisper under your breath while you vacuum — only here, of course, they’re belted out at the tops of the actors’ lungs.

Yeah, they made a ‘musical’ with only one song, and they slugged it out early in the movie so we could spend the next two hours wondering when there was going to be some more music.

Here’s a deeply flawed parody of that one song.

It’s missing a few key pieces, like being in really intense closeup so you can see every pore and the hideous blotchy mottling of poorly applied excessive makeup splattered on a 19th century French prostitute. Also, she’s not emotional enough: you need to be able to see the watery mucus pooling in her nostrils, so you can sit on the edge of your seat through half the number wondering when it was going to flood onto her lip.

One star. In extreme closeup. With swarms of sunspots like rot corrupting the surface.

90 comments

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  1. 1
    Steve LaBonne

    Hear, hear. I had to sit through that mess because my otherwise wonderful wife is unaccountably a big fan of that awful show. Ick.

  2. 2
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    My conversation with Mrs. BigDumbChimp yesterday.

    Her – Let’s go to the movies this weekend.

    Me – sounds good, what do you want to see

    her – pretty much anything but Les Mis

    me – no shit

  3. 3
    edmundog

    Ehh. I liked it. It wasn’t perfect, but I thought the “tuneless” sung-through nature actually helped the pacing immeasurably, the actors were all good (Even Russell Crowe), and the costumes and sets beautiful.

    As to the unbroken close-ups during the big solos, I think that was Hooper’s attempt at a cinematic version of Les Mis’s stage direction choice of doing those songs with minimal sets and lighting, which was met with about as much enthusiasm from theater critics as the close-ups were from film critics, but eventually became the standard.

  4. 4
    jimnorman

    What is it about Les Miserables that provokes people to tell us all how much they hated it? I can go to Rotten Tomatoes and find any number of recent big-budget, well-advertised films that flopped and seriously disappointed their intended audiences, and find none that would merit a Pharyngula piece. It’s a musical, FFS. Was everyone somehow expecting Grease?

  5. 5
    Steve LaBonne

    What is it? The manic grab-your-lapels earnestness at Ancient Mariner length, combined with the utter banality of the music. And as an added bonus in the movie, atrocious singing.

  6. 6
    PZ Myers

    I expected music. I got tuneless noodling. That’s what.

    Also, I didn’t think it helped the pacing at all: the action would often stop cold while someone sang at length about what was happening.

  7. 7
    jimnorman

    That would be a review, not an answer to my question.

  8. 8
    jimnorman

    My response should’ve been directed @Steve LaBonne.

  9. 9
    Brett McCoy

    I enjoyed the film, and in fact it was the *only* film I went to the theaters to see in 2012. I am a big fan of the musical and its music, and have read the book also. The film had its flaws, especially in terms of some of its casting (Javert & The Thenardiers especially), but some of the performances I really liked (Samantha Barks and Eddie Redmayne especially). There were some changes to some of the scenes and music that differed from the stage version, too, that kinda bugged me.

  10. 10
    Steve LaBonne

    Garden variety flops somehow aren’t annoying in quite the chalk-on-the-blackboard way that Les Mis is. Maybe it’s that the latter reeks so strongly of sweaty earnestness, and also has so many fans determined to get us to see how wonderful it is. It’s the kind of thing that begs to be mocked, whereas the typical flop is just sad.

    (And as musicals go the music is really bad.)

  11. 11
    travisrm89

    Wow. I guess we had two very different experiences. I thought it was a great film with emotional and inspiring music. The part where the priest gives the last of his silver to Valjean almost brought me to tears.

  12. 12
    alisonstreight

    Ugh! The stage show was a manipulative, monotomous morass. I called it ‘mush music for the masses’ and would sooner be thrown into a pit of poisonous snakes than sit through the movie. It would be like suffering through Yentl, but with worse music.

  13. 13
    karpad

    What merits a pharyngula piece, jimnorman, is “PZ Wants to talk about it.” That’s really all that’s needed.

    He could, if he wanted, go into the whole misogynist women-without-agency problem with it, if his review isn’t political enough. Adding to the problematic nature of it, the fact that it is so widely loved, and is oscar-contender extraordinaire, that makes it worth PZ’s two cent humbug in a way that, say, John Carter would not be.

    I have not seen the newest version. I’ve seen it on stage, and have friends who simply love the soundtrack, but it grates on me. For the political reasons, yes. But I do deeply resent the noodling alluded to. Speak when you’re speaking. Sing when you’re singing. don’t kind of half sing all the time. If I wanted that, I would have complained about Tom Bombadil being left out of the LotR movies. Which I would never do. That was possibly the best decision I’ve ever seen anyone make about anything.

  14. 14
    PZ Myers

    You liked the priest scene? That’s another grating bit of the movie for me, all the people bellerin’ about Gaaaaaaaaawwwwwwdd all the time.

  15. 15
    Argle Bargle

    I’d like to see the Discworld version: Miserable Les.

  16. 16
    Don Quijote

    For any British/English people around the same age as me will know why it was nicknamed “The Glums:”

  17. 17
    Muz

    The musical will make me cranky forever for changing the book (in many ways, but) in one fundamental way.
    What makes Valjean interesting in the book is that it’s obvious it’s an effort to be a good guy after all he’s been through. The first thing he does after getting the candlesticks, originally, is bilk a kid out of his last coin, essentially through habit. It’s something he immediately regrets and is the real turning point for the character, not the phony baloney christian inflected shorthand of giving himself to “goodness” through the generosity of one kind priest.
    In the musical and nearly every adaptation, they cut the part with the kid and from then on the story just becomes what a good man Valjean is and ‘Why doesn’t mean old Javere leave this good man alone?’. It’s not even a question. Valjean’s character hits a boring plateau and stays there for the whole story. It basically robs the whole meaning and intent from the character and turns the story into some pat parable of self sacrifice.

  18. 18
    karpad

    The part where the priest gives the last of his silver to Valjean almost brought me to tears.

    Yes Travis, Precisely. You were emotionally inspired. As in manipulated. It’s maudlin tear-jerking sentimentality.

    Snopes.com categorizes various chain stories in this genre as “Glurge.”

  19. 19
    Rob Grigjanis

    The 1958 French-directed version (non-musical) was 59 minutes longer. It was on TCM recently. Musicals? On the Town is more my cuppa tea. Chacun ses goûts>.

  20. 20
    A Hermit

    I liked it, but then I’m an old softy and I don’t mind allowing myself to be emotionally manipulated if it’s done well…friend of mine was in the stage production. I wept when he got shot on stage.

