Saturday, October 29, 2011

the experience

october 26.

that unforgettable night.

the experience.

10. 26. 11.

the day I saw les misérables.

After a long morning/early afternoon of shopping and monument viewing, we arrived at the Kennedy Center around 5pm. Because we were so early, Mama and I had time to enjoy the majesty of the Center itself, have a bite to eat at the Cafe, and explore the gift shops.

Then the lobbies started to fill, and then began that long wait where five minutes feels like thirty, but then, all of a sudden, you can go in.

for some reason i don't look normal - but that's okay :D

From our box way up high, I could see the entire stage. All was still.

Then, at pretty much exactly 7:30, the first epic chords of the Les Mis Overture rang out and filled the entire Opera House with reverberating sound that did not cease until the Intermission.
[note: all pictures from here on down are from the Les Mis website, Facebook page, and Google]
"My name is Jean Valjean"

Doesn't the despair and anger of that first song really cut to you? "Look down, look down, you'll always be a slave...." Hopelessness.

Probably because I have the original Broadway cast recording, and Randy Graff sounds like a much older Fantine, I was pleasantly surprised with the light voice and youth of Betsy Morgan.

"She has nothing to fear? She has nothing to hide?"

The factory scene was touching and eye-opening. Actually, the whole view of life through the eyes of the poor throughout the entire musical was really interesting.

I felt sorry for Javert - trapped into his sense of duty, without compassion. His religion is justice. And he believes God is on his side. Fascinating.

"And I am Javert. Do not forget my name."

I wondered, could Betsy Morgan sing this song "properly"? (oh, the joys of being a always "know" how everyone's "supposed" to sound, even though you couldn't actually do it "right" yourself :D) Well, it was a Dream.
"Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted..."

Oh. Right. The Thenardiers.
"Seldom do you see, honest men like me
A gent of good intent, who's content to be
Master of the House..."

So pleasant, such friendly people.


The scene was mostly funny - both of them were phenomenal in their roles.
"What to do? What to say?
Shall you take our treasure away?"

And then, after the touching scene with Valjean and Cosette, life marches on. 

And then...

Oh, Marius.
"My heart is on fire..."
"My world if she's not there..."

Doesn't his boyish passion want to make you laugh? He's so serious (and so's Cosette) and they're both so young, so pretty (or handsome, as the case maybe) and innocent. I wish I could find a picture of their adorable little song together "A Heart Full of Love". I couldn't have envisioned it any better myself. :) Justin Scott Brown and Jenny Latimer are Marius and Cosette. And I don't know of a better compliment to give an actor or actress.

I loved Eponine. Her voice had a different ring to it, and was very full. Chasten Harmon sang with passion, an essential when performing a character like Eponine. I cried during "On My Own" - partly because the words effect me strangely, but mostly because of the feeling they were delivered with. Thank you, Chasten! I was soooo worried that I wouldn't like the way the touring cast did Eponine - but was thrilled. Thrilled. Chasten Harmon will forever be "my" Eponine :)
"And I know it's only in my mind,
that I'm talking to myself, and not to him..."

Enjolras - always wondered what his exact vision was for the uprising, but I appreciated the romance of it all. Love the curly hair too :) 
"Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men"

And of course, the epic finale of Act One - "One Day More"
"Tomorrow we'll discover what our God in heaven has in store
One more dawn, one more day, One Day More!"

Just for the record - the sets were incredible. 



They were based on artwork by Victor Hugo himself (painted long ago, of course) and they added such a unique feel to the show. I loved the "moving" projections....but more on that in a minute. 
street for the barricade and "one day more"


Back to the barricade.

Eponine's death scene is rather a delicate task to undertake. How to show her pain, her joy, her life, her love for Marius and Marius's brotherly love for her in one song? I cried, simply because it was beautiful, tragic, and powerful.
"She was the first to fall..."

You see the behavior of the students - first blood, first death of someone they knew. You see them begin to think that maybe this was a little more than they bargained for.

"He's like the son I might have known..."

I'm one of those handful of Les Mis fans who have a little bit of hard time (not much, but some) with Colm Wilkinson (original London and Broadway casts) when he sings "Bring Him Home" and "Who Am I?" (yes, his two main songs :P) For me, it's mainly because he has to hit high notes, and sometimes they don't quite get there with the umph that I love. So I told Mama during the beginning of Act Two that even though J. Mark McVey was doing a splendid job as Valjean so far ("Who Am I?" was *gorgeous*), I would refrain from saying whether I liked him or not until he sang "Bring Him Home."

What a song.

What a performance.

"Bring him peace, bring him joy,
He is young, he is only a boy..."

So, verdict: I like J. Mark McVey as Jean Valjean.

"Will the world remember you when you fall?
Could it be your death means nothing at all?
Is your life just one more life?"

The lyrics of "Drink With Me" are filled with so many difficult questions. Only Grantaire could voice what they were all thinking - that's why they were angry with him at first, but then brought him back into the circle. More tears here.

I thought they did the barricade very well. Live gun shots, strobe lights, theater smoke, and dramatic death scenes all at the same time? That's Les Mis for ya.

One of the neatest things in the whole show was the scene in the sewers of Paris
the Victor Hugo painting used for as the projection of one of the sewer tunnels

First of all, Valjean actually carried Marius the whole time. That's a feat, and very important to the story.

