Do You Hear the People Sing

We are headed back to France with this musical-more specifically early 19th century. This was an extremely expected musical I was going to included. As many know, I have a massive love for Les Mis. It did challenge and disprove several many things about the world of musicals. The musical was based off of a masterpiece book- Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. I think that explains part of why it is such an extradionary musical. It is very difficult to have amazing songs if the plot is terrible, but in Les Mis’ case- the plot is incredible in so many ways.

I need to go back to the beginning explaining my love. In high school, I had told myself, I will NEVER a tragedy, and that was because I thought the genre was pure sad- Les Mis decided to prove me wrong. Actually, I had to watch the film twice before falling in love with Les Mis. After that second watch, the rest is history. I thought tragic musicals did not exist in musicals, I thought I knew the full extent of emotions, and I thought death scenes were unmemorable: boy, would Les Mis challenge a lot of things. Now let, me explain my love for Les Mis.

Songs: Major Spoilers

Usually in a musical, I can easily choose my favorite song. However in Les Mis’ case, I struggle with that. The songs are epic, passionate, powerful, and highly emotional. Those songs can literally hit you like a pile of bricks-I am still an emotional wreck and love that it does that. Before Les Mis, sad was one of the core emotions, but HEARTBREAK was not. I was blind to heartbreak, but so glad I discovered that new emotion- it opened a brand new window: Les Mis is filled with beautiful and powerful heartbreaking songs: some of them are bittersweet. The songs hit you in a way that words alone can’t describe. If I am to describe the songs fully, I don’t think I even could. From the goosebumps to the tears- I have only loved it since 2013. These songs perfectly complement the characters and plot; it works that it is sung-through due to the story and characters.

From the heartbreaking “I Dreamed a Dream” to the hilarious “Master of the House” to the hopeful “Do You Hear the People Sing” to the love song, “A Heart Full of Love” to the empowering and epic “One Day More” to the beautiful and heartbreaking “On my Own” to the bittersweet and touching “A Little Fall of Rain” to the devastating “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”- it has one of the most powerful and memorable soundtracks. Another thing the songs taught me is that a song can happen during a death scene, and that even death can be memorable.

“Come to Me” is Fantine’s death. She is dying of illness, but not alone. She has Valjean by her side promising to take of her daughter, Cosette. During “A Little Fall of Rain”, Eponine is dying in the arms of the man she loves. Finally at the “Epilogue”, Valjean gets to die with Cosette, his adopted daughter and Marius, his now son-in-law by his side.I NEVER realized that death scenes could happen during song-it wasn’t until Les Mis became a part of my life. The “Epilogue” makes you feel both heartbroken and hope- Les Mis is both heartbreaking and inspiring.

Characters-Major Spoilers:

Les Mis has one of the best collection of characters. There is a character that everyone is going to love. I can’t even choose my favorite character.

Jean Valjean (Main Character)- He starts off the show as a harsh, hateful, and angry man. It is amazing to see him change into the compassionate and caring man he becomes. It was through an act of mercy by the bishop that made him start to became a better person. Even Cosette played a part in it. Everything he did made his spiritual journey stronger and made him a better person. It was during “Bring Him Home” when you strongly can see his love for God. He is one of the best protagonists of musical theatre.

Javert (Antagonist)- His main goal in Les Mis is to recapture Valjean. He believes “once a criminal always a criminal”. He sees the world in black and right and wants to do the right thing. He is a policeman and does not show mercy or forgiveness or love. He can’t even accept it when it is shown on him. He is one of our most complex antagonists I have seen.

Fantine- She is one of our most tragic characters, and her demise isn’t even her fault. She has a strong unconditional love towards her daughter, Cosette. When Cosette was born, Cosette’s biological father abandoned both of them. Fantine’s dreams are now shattered. She now is a single mother left to care for daughter—she ended up leaving her daughter in the hands of The Thenardiers (not knowing how poorly they will treat Cosette). Soon, she finds work in Valjean’s factory, but after hearing about Cosette, she was fired. She was devastated, but had to take desperate measures by selling her locket, hair, and soon herself (as in becoming a prostitute). Eventually she became seriously ill and was rescued by Valjean even though he couldn’t save her life. Valjean promised to raise Cosette. Fantine was a strong character- it usually is at “I Dreamed a Dream” when I start becoming an emotional wreck.

Young Cosette-Yes, we first hear of Cosette through Fantine, but we don’t meet her until after Fantine dies. Well, it turns out Cosette was being abused and treated as a servant. Cosette always has high hopes she will be rescued. She strongly does not like it when she has to get water from the woods. Luckily in the woods Valjean finds Cosette and realizes this is the girl he has been looking for. So now, Cosette becomes Valjean’s adopted daughter.

Cosette-Now, we have a teenage Cosette. Her life has improved now that she has a better father. Valjean loves Cosette. They live a very sheltered and protective life- part of it is due to Valjean being a ex-convict. One day in the streets, Cosette sees Marius and they fall in love. Cosette does want to know more about her past and wants to actually meet Marius in person.

Marius- He is one of the student revolutionaries and is close friends to Enjolras. He is kind, sweet, compassionate, brave, and awkward. He is not just close friends to Enjolras, but to Eponine as well. He struggles between his passion for the uprising and his love for Cosette. He actually is more complex than he seems.