    I was prepared to be disappointing during the extravagant CGI’d opening scene but thankfully most of the rest of the movie stayed away from the “Avatar” style excesses.

  21. 21
    Gregory in Seattle

    First, the film was an opera, not a musical: entirely different critters. I never saw the stage version, so I don’t know if it was changed for the movie. In any case, English has a lot of mushy vowels that makes the recitative dialog of opera a mess, which is why there are so few English language operas.

    That said, I loved the costumes, the sets and the direction. I do wish, though, that they had spent their budget on talent rather than star power: Russell Crow and Hugh Jackman are good actors, but singers they ain’t. (Anne Hathaway, however… perfect casting choice.) I really enjoyed the way Carter and Cohen flew with their roles as the comic relief.

  22. 22
    PS Laplace

    English has a lot of mushy vowels that makes the recitative dialog of opera a mess, which is why there are so few English language operas.

    I hardly think that’s true — German is arguably far worse than English in that regard, and yet there are many, many German operas. Rather, it is simply that opera as a form of music originated in Italy, and from there spread to France (and later Germany.) So the original repertoire was in those languages, hence, it became somewhat traditional.

    On the note of the recitative in Les Mis: yeah, it sucked in the movie. Because it was terribly performed. That doesn’t mean the music is bad. The music is actually quite well-written (in my opinion, obviously, but it is also fairly well regarded in the classical music circles I work in), but it is an absolute beast to pull off convincingly even for professional singers. And, yes, even great music when performed poorly will sound drab and uninspired.

  23. 23
    Rabidtreeweasel

    I love this play but hated the film adaptation. It is the same tune used throughout but there are meant to be variations in tone, tempo, volume, and key. It’s really an operetta, like Gilbert and Sullivan plays, in that the material bridging the leads performances have the same rhyme scheme and meter, and these bridges are meant to imitate human speech patterns. The songs the leads sing are not meant to be atonal (Russel Crow) or song at an inaudible volume (Hugh Jackman). The extreme close ups were the result of filming the singers live which was such a poorly executed good idea I’m shocked Cameron Mackintosh didn’t set the reel on fire to save face. They cut large chunks of story, entire songs were replaced by what I can only assume were Disney rejects. The one good number, I Dreamed A Dream, is simply a testament to what a good singer can deliver on a great song under horrible circumstances.

  24. 24
    PS Laplace

    Sorry, for some reason my computer auto-logged me in under an old and defunct account (apparently now owned by someone else!) The comment at “22″ is me, the name and the linked website are not.

  25. 25
    voidhawk

    I loved it.

    Maybe it’s because I didn’t expect Jackman or Crowe to be able to sing but I’ll admit to having a tear in my eye at Hathaway’s singing and the end in the convent.

    Still, each to their own.

  26. 26
    Blondin

    I can’t wait for the Mel Brooks stage version of the movie followed by a remade movie version of the stage version .. version.

  27. 27
    travisrm89

    @14

    Yeah, they did use God unnecessarily in many scenes, although to be fair it wouldn’t be historically accurate to the time period if they didn’t. But in any case, it was moving to see someone care enough about another human being so much that he actually lived up to some of Jesus’ moral teachings: “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.” A good moral principle with or without God.

  28. 28
    carlie

    Yeah, they made a ‘musical’ with only one song, and they slugged it out early in the movie so we could spend the next two hours wondering when there was going to be some more music.

    shrug. That’s every Andrew Lloyd Weber musical, too. Most of them use the same motifs over and over – it has gotten more prominent in the last couple of decades, but they’ve always been kind of that way.

  29. 29
    Gregory in Seattle

    @Rabidtreeweasel #23 – Ah, I had forgotten that they recorded the movie live, rather than do the sensible thing of overlaying the singing. Yeah, that would explain a lot of the poor quality of the singing.

    @infinity #22 – You made me look up who wrote what, and found a list of major opera composers at Wikipedia. Most were French or Italian or German; English and American composers like Purcell, Gay and Britten wrote in English. I will recast my comment to say that, with all its mushy vowels, English is a difficult language to sing recitative dialog well.

  30. 30
    slowdjinn

    “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.” A good moral principle with or without God.

    Sure…if you don’t mind spending half your life battered and naked.

  31. 31
    Jason Fischer

    You were emotionally inspired. As in manipulated.

    To be fair, a lot of great art (not that I’m calling this version of “Les Mis” great art) manipulates – it’s just that some works are more obvious about what they’re trying to do than others. In this case, you can kind of feel the filmmakers (and the people who wrote the musical) trying their hardest to wring every last bit of emotion out of you. And that can get a little grating.

    The thing that annoys me most about the stage show and the movie isn’t the religious themes or the music – it’s the lyrics. After listening to Cole Porter, Gilbert and Sullivan, Frank Loesser, Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hart, the Gershwins, Stephen Sondheim (my personal favorite), and many of the other masters of the stage musical, the lyrics in this show seem exceptionally hamfisted and clunky. Personally, I don’t think “but it’s an opera” really excuses the terribleness of some of those lyrics.

    With all that said, though I do think it had a lot of problems, I didn’t hate the movie. I grew up listening to recordings of the stage show (and my parents took me to watch stage performances of it no fewer than five times,) so I have a bit of an emotional attachment to the material.

    The 1958 French-directed version (non-musical) was 59 minutes longer. It was on TCM recently.

    My all-time favorite version of “Les Mis” (besides the original novel) is the 1934 French film adaptation directed by Raymond Bernard. It’s nearly 5-hours long, and it’s far more moving than the musical – largely because it doesn’t seem to be trying as hard to elicit an emotional reaction during every single scene.

  32. 32
    Cyranothe2nd, there's no such thing as a moderate ally

    @ Gregroy–WORD. I was okay with Jackman until ‘Bring His Home,’ which is one of the most difficult songs in the liberetto and he was just so nasal. It was awful. And Russell Crowe was an absolute disaster! Too bad, because Javert is my favorite part in the play. I really wish they’d gotten more of the Broadway stars on board (this is arguably why the second half is much better sung–both Eponine and Marius’ parts were played by their Broadway counterparts, and Amanda Seigfried was surprisingly decent in the role.)

    I actually like the music of Les Miz quite a bit, but then, I’m also a fan of Sondheim and the more operatic Broadway material. Yes, Rogers & Hammerstein, Lloyd Weber, et al have a lot of humable tunes, but their music lack the complexity and depth of Les Miz, or Sweeney Todd, or Summers in the Park with George.

