Do You Hear the People Sing?

As Surfer Guy’s belated birthday gift, the whole family attended a touring stage production of Les Miserables. Surfer Guy and I had seen it before (I also saw it in NYC, on a half-price ticket, boy was that great) but Son1 and Son2 had not. All four of us loved it! Our seats were pretty good, not great, but our imaginations were captured by this great story. Years ago my in-law’s bought us the CD of the show and the music alone inspired me to read Victor Hugo’s looong book during one three-day weekend.

There’s so much they manage to get into the staged musical: Jean Valjean, whose anger is turned one night by a kind stranger. The lovely Eponine and her unrequited love. Young men eager to fight for a cause that’s good even though the odds are so overwhelming. There’s even comic relief in the innkeeper, Thenardier, and his wife. It’s really a special, special play, even though it doesn’t hit the story points in a way I think we’re most accustomed to (even Son1 noted this).

I wasn’t sure, actually, how the sons would take to the story, but of course it wasn’t new to them at all, plugged in as they are to popular culture. The Les Miserable movie will be out in December, starring Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean (the boys love Hugh Jackman as Wolverine), Anne Hathaway as Fantine, and Amanda Seyfried as Cosette. I don’t know…can a movie do what the stage play does? The energy of the young rebels, the heartache of Eponine, the soaring love of Cosette and Marius…you feel that as well as hear it in the theater.

What do you think? I enjoyed the stage production of Mama Mia more than the movie…though both were fun. I embedded the trailer for the Les Mis movie below if you want to check it out. Do you think you’ll see it?

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21 Responses to Do You Hear the People Sing?

  1. Sonya Heaney says:

    Hmmm. I grew up in the theatre (pretty much literally!), and it takes a lot for a movie to impress me the same way. However, I’ve seen Hugh Jackman live in a number of stage shows (including Beauty and the Beast before he even made it to Hollywood!), and I prefer him as a theatre guy to a movie star.

    For me the main difference is that the story isn’t really evolving before your eyes. Almost always with movies scenes are filmed out of order, all over the world, multiple times from different perspectives, and then it’s all pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle. That’s where stage versions have more magic.

    For some unknown reason, Les Mis is about the only show I’ve never seen through, so I have no special attachment to it, but the movie trailer does look pretty great. Anne Hathaway was considered for the Phantom movie, so she must be good!

    • Sonya Heaney says:

      Oh, and thanks for the blog title – now I’m going to be singing that song all night!

      • Christie Ridgway says:

        I meant to say in the blog post those are words from one of the musical’s songs. It’s been stuck in my head for days!

    • Christie Ridgway says:

      I would have loved to see Hugh Jackman pre-Hollywood! It’s funny to say, but I worry that the movie may seem too “real.” In a stage play you have to use your imagination so much (those little pop bangs are gunfire) that I think it helps you insert into the story.

  2. What a fascinating blog. I liked the stage production of Momma Mia far more than the movie, even though Meryl Streep is my favorite actress. There’s just something about the immediacy of a well-done play that is so much more enthralling to me. It should be interesting to see how well-reviewed this new Les Mis will be!

    • Christie Ridgway says:

      Do you think it’s because you don’t immediately think of Meryl as a songstress? That’s what captures me about the stage actors…they come to these roles as people who can belt it out, not because they’re Hollywood people.

  3. Trish Jensen says:

    One movie I liked more than the stage production was The Sound Of Music. That’s the only one I can think of. Of all the rest that I’ve seen in both formats I was much more into the theater production. Something about the immediacy and intimacy. Movies feel more distant, for some reason. A good play makes me feel a part of the story. A movie always lets me know I’m a viewer. If that makes ANY sense whatsoever, Christie.

    • Christie Ridgway says:

      I totally know what you mean, Trish. But I might be with you on The Sound of Music, though I remember jumping in my seat in the stage play when the Nazis went into the convent searching for the Von Trapps. All the lights were out and they were running up and down the aisles with roving flashlights and lots of shouting. But the movie has those spectacular views.

  4. Cindy Gerard says:

    Should be interesting – Love Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway so the movie definitely has that going for it. I think I’ll put it on my “go see list”

    • Christie Ridgway says:

      It will be fun to see…some great movies coming out for the holidays, though I think they postponed Gatsby because there were so many big ones at the same time.

  5. leannebanks says:

    This is one musical I haven’t seen. It just seems so tragic. I’m sure I would cry. I love seeing musicals both live and in movies — My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers seemed to transfer to the big screen very well…. along with Oklahoma and others! I’m glad your family had an enjoyable time together.<3

  6. michelehauf says:

    I’ve only had the luxury of seeing one stage production and that was The Adamms Family (which probably doesn’t really count for this discussion) but I loved it. I loved the movie Mamma Mia. Love most musicals on screen. Really loved Rock of Ages, and will always adore Grease. But as a Francophile, I’m not much into the French Revolution so will probably avoid this movie (though I did see a version of it years ago). Give me a musical with Dick Van Dyke in it any day!

    • Christie Ridgway says:

      Michele, I want to see Rock of Ages. I know I’ll enjoy that.

      Les Mis isn’t the French Revolution, but something that happened in the 1830s. Victor Hugo wrote about it approx. 30 years later. At least there was no guillotine!

      As for Dick Van Dyke (love him!) when we were in NYC last month, we almost went to see Mary Poppins on Broadway. I can’t recall why, but we ended up seeing Jersey Boys instead, which I loved, but had already seen. I love musicals!

  7. Heather L says:

    I have not seen the stage production, though i have read the unabridged novel and love the soundtrack. Would like to see the upcoming movie, but do not know if I will get to it. December is always so busy!

    • Christie Ridgway says:

      I know, December can get crazy. But these days you wait a few mos. and you can watch it on Netflix or Amazon, etc.

  8. superauntkx9 says:

    This is a powerful play and the musical version needs powerful singers to do the songs justice.. I don’t think Anne Hathaway can pull this off. But i will see it when it comes out… I love musicals and I loved Mama Mia, but the story behind the songs were fun and they did a good job with it. So the jury is still out until I see it for myself.. but I am just a tiny bit disappointed already with one of my fav songs… Anne is a great actress, but so far I don’t think much of her singing voice.. Just being honest…

    • Christie Ridgway says:

      Her voice sounds a bit thin to me. I just heard a stage actress sing it and while it starts soft it does build in power. I think Amanda Seyfried will do better as Cosette whose part is more simple and sweet.

  9. loisgreiman says:

    It looks like a heart-breaking must see.

  10. Kylie Brant says:

    I saw Chicago as a movie first and thought oh, it would be so much more incredible as a play. Then saw it on Broadway and was really disappointed with it. Movie was waaaaay better because the theatre was small, costuming was non-existent… so it really depends. I love plays, though so I’d probably go to see a show if it came here.

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