Eponine- While we first meet her as a child, we truly meet her as a teenager. She was raised around criminals her entire life. She became the neglected, abused, and unloved teenager. No one showed her kindness- until she met someone who did. She met Marius that day- Marius ended up becoming the light in her life, and he was the only good thing in her life. The kindness he showed her led her to fall in love with him. She was streetwise, strong, brave, and loyal. Her love for Marius is so deep and strong that she would risk everything for Marius no matter the cost.

Enjolras and the Friends of the ABC-What I love the most about them is their passion for the uprising and the bond they share. With Enjolras, he is such a confident and passionate leader; after all, he is the most passionate of the group.

The Thenardiers- Despite being abusive, unloving, despicable, and cruel, I love the laughter they bring

Plot:

Les Mis’ story is so carefully planned out that if you get rid of one tiny detail, the entire story falls flat. It is amazing how a plot can be like that. I can’t even choose my favorite character.

The main storyline is about Valjean’s journey of becoming a better person. He had been in prison 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread: 5 for stealing and 14 for trying to escape. When his time came to leave, he was put on parole forever. He had left as an angry, harsh, and hateful man. However, when an act of mercy was shown by the bishop, he decided he needed to change, but that meant breaking parole. So while Valjean was going on a spiritual journey, Javert was trying to recapture Valjean. There were major dilemmas Valjean had to face: turn himself in when an innocent man was accused of being him, etc…….He helped save lives (Fantine (even though he couldn’t save her life), Cosette, and Marius). By the end, he has truly been redeemed and got to die with Cosette, his adopted daughter, and Marius, his now son-in-law by his side.

Another storyline is the love triangle between Cosette x Marius x Eponine. Cosette and Marius’ relationship helps bring hope to the tragedy. It gives a reason for Valjean to rescue Marius from the barricade. Cosette and Marius are an incredible couple and amazing characters. Cosette represents hope in Les Mis so she needed to fall in love with Marius.

On to Eponine. If Eponine did not have the unrequited love, I don’t think I would have fallen in love with the character. If you think about it, Eponine needed Marius in her life. Her fate made perfect sense. She was able to die in the arms of Marius. It originally was Eponine that sacrificed her life for Marius. If you look at “A Little Fall of Rain”- you can see Marius’ compassion and based on how devastated he is shows Eponine mattered to him: so I love Marius. Also, look at the beginning of act II, he sent Eponine away with that letter- I think he only was trying to protect Eponine. He did not want her to get hurt or killed during the uprising. So, I love Eponine with the unrequited love

The third final main storyline was the uprising. It was based on the actual June Rebellion of 1832. I love those characters- their bond, their passion, and their hope is inspiring despite knowing their fates each time I see Les Mis. Marius is the only student who makes it out alive- first Eponine sacrificed her life for him and ultimately Valjean carried him to safety after he became seriously injured.

At the end, there are only four survivors: The Thenardiers, Marius, and Cosette. I do know who my favorite survivor is, and that is Marius.

So, while Marius and Cosette survive the entire musical, they still have their tragedies. Cosette had a tragic childhood and eventually lost her adopted father. Marius lost all of his friends at the barricades. All they have left at the end is each other. See why the plot is hard to explain: you still can’t get rid of one tiny detail or else the story falls in shambles.

About the plot, I love the themes of compassion, love, hope, forgiveness, sacrifice, humanity, and redemption. I love the beautiful spirituality found in the plot. Les Mis is truly a very “human” story, and I love that about it. Still, I can’t explain why I love the plot as much as I do. The plot is so amazing that I wouldn’t get rid of a single thing- you need everything in it for the storyline to work: it really is that carefully planned out.

Conclusion:

Even this does not fully explain why I love Les Mis, it does say a lot. Les Mis is where my passion for musicals comes from. I was challenged a lot because the musical entered, and I am so glad it did. I thought I knew the full extent of emotions, but Les Mis showed me a stronger and deeper side to the emotions. Les Mis is why I now want to see two-three musicals a year, and why I am more open to them. Wicked might have sparked my love for musicals, but Les Mis turned that love into a passion. Les Mis did lead four core emotions into five: excitement, love, joy, sad, and “heartbreak”. I am still an emotional wreck watching Les Mis, and I don’t think I will ever be immune to it. I love getting all of the tears watching Les Mis- I don’t want that reaction to stop- that reaction does not happen often, but it defiantly is the trophy of tear-reducing songs.

4 thoughts on “Do You Hear the People Sing

  1. I love Les Miz. It’s one of those musicals that’s really touched my heart and I don’t think there will ever come a day where I don’t love it. It’s so wonderfully done and I think that maybe I need to watch it again sometime soon! This show is so emotionally powerful and it’s very special to me.

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  2. Fun fact: During the Hong Kong Protests, ‘Do You Hear The People Sing’ was played and sung by the millions in the protests. That’s how impactful a musical like Les Mis is.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think you are right that it seems impossible to choose a favorite song! And I think that is partly because they are all so good, of course, but also because they all work together. Part of their power is how they interact with each–take away one song and that affects the others.

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