    OT: But I’ve been listening to the Book of Mormon musical (not by any stretch a musically complicated musical) and it is HILARIOUS.

  33. 33
    nohellbelowus

    It didn’t make me moan in pain as much as this movie did.

    But was it worse than Equilibrium. That’s the real question.

    ;)

  34. 34
    Tim Baker

    If you can say with a straight face that Les Mis only has one song, then you have a comically narrow definition of what constitutes music, one that would exclude all of my favorite musicians.

  35. 35
    Nepenthe

    Hey, it’s not the most complex music in the world, but I’ve definitely played worse. Much worse. (After a play through of the the score to “Into the Woods” I quit.)

    The way Schönberg did the scoring may have something to do with it. The “One Day More” song has its own theme, but every other theme plays simultaneously, representing each character. So it can’t be like “West Side Story”, with a lot of different stuff going on because that ensemble number would be racket. I’m sure there are musical terms for these things, but I just work the noise boxes.

    Okay, it’s possible that my love for the music is just artistic Stockholm syndrome.

  36. 36
    Steve LaBonne

    I cannot believe that people would mention geniuses like Rodgers or Sondheim in the same breath as talentless hacks like Lloyd Webber and whoever that French guy is who perpetrated the aimless monotonous noodling that passes for music in Les Mis.

  37. 37
    Deoridhe

    I actually really liked that they’re it an Opera, though I suppose if one then doesn’t know the songs it can be difficult to tell where dialogue ends and “Castle in a Cloud” (one of my favorite songs in the musical, sung by Cosette as a child) begins. Interestingly, Hugo was actually present for the rebellion he later wrote about, and at the time he was panned by critics for being too sympathetic to them and to the poor in general. I’ve been really struck by how differently people experienced the opera, though. For example, my step-dad didn’t like that Eponine was a child of the Thrediniers, not realizing that (and Gavroche as their child) is established in the original novel. I really found the whole battle at the wall and the profound failure of the students much more moving in how they staged the opera, though I missed gavroche’s song, and was struck by the director talking about the wide variety of song pacing he ended up with when he let the actors sing live.

  38. 38
    demonhype

    Like Gregory said, it’s an opera and not a musical, which is different. And I don’t think the intended audience was people who hate musicals, or hate operas but like musicals (like my sister), or who only enjoy mind-numbing happy-happy Radio City Music Hall high-stepping musicals where the only really important plot point is “will the boy get the girl” and crack when the story tries to make any serious points or is anything less than ridiculously joyful.

    But seriously, all entertainment media (and often, political speeches) involve emotional manipulation, not just something like Les Mis. One of the main motivations for telling a story (these days) is to evoke emotions in an audience–without that, what is it? If people want to go hear a talk by a scientist or mathematician, that’s where they’ll go, but simply informing people is not the primary characteristic of entertainment media (even though it can, without the effort to evoke emotion it would be more like that scientist talk). Even the trashiest action flick is trying to evoke something in the audience. You might as well trash a science talk for not being exciting enough or emotional enough or not having enough car chase scenes as complain that a movie or musical utilized emotional manipulation.

    That said, you went to see an opera entitled “Les Miserables” (you don’t need to speak french to know how that translates), and you were upset at all the emotional manipulation? Did that seriously surprise you? There are some stories that advertise the experience you can expect right at the title, pulling no punches, and this was one of them, so the only thing that surprises me is that anyone could be surprised at what they found.

    Others have made some good cases as to why the movie might not have lived up to the music, so I’ll just agree on that. I am a huge fan of Les Mis, but yes, Hugh Jackman and Russel Crowe are not the best of singers. Russel Crowe was driving me crazy because of that weird “I have a stuffed nose” way he had of singing (that strangely disappeared when he actually had a line where he upped the volume). Anne Hathaway was amazing though. I don’t think I’ve ever been made to cry at a woman’s performance (guy’s voices, for some odd reason, get to me more, but that’s just personal).

    travisrm89 @ 27: I agree. I fell in love with Les Mis in high school, when I was still something of a believer in god or a “higher power” or such, and when I later became a full-on atheist I had some trouble with the religiosity of the story. But as you said, it would be pretty inaccurate to leave that sort of thing out at that time period, and at the same time not everything has to be about the battle between reason and faith. Plus, I began to realize the real story was about how these two men treat other people, despite both being incredibly devout (my mother commented on that for the first time, when she saw that scene where they showed the scene of Javert praying in front of some mini-altar and then Valjean doing the same thing at his own mini-altar–I think that might have been the first time she realized that). I decided to enjoy the main point, which was not about “who has the best faith” but about the importance of humanism, the fallacy of authoritarian judgment, and treating other human beings with fairness and understanding, and decided to take some of that “god” crap as a metaphor for that (since, at the end, it is explicitly stated that it’s not really belief but “loving another person” that is what matters to god).

    It’s also the way I finally decided to take all that “soul” business in the original (and superior) story of the Little Mermaid as a metaphor for moral character, or developing moral character. The mermaid was like a impetuous child learning about the world who made an bad decision, and at the end she gives up not only the prince and her life but her chances at a soul (something mermaids don’t have and can only get by marrying a human in the story) because she loves the prince so much she wants him to be happy even if it’s not with her–and because she probably doesn’t want him to take the brunt of her own mistakes, since to get her own life back she has to kill him–and because of that she gets a soul.

    Muz @ 17: I understand what you’re saying about the turning point. But I think with this treatment, you have to also look at Valjean’s motivations for chasing this guy. “Why doesn’t Javert leave this guy alone” is exactly the point. There are lots of people who believe that once someone has been in jail, they are forever an untrustworthy criminal and treat that person accordingly, and we also tend to ignore the obscene abuses that go on in our “justice” system because of that almost religious belief (even in some atheists) that they are “bad people” who “deserve” what happens to them in there, or that they are “bad” people who “deserve” not to be able to find work or housing when they get out, and then are rewarded by their self-fulfilling prophecy when that person has to turn back to criminal activity just to survive. Javert is so dedicated to this idea that he ignores the reason Valjean originally transgressed (he was a hungry kid who stole bread) and is convinced that Valjean is an evil person, condemned by God and by government (not mutually exclusive in his mind), who must be stopped at all costs. And this kind of pro-status-quo authoritarianism has flourished for a long time and continues (unfortunately) to exist today.

  39. 39
    Nepenthe

    @Steve

    And I can’t believe that no one’s arrested Sondheim for threatening the orchestra with death by boredom.

