What comes to mind when people think musicals? Spectacle, dance, comedy (even the genre is commonly associated with them), romance, positive and negative emotions, and a strong emotional connection. If the spectacle and dance isn’t really there, something has to make for it. However, tragic musicals do exist, which surprised me when I found out- I was raised on the comic and happy musicals, but became aware sad was a common emotion. So, what is my favorite tragic musical?
This will come of no surprise. Les Misérables has existed since 1862 (that was the year the book was published). My journey with the musical didn’t start easy. It started with the musical film- but wasn’t told it was tragic just to get me to go. To fall in love with Les Mis, had to give the film a 2nd chance. Les Mis decided to challenge a LOT on what I previously knew about musicals. 1) ALL musicals are happy and comic; 2) death scenes can never be memorable or happen during song; 3) the emotional capability- prior, I was blind to heartbreak, but not sad. The rest is history- by now, saw the stage show 6x (literally, saw it in 3 cities and 4 stage theaters). Usually in a musical I can pick my favorite song or narrow it down to like top five or top two, but can’t in Les Mis.
As for the plot—-even choosing my favorite character is difficult (I was able to choose my favorite survivor though)—-yes, I do have some unpopular opinions in Les Mis. Emotionally drawn to almost all of the storylines. Amazing how everything connects- as in if you get rid of one tiny detail, the story would start unraveling itself (like a ball of yarn). Les Mis has a collection of epic, powerful, and emotional songs. Still an emotional wreck, a response that was built up over time. I love the beautiful underlying spirituality found in the story- one of the reasons why Les Mis is way more than a tragedy. It even has moving, touching, and memorable deaths, something I once thought impossible.
The way the songs connect is amazing- the fact that you do have repeating melodies (makes the sung-through concept work). If I could use one word to describe Les Mis, I would use humanity. Describing the plot isn’t easy because of how complex the story is and how easy it is to bring up spoilers.
When I think of Veteran’s Day, I usually am thinking about the uprising in Les Mis. Enjolras, Marius, and the students have such a strong friendship that they feel like family. They have so much passion and hope.
God on high Hear my prayer In my need You have always been there
He is young He’s afraid Let him rest Heaven blessed Bring him home Bring him home Bring him home
He’s like the son I might have known If God had granted me a son The summers die One by one How soon they fly On and on And I am old And will be gone
Bring him peace Bring him joy He is young He is only a boy
You can take You can give Let him be Let him live If I die, let me die Let him live Bring him home Bring him home Bring him home
The song, “Bring Him Home”, takes place during Act II at the barricades. It is sung by Valjean and is one of his strongest spiritual moments. He is praying to God to make sure Marius, the young man his adopted daughter loves, survives. Valjean loves Cosette so much that he is really to sacrifice his happiness for her own. The song really shows just how much Valjean loves God. It is such a heartbreaking, soulful, and spiritual song- in so many ways, it is pretty much a prayer. Even though Valjean barley knew Marius, he knew that Marius had to live for the sake of Cosette.
As a matter of fact, the song becomes heartbreaking after the first viewing. Once you know the outcome of the uprising, it changes the emotion of “Bring Him Home”. True, Marius does survive, but Valjean has to rescue him after he was seriously injured. Here is what was really sad about the uprising- Marius was the only one who lived (Eponine, Gavroche, and the rest of the students all died during the uprising). All of those who died on the barricade meant something to Marius, and he had to lose everyone: now all he has left is Cosette. That is what makes “Bring Him Home” such a heartbreaking song.
In my opinion, classics fall under two categories- old and new. Classics that came out in the 19th century and earlier are what many people associate classics with- those authors range from Hugo, Dickens, Hardy, Cervantes, and Homer. Those are four authors I have learned to fall in love with.
Out of all the old classics, Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables is my favorite. That would come of no surprise due to my obsession with the musical. I NEVER thought I would love a story like Les Mis. That was because I once thought I would never love tragedies, but it turns out I was wrong. Les Misérables is truly a story about compassion, hope, sacrifice, forgiveness, love, humanity and redemption. If I just saw the book with no former knowledge, I never would have read it- good thing the musical led me to the book.
This story is truly inspiring and uplifting. The musical alone makes me an emotional wreck. In Les Misérables, there is always a character you will emotionally connect to. As a matter of fact, I love several of the Les Mis characters. From Jean Valjean to Cosette to Fantine to Eponine to Marius to Enjolras and the Friends of the ABC. Les Misérables may be filled with a lot of heartbreak and tragedy, but it is filled with a ton of hope and light. Their stories touch you in a way that words alone can’t describe.
Well, I have NOT just seen Les Mis by film and stage show. I also have seen three concerts- the 10th, 25th, and 2019. There is something rather interesting about all three.
