Can you imagine some musical theatre girl not having seen Les Miserables (not even the movie) in her 10 years of obsession and dedicated work? No? Me neither, but it happened – to me. I was that girl. So, when the latest revival came around and I happenend to be in NYC I knew I wanted to see it. (and my sister kind of is a girl for the more classical stuff, so – yeah)
When I was saying I never have seen Les Miserables I actually mean seen – while I know most of the music by heart (comfortably) and I guess this is one of the two pieces I own the most recordings of. The other one is Michael Kunze/Sylvester Levay’s Elisabeth. Of course I know the plot, too. So the only thing I was really lacking was the “seeing”-part of it.
If was the evening of the day when we saw If/Then in the theatre next door – so we kind of were familiar with the enthusiastic entrance applause for stars (Idina Menzel getting one after the best opening lines – but more on that in a special If/Then post…). So Les Miserables started and the rowing on this working-prison-ship happenend and then Ramin Karimloo entered and the crowd went wild! We sat all the way back in the second to last row of orchestra (because as I stated when we booked the tickets: LesMiz isn’t really about detailed acting, is it?) and we just were wondering if we missed something or if the people in the front are just very enthusiastic.
Anyway…they sang and moved around the stage, all this drama was happening, dying and lying and caring and not carin for children and then everyone was grown up and fighting and shooting and marching and singing. Then, again, everyone was dying and lying and more people died and then Andy Mientus beautifully sang “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables” (but everytime I am listening to this I have to think about one of the weirdest translation in the history of translating) and in the end there was this dying-getting-into-heaven-metaphor which you always imagine to be there.
And in a way – I was not moved. Of course everyone sang beautifully and it was made well in a very technical way of making things look good and of course I know that this music is hard to sing (while it seems to be very easy and that’s why it’s overdone and many people fail singing it) and of course you can see the effort everyone (stage hands and stage managers and set designers and wardrobe department and wigs and everything) did in order to bring this revival to life, but somehow I wasn’t moved.
It was only right before Javert’s suicide that I remembered: Right, he’s doing it because he’s obsessed with the idea of bringing Valjean down, of showing the world how evil he is. Before he only was the guy who’d come out from time to time sing something rather angry and then leave.
When I continued to think about my experience seeing Les Miserables now – well 10 years into my continuous learning and reading (and later on working with) about musical theatre – it kind of came to my mind, that ultimatively productions and plays that are presented in such an old fashioned way probably aren’t for me. I am almost always looking for new narratives or at least old narratives presented in a new way. At home, I don’t go and see some production at Deutsche Oper from 1982 looking as if it had been around right when Puccini composed it. I am all in for newer, more contemporary interpretations.
In the end this Les Miserables revivals looks exactly the way I used to imagine it in my head back when I was 14 – now I’m 23 and I’ve grown and so have theatrical conventions, while this production looks like it has already been around back then and back when Boublil and Schönberg wrote it and probably even when Victor Huge wrote the novel. Well…maybe with a little bit more glamour and the great things video projections provide us with nowadays.
This may sound a little bit provocative and disrespectful, but actually that’s what it is and I am pretty sure that there are more than enough people around who (will) love this production, because it looks like that.
I am just saying that it’s not the best thing for me to see – but actually I am glad I did and that I now can cross that off my bucket list.
Have you seen this revival?
Have you ever seen Les Miserables or are you a LesMiz-virgin like I used to be?
Do you like productions which look like ‘back in the old days‘?
Let me know!