    I’ve played stuff from all those guys. Les Mis definitely won out.

  40. 40
    Steve LaBonne

    Well, I’ll certainly give you that despite his fancy training Sondheim’s gifts are not necessarily primarily musical, but at least his music isn’t inane drivel like eg. Lloyd Webber’s. (Also, as a serious amateur musician I know that some music is a lot more interesting to hear than to play, and some the other way around. Especially for us violists! ;) ) Rodgers, on the other hand… his best shows have just one memorable song after another.

  41. 41
    PS Laplace

    A couple of observations on this conversation:

    (1) If you dislike the music of Les Mis *only* because it reuses motives/leitmotifs and repeated themes a lot, you also need to dislike literally almost every piece of music written since Beethoven (yes, including Sondheim, a very repetitive composer himself).

    (2) I find it quite interesting that in my own experience the vast majority of people who have disliked Les Mis due to its supposed simplicity or repetitiveness or lack of artistry have not been musicians. That’s not meant to be elitist or anything — I just think there is an interesting (and potentially troubling, for the art music industry) divide between what musicians hear in music and what nonmusicians do.

  42. 42
    Steve LaBonne

    I’m a musician and in Les Mis I hear tuneless, directionless, expressively blank gray goo.

  43. 43
    maestroso88

    Oh, so something has to have a catchy melody to be considered music?

    I haven’t seen the film – and don’t have plans to – but I’ll be the first to defend music from such pigeonholing. Music is far more flexible and varied than what you find in mainstream music or the latest Broadway show. Being a grad student in music composition, I’m well aware of the incredible variety there is to be found in music and just how far musicians have taken their art in order to blur the lines between what is and isn’t music (John Cage being the most famous example). This subject is also familiar to me for another reason, and that is the way many treat genres such as rap as non-music or no different from beat poetry in terms of composition. It’s really easy to dismiss rap, for example, due to the vast amount of terrible rap that exists in the mainstream – you’d be hard-pressed to find quality there. This is mainly due to the pop music problem: what people like is not tied to what is actually good or worth listening to – it’s all about what’s catchy. Personally, I’d take music that doesn’t have traditional hooks over the vapid crap that floods the airwaves.

  44. 44
    PS Laplace

    @Steve LaBonne — hence why I said majority, not all. And obviously this is speaking from anecdotal experience, and therefore largely meaningless.

  45. 45
    Steve LaBonne

    Oh, so something has to have a catchy melody to be considered music?

    As one who numbers Carter and Ligeti among his favorite composers, no, that’s not the point. Interesting melodic line with non-primitive harmonic implications != “catchy melody”.

  46. 46
    madbull

    Just when I thought, “How come I always agree with PZ ?”, I soooo disagree on this one. I LOVED Les Mis Grrrr.

  47. 47
    Steve LaBonne

    PS Laplace, indeed, de gustibus. I really have no quarrel with anybody who admires Les Mis, just please don’t ever make me listen to it again!

  48. 48
    PS Laplace

    As one who numbers Carter and Ligeti among his favorite composers

    Carter’s Scrivo in Vento is one of my all-time favorite pieces of music, with Ligeti’s “Ramifications” not too far down the list.

  49. 49
    Nepenthe

    @Steve

    Ugh, I played “Cinderella” and the only thing I remember about the whole production is that the cellist kept elbowing me in the ribs. I would not in any way call that “memorable”.

    And I just can’t appreciate any composer who doesn’t treat the violas well. Screw Mozart.

    *sigh* Love your viola and take care of your joints or you’ll end up like me, reminiscing about the good times with the bruised ribs.

  50. 50
    Muz

    demonhype @ #38
    Javert’s motivation isn’t really the point. He’s obsessive and authoritarian and that’s all fine and clearly awful. It’s that without the the element that Valjean is reformed not for all time, but moment by moment and by will alone, negates half of their relationship. In nearly every adaptation (and popularised by the musical), there’s never really any doubt which way Valjean will jump for anyone except Javert. He’s going to blow his cover in court. He’s not going to shoot Javert, even though it’d be a great idea at that point.
    Valjean is just a persecuted man, for whom no good deed goes unpunished. (I would dare say he’s a christ cypher for whoever did this cut)
    The original take isn’t quite so obvious. With that extra dimension, even though he knows he’s been trying his best for years, he’s all to aware the pressure Javert is placing on him could push him back to being exactly who Javert expects him to be forever (and at times it would be a very good idea). Valjean’s not even sure himself if he won’t shoot Javert, for example. It all adds layers to both Javert and Valjean’s arcs and the musical and other adaptations are much poorer without it.

  51. 51
    carlie

    I’m right with you, demonhype. It was the first professional stage musical I ever went to (in high school), and we sang parts of it in chorus, and I was religious then, so it really stuck with me.

    Hugh Jackman wasn’t so bad, but Russell Crowe… ugh. And just think, what we saw was the best he could do. Those were the best takes. He was just trying so hard to sing the songs well that there was nothing left over for acting. It was pretty easy to see who in the cast had musical theater experience and who didn’t – for some of them it looked natural, but for others it was pretty painful.

  52. 52
    The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical

    maestroso88

    …what people like is not tied to what is actually good or worth listening to…

    It all depends on your definition of “good” and “worth listening to.” If someone’s criteria is “I like it”, then it’s good and worth listening to. It doesn’t matter if it’s simple or doesn’t meet the standards a musician or music critic holds. It just matters if the person in question likes it.

    The vast majority of people listen to music, look at visual art, and read books for entertainment. Their definition of good and worthwhile is dependent on what they like. The same as yours, incidentally. You just like different things.

  53. 53
    imthegenieicandoanything

    I’d feel better about this if PZ had told us what was a good musical and why – y’know, his experience and reasons for his opinion about the form in general terms – but it’s probably, like w/ Ed Brayton on music (how fuckin’ embarrassing his “rock” opinions are!!!), one of those “feet of clay” moments.

    I love musicals, but slant heavily towards pre-1960 ones. And I expected to hate Les M (a modern musical based on an incredibly sentimental, if also very good, novel, but found only some of the staging to be excessively intruding (I simply have become bored stiff by computer graphics wizardry, and 3D has proven to be the most useless technology ever – yet again!).

    I really liked it.

    Of course, people can like/dislike whatever they like, but I’d like a bit more evidence that PZ has some actual idea what makes a musical good or bad in terms of the sort of art it is. The criticisms here show quite the opposite: he sounds like this old fart who attended a piano concert of late 20th C. music, delicate works by Barber and wonderful Glass pieces, and turned to his wife saying “Beethoven would be turning in his grave.”