Look, when the 10th and 25th came out, they were before I even was a fan of Les Mis. I never got the opportunity to see any concert live in cinemas. I was still only one when the 10th came out and fifteen when the 25th came out. In my years at Fletcher- which was where I attended for middle and high school, I remember that in high school, I wanted nothing to do with tragedies. I had to study them, but really was convinced I would never love one. That was why when I first saw the film, I wasn’t told Les Mis was tragic or else never would have gone: this happened December 2012.
So, I have a really good reason of wanting to see the 25th. Samantha Barks, one of the standouts in the film and my favorite Eponine, convinced me to watch it. I was able to rent the 25th on ITunes. Now I actually own that concert- have seen it at least 20 times. There was a lot of talent in that version: Alfie Boe, Samantha Barks, and Ramin Kairlmoo are the ones that automatically come to mind. As a matter of fact, the first repeat I ever had in Les Mis was Samantha Barks. If it wasn’t for her, my love for Eponine wouldn’t have begun-there is a reason why to this day, she is my favorite. What I did love about the 25th was the “four Valjean-Bring Him Home”, the Original Cast singing “One Day More”, and students from student production singing the reprise of “Do You Hear the People Sing”.
Below shows the three Les Mis films I own- that includes the 10th and 25th concerts.
Well, what about the 10th concert- there were incredible things with this as well. I recently ended up owning it. This was the only other concert where I had to first witness it outside of cinemas. Having seeing some of the Original Cast members play the part they originated was special: such as Colm Wilkinson, Micheal Ball, Alun Armstrong, and Micheal McGuire. It even showed scenes coming from the West End, which brought me back the day I saw Les Mis in London. This cast was extremely talented-in basically both the ensemble and leads. It was amazing seeing the 17 Valjeans’ singing together- you really got to notice some of the languages Les Mis was played in: the countries ranged from Austria to Germany to Italy to Hungary to Japan, Nederlands and of course Australia, Canada, and United States- I actually was surprised that Iceland can sing English.
Well the 2019 concert- that was when I finally got to see a concert in cinemas. In 2019, I already was in love with Les Mis for six years. Well, repeats did happen (some in the same role), and others (moving up). Previously I had already seen Matt Lucas (Thenardier), Alfie Boe (Valjean), Rob Houchen (Marius), Bradley Jaden (Enjolras), and Katy Secombe (Madame Thenardier): those played the exact same part I once saw them as well. There actually was one more repeat: Carrie Hope Fletcher (Eponine to Fantine). In 2019, she was my 2nd actress moving up from role to role (that’s right Mary Kate Moore was my Fantine in November- in 2017, she was only in my ensemble/ 1st cover Fantine). That first Fantine of that year shows don’t underestimate those actors/actresses. Another incredibly talented cast- a lot of them ahead of time I knew would be fantastic in their roles knowing them from before.
Alfie Boe was actually a standout in the 25th. As for the West End, I could not even figure one out (that says something about that cast). While Joshua Grosso is my favorite Marius, Rob Houchen falls at 2nd best: all I remember about Rob in the West End was his reaction after “A Little Fall of Rain”- during the concert, I was able to see how incredible “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” was. Look, this concert was my third date with my mom to Les Mis: she saw Les Mis with me in the West End and the US Tour. I knew exactly where I would really start to be in tears: no matter who I get as Fantine, I always get reduced down to tears in “I Dreamed a Dream”- that is why it is hard to pick my favorite. Then once that happens, they don’t seem to stop- I love how emotions affect me in Les Mis: it is rare in musicals to feel that kind of intensity and power. Actually- seen my Thenardier from the 25th and Madame Thenardier from the West End: it shows a completely different dynamic (the same thing happened with Allison Guinn (2017/2019: she had two Monsieur Thenardier actors).
As a matter of fact, most of the West End actors/actresses I saw are all from Les Mis. Micheal Ball (Javert) would eventually repeat: saw the 10th after: so saw him as Marius.
If I just look at 2019, who would be my favorite actors/actresses?
Valjean- Alfie Boe
Javert- while I don’t know, I do know that Josh Davis (Javert of 2017/2019) improved
Cosette- Jillian Butler
Marius- Joshua Grosso
Eponine- Paige Smallwood
As for the others, really tough call. Of all actors/actresses- I think it can be hard to choose between Fantine, Enjolras, and Thenardiers.
Well, 2019 was fascinating- being able to finally experience a concert in cinemas really made that experience exciting along with seeing some of the actors I saw in London. Just like the US Tour- repeats. I don’t really get to see like any actor/actress being seen more than once: just the US Tours always seem to have different actors each time I experience a show: they always have new shows with current running shows on tour. That would lead to various actors/actresses in all of them- none of the principals have repeated: only happened at CPCC.
Good thing: the 2019 versions of Les Mis happened. Les Mis began Blumenthal’s 2019/2020 season- so with the US Tour: twice and five repeat actors in the same role- well I automatically think of them when I even think of the repeats.