And then there were the amazing projections. There was one with huge stone buttresses (you can sort of see it in the picture below) - that was my favorite :)
"It's a world where the dog eats dog..."

Javert was phenomenal. What a conflict that man has with himself! Too bad he felt the only way out was to jump off a bridge. A powerful scene - and the part when he falls off into the "water" is actually pretty cool.
"There is nothing on earth that we share
It is either Valjean or Javert!"
(And yes, I am aware that the picture is actually from "Stars", not his death scene, but it gives you the general idea)

I'll say this again just so you don't forget.

Justin Scott Brown is Marius.
"There's a grief that can't be spoken, there's a pain goes on and on..."

Oh. These guys again.
"Life is easy pickings if you grab your chance..."

I just love the end of Les Misérables. Well, I wish it would never end, but still, if it has to end, it better end well. 

Just downright sweet. And right. 
"To love another person is to see the face of God."

The finale ties it all together.
[note: the next two photos are actually with Lawrence Clayton as Valjean. Couldn't find pics with McVey. I'm sure Clayton was amazing too, and he's part of the Les Mis company as well, so I don't mind giving him "screen time"]
"Take my love, for love is everlasting..."

and those ringing words of hope....
"Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade, is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing? Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes!"

My experience with the 25th anniversary production on tour of
les misérables

One of those "my life will never be the same again" nights. 

And this time I'm serious :)


  1. Jo, you looked lovely!!! :) That looks SO FUN! I haven't Les Mis, but I want to!

  2. Bree and I read this post together, and as we scrolled through it, taking in the powerful lyrics, viewing the beautiful photos, all we could say is "We really need to read the book." Because we've both heard it's *amazing* from several close friends of ours. Which brings me to this question . . . have you read it? And if so, is it worth reading? (I've heard the play has some . . . er, questionable content :/) But I adore the few songs from it that I have heard. :)

    Love ya,
    Elizabeth Rose

  3. Jo, you're description of Les Miserables has inspired me to try it again. Wow, the way you describe it sounds sooo much more passionate and dramatic, and touching whereas *that* movie I saw was....umm...what's a good word? Horrible, apathetic, can choose :D

    Btw, did you know they are making a movie of Les Miz in Decmber 2012? So seeing it...partly because you say it is so good and partly because it has Anne Hathaway and Russle Crowe and I have yet to see a movie with them that I didn't like. :)

    Glad you had such a splendid time!

  4. {Trini} - Thank you, dear :)

    {Lizzy and Bree} - the book *is* amazing! Long, but amazing. And, I have to say, if the musical has questionable content, the book has ten times more. Simply because of life in Paris at that time. It's the world without Christ, and it's not pretty. That's why I love Les Mis - it's ultimately a redemption story.

    {Nana} - Please don't give up on Les Mis! I hope the new movie is good, since I haven't heard of a good version yet. See if you can find some good Les Mis musical videos on YT - I can send you some links, just so you can see the passion of the work. And avoid the O2 concert - it's pretty good, but not really acted out. And it's got Nick Jonas. He's alright, but not amazing. (what else would you expect from a pop singer trying to be Marius!?)

  5. Ha! Then I'll stay away from O2 videos :D Would you please send some links? That would be awesome...there are too many casts and movies to find the good ones is, well, you know my little brain can only take so much as it is :P

    Oh, and I do recall that bit about not having Anne Hathaway in anything that wasn't good. Bride Wars was sooo stupid. It was one of those "did I really just spend two hours of my life watching this?" movies (you know what kind I mean) :)

  6. Yes, that was me under Mom's account. Ugh. That has to be one of the most embarrassing things to do. I'll have KK whack me over the head for it :)


  7. again :D I just did a quick IMDB search and there is a Liam Neeson movie made in '98...have you see that one? He's a pretty good actor...don't know how his singing would be, though...

  8. Looks wonderful. I admit, though. I haven't read the book. I really should, I guess. I think I know the basic story, though. Kinda. :P
    So glad you had a great time!


  9. I'm so glad you had an amazing time! I cried when Eponine died, too, but more from shock. When I saw it, I hadn't read the book yet, so I only knew the story from the recording and from the Focus on the Family Radio Theater. Well, in the FFRT production, Eponine doesn't die: she just goes to jail.(What is that all about?!?) So I had no clue that she died until I was sitting in the theater watching it. :P

  10. I j'adore Les Miz and was blessed to be able to see it live this past April! It's totally legit. =D

  11. Ahhhhhh!!! So you saw it too?? (and you wrote a proper post on it, good girl. I never did. :P :P ) Sooo neato. Totally agree on JSB. The guy...totally changed my view of Marius. He was manly and awesome--not an overly emotional cry-baby like so many portrayals. Oh yeah, and extremely boyish. His voice needed help, but I really liked him overall. Just perfect.

    So which actor did you see as Valjean? I'm pretty sure we saw the understudy...he was ok.

    Seeing the actual play totally changes ones perspective of the story--it's almost necessary to see all the terrible as that sounds. It clearly separates the harsh reality of good vs. evil. I really felt terrible for Epoinine, and she isn't even my favorite character.

    Anyway. SOOOO awesome. Don't you want to see it in London now, or at least on Broadway? Imagine seeing Les Miz on the West End! o.O WHOA. Talk about a dream come true.