    Well, it’s good to know, again, just how human we all are.

    (No brainless abuse by the True Believers here will be heeded, or even read. ABout lit and art generally, the opinions here are really tiresome.)

  54. 54
    Argle Bargle

    English has a lot of mushy vowels that makes the recitative dialog of opera a mess, which is why there are so few English language operas.

    Gian Carlo Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors is a good English opera.

  55. 55
    drummer25

    @39 I’m with you, Steve. I’ve played in the orchestra pit for many Sondheim shows and in my experience most pit musicians rate Sondheim way above Lloyd Webber. Sondheim is great music to play; after that, Webber is banal and predictable. And the recitative was awful. Having said that, my wife was tearful; I had my eyes closed, praying hoping it would end soon – it didn’t. No accounting for taste.

  56. 56
    PS Laplace

    @53

    wonderful Glass pieces

    You mean wonderful arpeggio exercises, right?

    Of course, people can like/dislike whatever they like, but I’d like a bit more evidence that PZ has some actual idea what makes a musical good or bad in terms of the sort of art it is.

    Why? Ultimately, music is a collaborative endeavor between composer, performer, and audience, the latter particularly so in music intended (like Les Mis is) for popular consumption.

  57. 57
    Tenebras

    If the gawd bit is so grating to you, why the hell’d you go see Les Mis in the first place? That’s like someone who’s allergic to peanuts shoving an entire can of them in his face and then screaming in shock and horror when he puffs up like a balloon. Well, duh, what did you expect would happen?

    Also, mind naming what you think a GOOD musical is? Just so we can not chalk this up to “Well he just doesn’t like musicals.”

    Also on a totally unrelated note, why the hell did WordPress steal my Facebook avatar? I NEVER gave this thing permission to link to my Facebook, it’s not even using the same email as my Facebook!

  58. 58
    John Horstman

    Les Mis is a haphazard, ill-paced, occasionally-fun play with mediocre music and a nonsensical narrative that is decidedly more enjoyable to produce than watch (though watching can be enjoyable if the company producing it realizes the form of the material and goes all-out on spectacle). The film is, according to everyone I know in the theater community, an unmitigated disaster (I have not seen, but it was panned even by my friend who likes the stage show). Go see a high school production if you really want to see the thing; they’ll at least have an excuse if it sucks.

    For some sense of what I like, Bat Boy: The Musical and Candide are some of my favorite musicals to watch (most of them are a blast to work on if you have a good crew, as shitty shows provide an opportunity for unbounded snark).

  59. 59
    Tenebras

    ….and now it shows an A+ but up in my log in it has my Facebook avatar? What the flyin’ hell… Whatever. Nevermind. :P

  60. 60
    gregpeterson

    Finally, a blog post I can whole-heartedly agree with. Total crap. And I went to it–on Christmas Day, no less–fully expecting to enjoy it. I hardly would have ruined Christmas knowingly. But from the moment I heard dramatic singing from the incredibly annoying folks in line I was like, Oh oh. I’m in a Really Special Episode of Glee!, and there’s no escape. My beloved beloved it, but I hated it long time.

    There were several excellent movies that opened last year. Avengers, of course, and Cabin in the Woods. Beasts of the Southern Wild. Lincoln, big time. Other people seemed to like Django Unchained, but…meh. Still, not hideous. Argo was excellent. The ONLY movie I saw that I thought was worse than LM was “Amour.” Holy crap. Oh…and every animated movie I saw was excellent–Brave, Paranorman, Frankenweenie, Pirates! But only Pirates didn’t have a big dose of supernaturalism in it. In fact, it had Charles Darwin. Do kids really benefit from an endless supply of magical solutions? Can’t SOME of the adventures they see and read be reality-based? Don’t get me wrong, I love some Buffy and Walking Dead, too. But…does everything aimed at kids have to have magic it in?

    And then the wisdom of Tim Minchin reverberates in my mind: “If you have to watch the telly/Watch Scooby Doo.” Finally. No devils, no fairies, no spells, and no ghosts. No ghosts ushering you into the next world, where you can leave les miserables behind. Just wholesome reality. And the occasional Ramones song, which totally is better than the muzak treacle in Les Miz.

    Thanks for the forum; apparently I needed to get that off my chest.

  61. 61
    shouldbeworking

    Yet another post that I agree100% with. My wife and daughter saw the movie too. Thy cried and cried and think its the best movie of the year. This is the only forum in which I can voice my opinion.

    Thank you. Another case of “the book was better!”

  62. 62
    consciousness razor

    The way Schönberg did the scoring may have something to do with it. The “One Day More” song has its own theme, but every other theme plays simultaneously, representing each character. So it can’t be like “West Side Story”, with a lot of different stuff going on because that ensemble number would be racket. I’m sure there are musical terms for these things, but I just work the noise boxes.

    We tend to make up Greekoid or Romanesque words for these things, like true professionals. Polyphony is more than one “voice” (or melodic line) at a time. It’s a general term, and there are more specific ones for certain kinds of polyphony (e.g., a round, like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” or a quodlibet like “One Day More”).

    That shouldn’t be confused with polytonality, which is more than one tonal center implied at a time, but that’s actually too vague. A very brief tonal shift which just kinda-sorta implies another tonic isn’t such a big deal. Same goes if it’s a closely-related key. Either way, you’re almost always dealing with something that ought to get a more parsimonious analysis, and things like that shouldn’t be considered polytonality in the strict sense.

    (I digress, but at least this is talking about music, rather than PZ’s pointless bluster. I’m sure I can guess what his criticisms of operatic video game music would be, if not Roger Ebert’s as well.)

    ———

    …what people like is not tied to what is actually good or worth listening to…

    It all depends on your definition of “good” and “worth listening to.” If someone’s criteria is “I like it”, then it’s good and worth listening to.

    So if that isn’t their criterion, then it may not depend on the definitions?

    You make it seem like the whole subject is completely arbitrary, so how committed would you say you are to the reasoning you’ve given so far?

    The vast majority of people listen to music, look at visual art, and read books for entertainment. Their definition of good and worthwhile is dependent on what they like. The same as yours, incidentally.

    How do you know that? Do you mean to say necessarily instead of incidentally?

    You just like different things.

    What if two people thought something was good/bad, and they gave different kinds of reasons for it? Is that possible?

