And after watching how quite a number of these have been adapted into movies and anniversary concert DVDs - I've come to accept that certain aspects of what makes them GREAT as musicals (the energy of a cast that reaches to the far ends of a theatre) just don't translate well onto the big screen... or don't come off just as nice post-pro. There's not much they can do story-wise either as many musicals are somewhat trivialised versions of proper stories and books to begin with.
In other words, I've discovered that there are many things not worth nit-picking over.
What one can look out for most, however, in movie adaptations are the actors. (Yes damn those blessed and talented souls!)
Which brings us to Les Misérables - the movie I've been anticipating for over a year already.
Is the movie as miserable as the title suggests? Well, sort of. It might tug at your heartstrings so do get the tissues ready, but don't worry - it won't leave you in a state of dysfunctional shambles. It's safe to watch over the holidays.
The story revolves around the life of an ex-convict named Jean Valjean (played by Hugh Jackman), who escaped parole and has created a new life for himself as Mayor Madeleine after a compassionate encounter with the Bishop of Digne. Hot on his heels however is Inspector Javert, a dutiful officer of the law who's adamant on putting him behind bars no matter what. Their chase brings them into a revolutionary period in France where a group of young students are ready to make their last stance at a street barricade - bringing with them an epic tale of injustice, unrequited love, sacrifice, redemption and liberation.
And they sing songs about it.
Who cares about your lonely soul? We're scripted to die together!
Which helps make all that misery a little more tolerable, I guess.
In all seriousness though, Les Mis has never been a sod fest for me. I see it as a story about freedom - of liberation from the pain and suffering that we endure in life. Death is nothing but the next adventure for many of these characters. Or a very well-deserved rest.
And playing these characters is possibly one of the best casts around - most of whom held their own pretty damn well!
Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean
Forget those guns he's got for arms, that man has enough firepower in his pipes to blow people away already! In fact, his casting was almost a dead-given and I honestly doubt that anyone would attest to that. A ghastly rendition of "Bring Him Home" aside, which left my friend and I cringing in dread of what he might fail to deliver during the "Epilogue" (but thankfully, DOES) - his portrayal of Jean Valjean was simply remarkable. He sung as well as he acted - and as proven in the case of Russell Crowe, that shit ain't easy. All that physical transformation has got nothing on his acting chops too, which through Tom Hooper's lenses, were painfully scrutinised and magnified* for all the world to see. Well done, big guy.
Hoshit is that how I really look nowadays?!?!
Eddie Redmayne as Marius
Michael Ball - a slight bit too showboat for my taste. Nick Jonas - too Aladdin. Let's not even talk about Gareth Gates. But the question remains - "has the world finally found the perfect Marius in Eddie Redmayne?" Well, I'd say we're close enough! Boyish good looks, and a voice so gentle he could make all the young girls blush (and just powerful enough to hold his own against the predictably bigger voices from the rest of the ABC boys). Not bad at all. Even his butt looked good onscreen.
Amanda Seyfried as Cosette
What can I say? She was made for the role - sweet, mellifluous voice, long blonde locks and all. Simply perfect.
Mamma Mia! Look what daddy carried home from the barricades!
It was like Pierce Brosnan bellowing away in "Mamma Mia" all over again. (This is fast becoming a curse.) And pretty much every time he sings, he'd be singing atop some high-rise structure - which is really unfortunate because it only makes it all the more tempting to end the aural assault with a slight push, pluck Hadley Fraser off his Army General uniform and hand him the role instead. But regretfully, it was the older man who prevailed.
"Don't understand." (Me neither.)
Sharing possibly just as much screen time with Jean Valjean as Eddie Redmayne's rear-end is none other than the lovely Anne Hathaway, whose haunting version of "I Dreamed a Dream" stirred up so much anticipation for the movie it made me look forward to December so bad that I can hardly remember anything from the months leading up to it. (Okay fine there was Season 3 of Downton Abbey.) She was a fantastic Fantine - be it virtuous, gutter or ethereal form. She'll definitely be raking in some awards for her role in this movie. Word is that she has already won a couple right now!
Making mum (an ex-Fantine herself) proud.
Samantha Bark as Eponine
Ah, Samantha... of waistline so small that many kept mistaking her for
I admit. I had my doubts about Aaron and I was really curious to see how he would fare as Enjolras. ("Nate Archibald's cousin? REALLY?") I've always seen Enjolras as someone who's loud, commanding and decisively fearless ala Ramin Karimloo - not a Link Larkin or Fiyero, you know? Preferably someone with dark hair too. But I couldn't have been more wrong. Aaron NAILED it! He absolutely nailed it. I'd forgotten that Enjolras was a student after all - and he brought it all back. There was a gentle conviction to his voice that felt quite Michael McGuire-esque. And with such good looks - could his Enjolras be the second coming of Orlando Bloom's Legolas? Just saying, 'cause it's been over a decade and we could really use one right about now.
Nate who?Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as Mr. and Mrs Thernadier
Have you seen "Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"? They were pretty good, weren't there? Case closed.
And not forgetting the younger talents in this movie who completely stole the show. Young Gavroche - especially. A rousing spirit and an absolute talent.
Boss in a box.
Definitely worth a watch.
Sit as far back as you can. Tom Hooper's dead set on trying to deliver those close-up shots that you'll struggle for when watching the stage productions. It was SO close - it actually got a little too much for my liking at times. ("Shit, check out that snot Anne Hathaway's got up her nose oh wait focus she's crying argh but I can't - damn she's good.") Back it up, Tom. Haha.
And to end this post, here's my absolute favourite part from the Les Mis! The epilogue (such beautiful lyrics!). This one is from the 10th Anniversary Tribute Concert and features Colm Wilkinson, the original (and hands down the best) Jean Valjean. Fans would also know that he has a cameo as Bishop Digne in the movie. So do keep an eye out for him!