*To note, only coming from 2019. Last week, I saw the 10th concert. This post is only connected to 2019*
This post is dedicated with Les Mis in 2019. There was something fascinating about this year with Les Mis. I actually am quite lucky that Blumenthal started their 19/20 season with Les Mis. So, saw Les Mis once, but twice last year. Two dates with my mom: our first date together was Les Mis in the West End July 30th, 2015.
Well, the US Tour of Les Mis began in 2017. That cast was Nick Cartell (Valjean), Josh Davis (Javert), Melissa Mitchell (Fantine), Jillian Butler (Cosette), Joshua Grosso (Marius), Matt Shingledecker (Enjolras), Talia Simone Robinson (U/S Eponine), Allison Guinn (Madame Thenardier), and J. Anthony Crane (Monsieur Thenardiers. Saw them all in Greenville with my university: the standouts were Nick, Joshua, and Matt.
Well, look at what happened in the US Tour in 2019: Josh Davis, Jillian Butler, Joshua Grosso, Matt Shingledecker, and Allison Guinn played the same parts. But would have been six if Nick Cartell did not need an understudy (Andrew Maughan). Mary Kate Moore (Fantine), Eponine (Paige Smallwood), and Jimmy Smagula (Monsieur Thenardier) were the rest of the principal actors. Actually I think Mary Kate Moore can count as another repeat: just not the same role-I only saw her in the ensemble in 2017: Fantine did not have an understudy that time around. After Melissa Mitchell left Les Mis, Mary Kate Moore secured the role of Fantine.
Now, will bring up 2019 Staged Concert. Well, back in the West End, Adam Bayjou (understudy Valjean), Jeremy Secomb (Javert), Rachelle Ann Go (Fantine), Zoe Donao (Cosette), Rob Houchen (Marius), Carrie Hope Fletcher (Eponine), Bradley Jaden (Enjolras), Katy Secombe (Madame Thenardier), and Phill Daniels (Monsieur Thenardier). So look what happened in in 2019 by the staged concert and the US Tour- so the same musical had repeats. Below comes from my West End cast.
So there were two incredible ways I saw Les Mis in repeats. Well, my mom and I got to see Les Mis with Blumenthal at Ovens Auditorium and Staged Concert. US Tour was the 2nd time the two of us saw the stage show of Les Mis: she was my date in the West End. 2019 continued that every other year pattern- 2013, 2015, and 2017 were the only other years I saw Les Mis during the stage show. Another incredible reason did belong to the staged concert in London: well, there was something incredible about watching it in cinemas. Look at the first time- most negative experience, no where close to becoming an emotional wreck, and really not a Les Mis fan. So both cinema experiences really does show my journey: from not becoming much of a fan to the 2nd chance with the film and rest is history. So, I was able to experience the staged concert in a more positive way and an emotional wreck (was expecting that): only time I saw a Les Mis concert in cinemas. After all, the 25th and 10th happened before I was a fan of the musical.
Something was kind of familiar with the US Tour and Staged Concert. Repeats coming up from seeing these actors again. Valjean (Alfie Boe), Javert (Josh Davis), Marius (Joshua Grosso/ Rob Houchen), Madame Thenardier (Allison Guinn/Katy Secombe). Well, there were others, only in two separate roles. Ensemble/Fantine (Mary Kate Moore- she started the US Tour as ensemble/understudy Fantine: she moved up to Fantine by the time I saw her). Eponine/Fantine (Carrie Hope Fletcher). So, both Fantine actresses moved up, but it is more important on Mary Kate Moore-actresses like her don’t get the respect or appreciation they deserve. Well, she managed to only start in the ensemble and understudying Fantine: some people might think she wouldn’t have been able to move up to the main lead. Well, she did, which really does show don’t underestimate those understudies: they can surprise you. Just only two were were in 25th concert- Matt Lucas and Alfie Boe. Look at all of them: repeats- only ten belonged to same roles. Below are my favorite actors/actresses for the characters. Some might surprise others.
Javert- Jeremy Secomb
Cosette- Jillian Butler
Marius- Joshua Grosso
Eponine- Samantha Barks
Phil Daniels/Katy Become- Thenardiers
Well, you do have to remember where part of my actors/actresses come from. I have the US Tour as well. That is how Jillian and Joshua managed to be my favorite Marius and Cosette. I have seen the film, 25th concert, US Tour (2017/2019), West End (July 2015) and the 2019 concert- well, that does explain things since by the time 2019 ended.
So, why did I not put Enjolras and Fantine. Here’s the thing about Fantine- in the film, “I Dreamed a Dream” was the most devastating due to the song being after “Lovely Ladies”. The six others had “I Dreamed a Dream” before “Lovely Ladies”. So, that can make it difficult. Well, no matter who I get as Fantine, “I Dreamed a Dream” always brings me be to tears: that is true, and usually the first moment that reaction begins. Enjolras can be tricky due to always having an extremely talented actor in that role.