  63. 63
    funknjunk

    i can have only one response to this post …. attend the tale of Sweeney Todd ….

  64. 64
    funknjunk

    come on, now …. “freely flows the blood of those who moralize” … you have to love it.

  65. 65
    Lachlan

    Was it at least better than Expelled?

    P.S. I thought it was great.

  66. 66
    imnotandrei

    Thank you, PZ; it’s nice to hear a similar opinion.

    Les Miz, which I have seen only once, was part, to me, of the demise of the musical theatre, which I lay at the feet of Cameron Mackintosh.

    Having only seen a little bit of the movie via previews, I felt the need to watch Marat/Sade and listen to The Threepenny Opera to cleanse my brain. ;)

  67. 67
    harrisonsalzman

    Wow. Did we see the same film?
    I can see things to criticize in Les Miz, but…really? “Just one song”? You didn’t feel the least bit emotional when Hathaway sang her heart out from the bottom of a blackened pit?

    For Pete’s sake, you didn’t even deign to mention “Master of the House”. It’s not that there’s “just one song” on the movie, it’s that each character has a theme and towards the end, those themes are combined to form the big show-stopping numbers. Javert’s last song is a dark reprise of Valjean’s first, because the two are explicitly mirrored.

    I can understand you not liking the film – but that reviewer seems to have seen a different movie entirely. Maybe there’s an Asylum knockoff?

  68. 68
    Chris Clarke

    Having only seen a little bit of the movie via previews, I felt the need to watch Marat/Sade and listen to The Threepenny Opera to cleanse my brain. ;)

    For about two weeks last month I had John Astin singing the Army Song from Threepenny Opera stuck in my head. Now it’s back.

  69. 69
    evilDoug

    Having only seen a little bit of the movie via previews, I felt the need to watch Marat/Sade and listen to The Threepenny Opera to cleanse my brain. ;)

    Seems very sensible to me! Marat/Sade is one of my favorite movies. I also quite like The Threepenny Opera (1931 version with Lotta Lenya as Jenny), though I now I practically gag at any of the English versions of Mack the Knife after having heard the original Die Moritat von Mackie Messer.

    My copy of Marat/Sade has pretty awful audio quality. It has been a very long time since I saw it in a movie theater and I don’t remember if the sound was good, bad or indifferent there. Any comment on quality of any DVD releases you know of?

    ~~~
    Chris,
    Here a Tom Paxton song with a chorus that will drive any other from your head. It has a bunny! If that doesn’t work, the Copulation Round from Marat/Sade is good.

  70. 70
    evilDoug

    Forgot to mention – the Criterion Collection DVD of the 1931 version of The Threepenny Opera (it is in German, but listed under the English title) is from the restoration from the original negative from the Bundesarchiv.
    And I spelled Lotte wrong. Not sure whether Lenja or Lenya is correct – the former is used in the movie credits, the latter most everywhere on the intertoobz.

  71. 71
    Amblebury

    What we need is Prometheus with songs.

  72. 72
    robro

    3PO…yes! Total fav, particularly the early recordings, and a great use of speak-singing…recitative or Sprechgesang or Sprechstimme or whatever. I played guitar in a production of Three Penny Opera once. Tricky music but a fun challenge. That was about the time the first Star Wars movies first came out. I encouraged the producers to use “C3PO” on the posters but they went with “See 3PO.”

    Anyway, everyone likes speak-singing in some form. Most people enjoy a good talking blues…right. And what is rap? But it can get heavy.

    So, is Claude-Michel Schönberg any relation to Arnold Schoenberg? Doesn’t appear to be from the Pppffff, but Arnold is known for his sprechstimme operas. Ever listen to Moses und Aron? Now that’s a piece of work. I found it interesting, but my 80-year-old granny wasn’t so entertained.

    But now here’s the million dollar question: There was a film many years ago…I believe it was French, B&W, probably 60-ish…in which the actors speak-sing all their lines. I’ve tried to google it, but I get swamped with Les Mis hits (LOL). I saw it somewhere (TV, or The Roxie, or The Red Vic)…or should I say part of it. It was impossible to sit through. I think the closest I ever came to the inner experience of the Marathon Man.

    It’s funny how the same basic technique can be good or bad, and depend so much on the listener.

  73. 73
    Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk

    OHAI, I’m here to also throw in mah oppinions, because we all know how frozen peaches get over here.

    I’m kind of mystified at how liking/not liking something specific in that’s as subjective as art, music or literature is, is somehow supposed to indicate a lack of knowledge/class/musical (or artistic or literature) pedigree or something, but hey, I’m weird that way.

    I have a degree in literature, but my reading of choice has always been of the “pulp” fiction tradition, simply because that’s what I enjoy most. There’s nothing that irritates me more than someone trying like all hell to be all symbolic and DEEP and create LITERATOOR at the expense of story and/or character, while writer’s like Terry Pratchett, who in my view really writes not only incredibly good and enjoyable stories, but also very subtly sneaks in social commentary without moralizing or preaching or trying to commit LITERATOOR and win prizes, are kind of looked down on by some echolons in academia due to sheer elitism and snobbery, but hokay, that’s a rant for another day.

    Back to the topic: I loved Les Mis. I loved it on stage (I was lucky enough to get to see it at Broadway) and I loved the screen version. I’ve loved it since I first heard the OBS when I was in matric. I can sing it from first note to last (same with Phantom, same with Miss Saigon). I just have a special weakness for the modern musicals (just like I have a weakness for modern pulp fiction – the older ones in both fiction and musicals tend to bore me more *shrugs*) despite being a classically trained soprano and pianist.

    But I really don’t think that loving or not loving the same things I do says anything about a person. Even if I can intellectually and academically defend the thing I love and you can’t. Regardless of what current academical standards and those with the rubber stamps that says “good art” and “bad art” say, argue and think.

    So, after this extensive and riveting and ranting biography, what am I trying to say?

    When we’re talking about the arts, it should be (yes yes, onthological vs deonthological, but it really should be) firstly about the experience and the enjoyment. That is, after all, the purpose of the arts – to evoke an emotion, to draw you in in whatever way, to manipulate you, even if it’s just for a while.

    It’s something deeply subjective and something that’s also in many ways deeply irrational. It’s an emotional reaction first and intellectual rationalization and justification later, and very often I get the feeling (especially here in academia, where I work), that it’s very often similar of the Emperor’s New Clothes. But at the end, it’s about enjoyment and emotion. So obviously, some people like stuff that you think is shit, and other people don’t like stuff that you think is DEEP.

