March 29, 2013

Les Miserables

I just got home from seeing Les Mis on stage.

This was my second time seeing the musical on stage and it was, in one word...AWESOME!!

The first time I saw Les Mis was at the Majestic Theatre in New York in 1996.  At the time, I didn't know the story of the musical, so I was not prepared for the tone or the....miserableness of the musical. I basically spent most of it doing my best not to cry, and failing.

Before seeing the musical in 96, my only exposure to it had been seeing/hearing (sneaking because I was supposed to be asleep) Colm Wilkinson on The Tonight Show perform Bring Him Home. Thanks to the power of YouTube, here's a clip.

First of all, Colm Wilkinson is a amazing. I mean, even today, he has his range & his voice is still beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.  He is one of my vocal favorites and I was soooooo ecstatic to see him in the movie. Since be birthed Jean Valjean on the Broadway stage & helped make this musical the phenomenon it is today, he deserved a role in the film. Even a small, but pertinent one.   
But, back to what I was saying, this was all I had ever heard of the musical, and to be honest, by the time I actually saw the musical, I'd forgotten all about this. I had one of those "I've heard this before" moments, but couldn't remember where.  
Anyway, back to tonight's production.  The guy who played Jean Valjean was excellent!  His name is Peter Lockyer and his voice had the range required and was so beautifully powerful.  Also, I am glad I got to see this on Broadway first.  Broadway stages are HUGE and the sets are gargantuan.  There's so much to take in and everything is so big & exaggerated so that, even though there's so much to see, your eye is drawn to everything and you don't feel like you miss anything.  The beauty of musicals going on tour is that people who can't get to, or won't go to New York to see a play/musical on its original Broadway stage, get to see the musical, in its entirety, with a great cast, full orchestra/band with a condensed set & stage.  I love that I can see Broadway musicals in my home city, or close to it, but there are some that I have only seen on tour, that I wish I could see on Broadway simply because I have seen some shows on both kinds of stages (Broadway & tour) and there are noticeable differences in the set, props & staging.  There's a lot more standing still in this tour production of Les Mis than I remember when I saw it on Broadway.  Both are good.  It's just good to be able to have both. LOL.
The musical is filled with beautiful songs.  I mean, most musicals are, right?  But there is something about this particular musical that just sticks to me like honey.  My favorites are Bring Him Home, Stars, and Empty Chairs At Empty Tables is just so sad and haunting.  I mean, this musical is so MISERABLE!!! But the music is so poignant & so real.  Maybe that's why it sticks with me.  The music and the story. So much of it is miserable, yet amazing. The sacrifice of Jean Valjean, the self-righteousness of Javert, the innocence of Cosette, the desperation of Fantine, the ache of Eponine, the balls of Gavroche, the underhanded manners of the Thenardiers.  Then you have the crab mentality of the people of that time.  I mean, the point of the musical still rings true today and there are variations & exact duplications of the story that occur today...and the book it is based on was written over 150 years ago. 
I feel like I'm talking all over the place, but there's so much in my head that I want to get out.
Here's another reason why tonight's show was so great to me: it didn't try to compete with the movie.  I went to see Les Miserables, the movie, over the Christmas holiday. Before seeing the movie, though, I had bought my ticket for tonight's show.  I love seeing musicals as movies.  There is so much that can be done with the scene & landscape on the big screen to totally immerse you in the story.  I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.  The only down part for me was Russell Crowe; not because he played Javert...but because he sang Javert.  Russell Crowe is a great actor, but a singer he is not.  And as Stars is one of my favorite songs from the musical, that was a sour note for me.  Anyway, any time I hear about a musical being made into a movie, while I love the idea, I always wonder what it will do for the life of the stage play.  Will future directors try to match the movie, or stay true to the stage.  For this production to be on tour while the movie was in theaters is like...wowzers!  But I am happy to say that the stage play remained a staged production, with some of the benefits of the advances in technology that have occurred over the last 16 years.
Also, while I love, love, love Hugh Jackman (who is a Broadway actor & singer), his rendering of Bring Him Home does not match the man who sang it tonight.  It seemed & felt effortless.  Flawless.  No strain. It made my heart feel weightless & I just wanted to climb where his voice went so I could keep listening & keep the song going.
OK, now to some of the other stuff, because I could keep going on this for a while (OMG the Master of the House sequence was so hilariously raunchy!!!) Altria has got some work to do on its sound system.  Every performance I have been to since they purchased & "renovated" has been wrought with sound issues. For The Grinch, the microphone went out...that belonged to the Grinch!!!  The main, title character had no working mic for about 20 minutes of the show, if not more.  For Mary Poppins, same thing with the mic going out. That time it was on Mrs. Banks, the children's mother, and there was the issue of the mics not being properly balanced to blend well with the instruments.  Tonight, there were no microphone snafus, but there was the same issue of poor balance and blend with the orchestra.  Les Mis is orchestra heavy in sound, size & presence during the show and there were parts where the brass outweighed the vocalists totally.  I know most of the songs very well so I could follow.  But on some songs, like One Day More where there's the multi-lead going on where everyone has their own lines that they all sing at the same & I have yet to get what each person is saying (seriously, I just need to get the score & read it), the most intense parts of the vocals were swallowed up by the orchestra.  And it was not the orchestra's fault.  I was getting kind of irritated by folks who were commenting during intermission that the music was too loud.  It took everything in me keep my mouth shut & not say "no, the mics are jacked up." 
But, back to what I was saying, Altria needs to work on the sound system.  I mean, the whole revelation that Javert was born in jail couldn't be heard because the mics were not set to match/blend with the orchestra.
To sum up this very long blog post, the musical is awesome.  There are 5 more shows. One Friday, 2 Saturday and 2 Sunday. If you have the time, go see it. It is certainly worth the cost of admission.
This was a long one guys...sorry.  What can I say, I'm passionate about it.

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