(Allergy information: this post does not contain spoilers 🙂 )
I was lucky enough to go to a high school where music was a big deal. The head of the music department had great vision and put on amazing renditions of musicals each year. In my 5th year we did Les Miserables, and before our own performance we went on a school trip to London to see the West End version. We obviously didn’t have their budget so we had to make do without the revolving stage, but my God we had some talented kids amongst us, and it was a truly spectacular show. I’ve still never experienced a better version of On My Own or Stars. Absolutely not blowing my own trumpet here by the way, I was just a chorus girl – oh, plus a starring (ahem, non-speaking) role as the nun who mops Fantine’s brow at one point 😉 But to give you an idea of how seriously we took these shows, we practised every Friday lunchtime, several Sundays 9-5, and several Tuesdays 4-9. Taking into account a normal school day beforehand, those Tuesdays were a 12-hour day, for 12-17 year olds – and I was just in the chorus!
Anyway, fast forward a decade or so, and the trailers started appearing for the film version. I was excited and looked forward to seeing it, but subconsciously I was also nervous that it was all going to be a bit too Hollywood and spoil my idyllic memories, so I never got round to watching it until now. And the verdict? It’s glorious.
My biggest impression was Amanda Seyfried’s gorgeous, pure voice. She sounds like a bird. Anne Hathaway was wonderful too and brought a tear to my eye at least twice. Our Javert in my school choir was very imposing, and Russell Crowe’s had some of that while also showing a bit more vulnerability, which worked well, and his voice on the low notes gave me chills.
I know musicals can be a bit like Marmite, but I would recommend giving Les Mis a watch even if you think you hate them. It’s not the slightest bit cheesy, and the stories are so captivating you’ll quickly forget they’re even singing (although you might be reminded by Hugh Jackman praying at the top of his lungs while Eddie Redmayne carries on peacefully sleeping two feet away from him!) Despite the title, it’s actually not depressing, and despite what you might think from a couple of the most popular songs, it’s not a love story – there is a love story, but it’s just one part of the whole picture. It is, as it says on the back of the box, “a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit.” Basically, it’s “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, in spectacular, singing, show-stopping form.