    And some people will be like “wtf, I couldn’t even get to the story part because the music all sounds the same to me!” And none of you are objectively wrong, because objective tests (hah!) fail ab initio when measuring something subjective, like reaction to art.

    So can we as a society please stop with the “you like this/don’t like this! That must mean you know nothing about [insert art], because anyone who is not an ignorant country bumpkin poseur knows that [insert art] is far superior/inferior”? Because it really simply isn’t true.

    Rant over, refreshments in the lobby.

  74. 74
    maestroso88

    @Steve LaBonne – Sorry about not addressing my comment directly to PZ rather than you – I’m not quite familiar with this forum! I was responding to his remark about everything except “I Dream a Dream” not being music. I hope that makes more sense!

  75. 75
    pensnest

    Haven’t seen the film, have seen the musical two and a half times (the half? I sat behind the two people with the Biggest Heads In The World), and don’t like it a lot. It seems to me to be not so much ‘musical theatre’ as ‘a succession of highly emotional moments (expressed in song), none of which is earned by the text’. Very few of them, anyway.

    But I do like the tunes.

  76. 76
    Eurasian magpie

    @Robro

    Answer to your million dollar question is probably Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, by Jacques Demy. The year was 1964.

  77. 77
    edmundog

    Okay, like ten people have said “It’s an opera, not a musical”, and not only is that a horrible defense, because so what, but it’s NOT TRUE. Opera is a musical form where all other aspects come second. That’s why performers are referred to as “Opera singers” and we say “the role was sung by…” In musicals, lyrics, characters, story, and actors take precedence, or at least equal billing, with the music. Les Miserables is a musical that uses some operatic elements as tools.

  78. 78
    looseleaf

    This is a great example of why I come here for the science, religion, evolution discussions, and not for movie reviews.

  79. 79
    UnknownEric the Apostate

    Bah. The only good musical is the Buffy one.

    Now get off my lawn.

  80. 80
    natashatasha

    I found it an incredible disappointment. I’ll give spoiler warnings when I get to discussing the movie proper, but in the meantime: Crowe and Jackman can’t sing, at least not at this level.
    .

    I wasn’t expecting a Philip Quast-esque performance from Crowe, but what I got didn’t measure up to my mildest expectations, especially once I got to hear him singing ‘Stars’. Needless to say the huge climax in that song (“… and so it must be! For so it was written, on the doorway to paradise …”) fell short of anything recognisable as a climax — if it weren’t for the orchestra, you wouldn’t have been able to tell it was even significant.
    .

    As for Jackman, he was just as bad as Crowe. There was no power in his voice, and the role was sung better by the Nostalgia Chick (Lindsay Ellis), and acted better by Liam Neeson — Liam bloody Neeson! I literally winced several times during his performance, that’s how awful the singing was. When he and Crowe got together for one of my favourite parts (‘The Confrontation’), I think I could have cried with despair at the butchery of the song.
    .

    However, if there was one saving grace as far as the music goes, I would have to say it was Anne Hathaway’s performance was sublime, and her rendition of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ was definitely on par with Lea Salonga’s. I was extremely disappointed we couldn’t hear more of ‘Come to Me’, that’s how well she was doing (even though Jackman was singing with her).
    .

    The choir did its job wonderfully, especially on ‘At the End of the Day’, and the rest of the cast did quite well in my opinion, especially the children — I’ll definitely mention Isabelle Allen (playing Cosette as a child) here, as her singing and acting was really good.
    .
    Apart from the singing, there’s not much to say about the movie, although spoiler warning from here on. The opening was nice and spectacular, as you’d expect, although I was a little confused about why Valjean was wearing the red outfit of a prisoner-for-life when he got his parole. There were some beautiful shots in this first half, but that’s about all that was good about it. Too often the camera would just focus on the face of the person singing and sit there, unmoving, for the duration of the song. This may be acceptable in a stage musical, but it’s ~boring~ in a film.
    .

    The scenes in this first half also passed by too quickly, with not enough explanation between them; I could barely follow what was going on. It’s like this in the musical, too, but at least the 25th anniversary had intertitles to explain what happened between songs, this just went through them one after another.

    .
    I feel it could have been much better handled by adding spoken sections. The number of times that a couple of minutes of spoken dialogue could have improved the entire feel of the movie, and this goes through the entire film — as a whole it would have benefited from being another half-hour longer with more spoken dialogue added to segue between the musical performances and to allow some character development of the less important characters.
    .

    I wasn’t too fond of the scene where the ‘gentleman’ attacks Fantine, which prompts Javert’s arrest of the woman. In the movie it seems like it’s done for no reason, making it look like the man is ‘just’ violent, which takes away from the message, as do his cut lines. With some of the cut lyrics:
    “It’s the same for the tart as it is for the grocer: the customer sees what he gets in advance. It’s not for the whore to say ‘yes, sir’ or ‘no, sir’, it’s not for the harlot to pick or to choose or to lead me a-dance!”
    We can see ~why~ the man attacked her: he was angry at being refused, yes, but it’s part of a more pervasive culture of misogyny that sees women as property or objects of desire, a message which is ~still~ pertinent today, despite the advances since Hugo’s time. Hell, the entire character of Fantine was put into the novel to show how awful the times were for women. I have no idea how they could have neglected this.
    .

    We’re shown Enjolras’ death as if it were a significant event, even though we’ve virtually no connexion to him at all — in fact, just before he’s executed Grantaire comes to join him, the significance of which is completely lost in this version, especially considering they cut our his section of ‘Drink With Me’, which was vital to his development as a character. It was also, in my opinion, the most emotionally powerful part of the song, where we explore the fact that the students ~know~ they’re heading towards certain death (“Will the world remember you when you fall? Can it be your death means nothing at all? Is your life just one more lie?”).
    .

    Another section I would like to criticise is the point at which they decided to include spoken dialogue after “The Attack on Rue Plumet”, instead of using the sung version that was in the 10th anniversary concert. He speaks that he’s worried about Javert, when the song explains this thought much better, with a nice tune too:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=bR7h8YZXXwQ#t=130s
    (timestamp is deliberate)
    .

    Admittedly, I did cry at ‘Empty Chairs on Empty Tables’ and the finale, which lead me to be less critical of this version (that said, the Marius — Eddie Redmayne — was a pretty good singer and did a good job of the former, and Anne Hathaway pretty much carried the latter), but I am still incredibly disappointed, despite having gone in with low expectations. It’s my favourite musical, and I would suggest any future adaptations choose people who are singers who can act, rather than actors who can sing.

  81. 81
    DLC

    PZ doesn’t like Les Mis. some in the comments do.
    A clear indication of DEEP RIFTS.
    I now await my thrashing by the #FTBullies.

  82. 82
    carlie

    Why is it that in every conversation about something, some people feel the need to say how they sneer at the entire genre? If you don’t care, then you don’t have to say anything.

  83. 83
    carlie

    especially once I got to hear him singing ‘Stars’.

    That was so pathetic. It was like I could feel a wet blanket descending over the entire theater. And the death scene was even worse. (and don’t get me started on the sound effect they decided to throw in there) I thought Jackman was exponentially better, but every time he was with Crowe he kept getting dragged down. This rendition of the confrontation has way more emotion than the movie version did.

    The scenes in this first half also passed by too quickly, with not enough explanation between them; I could barely follow what was going on.

    I thought the opposite – I felt they did a much better job of explaining what was going on in the movie than in the stage version. Sometimes it was clunky, like the rewrite that was basically “here let me give you this yellow paper you must carry with you forever and show everyone” bit, but it was a lot better. And some of the staging really brought out levels of the songs I hadn’t seen before. “Red and Black” was phenomenal in the movie, with layers of meaning beyond what I’ve seen in any stage version. (also it was easier to simply understand the lyrics). I also liked the changes in order in the songs – putting I Dreamed a Dream at the end of her trip into debasement instead of before it made a lot more sense.

    We’re shown Enjolras’ death as if it were a significant event, even though we’ve virtually no connexion to him at all — in fact, just before he’s executed Grantaire comes to join him, the significance of which is completely lost in this version, especially considering they cut our his section of ‘Drink With Me’, which was vital to his development as a character. It was also, in my opinion, the most emotionally powerful part of the song, where we explore the fact that the students ~know~ they’re heading towards certain death (“Will the world remember you when you fall? Can it be your death means nothing at all? Is your life just one more lie?”).

    That part I do agree with you on. I did think it was clever the way they had him die differently, yet still end up somehow upside down caught in the flag in that classically known pose from the stage version.

  84. 84
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Mack Der Messer-

  85. 85
    robro

    @Eurasian — Thanks, but that doesn’t like the film I had in mind. I’ll keep looking, although I don’t know why. Perhaps I need to punish myself.

  86. 86
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Bah. The only good musical is the Buffy one.

    Now get off my lawn.

    Kind of a silly thing to say. Especially because the writer of the Buffy musical loves musicals.

    It’s a brand new day
    The sun is high
    The angels are singing
    ‘Cus you’re gonna die

  87. 87
    Genius Loci

    Oh, yuck. I’ve been debating whether to see it or not for several weeks now. On one hand, my 12-year-old niece is obsessed with the musical, and as a result she devoured the original Hugo novel in a handful of sittings, has become fascinated with the French Revolution and all things French, and is enthusiastically learning French on her own (I gave her a French-English dictionary for her birthday last year, and she immediately took it INTO THE BATHTUB to read it), and so I wanted to be a good aunt and see it in support of her passion. And it does have a very humanist message, with or without the God talk.

    On the other hand, I hate bathos and most post-1960 musicals, with the exception of “Hairspray” and “Wicked” and a few others. And I was trying to talk my husband into going with me, because I really prefer not to go to see movies all by myself. Looks like I’ll spare him this one (and spare myself, as well). What I’d heard of the music never really did anything for me, anyways, and that wretched quasi-Precious Moments logo is just so off-putting.

    Anyone see “Life of Pi”? Is it as likely to ambush one with suspiciously ID-type talk as I’ve heard? My husband expressed an interest in watching it at some point and I wanted to give him some forewarning.

  88. 88
    Stacy

    Bah. The only good musical is the Buffy one.

    The Xena one was good too.

  89. 89
    Richard Otter

    It was one of my favorite movies of all time.
    I went to see it twice.

  90. 90
    rrhain

    Hmm…Tony awards for Best Musical, Best Book, Best Original Score. Drama Desk awards for Musical, Orchestration, and Music. It’s competition that year included Me and My Girl, Rags, The Mikado, Starlight Express, and Smile.

    Now, Webber is the king of the lietmotif, but to claim that Les Miz has only one song means you weren’t paying attention. Lovely Ladies, A Heart Full of Love, On My Own, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, Bring Him Home, Master of the House, not to mention Do You Hear the People Sing? and Stars are all in there beyond I Dreamed a Dream. And they’re all different.

    And yes, Myers, the priest is important. Like it or not, this is a French book written about very Catholic French people and adapted by French Catholics. Of course they’re going to have the scene of redemption from the priest that was in the book. You will note, however, that that’s pretty much it in the whole thing. There’s a tiny scene (with the original English-version Jean Valjean, Colm Wilkinson, by the way) where Valjean is finally shown some sympathy and he has to make a decision. That it’s done in the context of god is merely part of the historical context.

    Exactly who were “all the people bellerin’ about Gaaaaaaaaawwwwwwdd all the time”?

    The play is an examination of the difference between Chaotic Good and Lawful Good.

    And to Gregory in Seattle: Hugh Jackman isn’t a singer? Um, you do realize that he’s the Australian equivalent of a Broadway baby, yes? His training is in musical theatre. He got his break by playing Curly in the 1999 Trevor Nunn revival of Oklahoma! with the Royal National in London. He won a Tony for Best Actor in a Musical for The Boy from Oz. Had his own special engagement on Broadway at the end of 2011. For crying out loud, he hosted the Tony awards in 2003, 2004, and 2005 (thus, the skit he had with Neil Patrick Harris during the 2011 Tonys: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqJxyuTMMog)

    Now, was he up to the part? Well, he did a better job than Crowe, but it’s hard to compare him Wilkinson. Wilkinson is a classic tenor and Jackman isn’t (The story goes that when they were adapting the show from the original French into English, the producers asked Boublil and Schoenberg what the play was about. They said, “It’s about god.” And then Wilkinson came in to sing Bring Him Home to which they responded, “You didn’t say you had cast him.”) There were some times where he was tight (and that’s not a good thing), but he was able to pull it off.

    Now, nobody has to like everything. If you don’t like Les Miz. Fine. But let’s make sure that we’re complaining about reality. My complaints have to do with what they cut (Little People is gone! Of course, it’s gone from the stage show, too, but still! They cut out the bridge of A Little Fall of Rain. Valjean and Little Cosette’s “la la” duet when they come back is gone.)

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