Journey with Les Mis- the Best Way

Well, so many people on this blog know I am obsessed with Les Mis. I actually know an incredible way to show that journey. I actually experienced the musical twice in cinemas- film and 2019 London staged concert. Well, the difference has nothing to do with cast. It has more to do with what I thought about the musical. That probably makes more sense once I explain.

The Film- First Experience

It was December 2012. I actually came into Les Mis unsure what to think of it. I only know one song (“I Dreamed a Dream”, and was aware of two actresses- Amanda Seyfried and Anne Hathaway (here’s what I didn’t know- I actually knew about a third- I was raised on Harry Potter films, so Helena Bonham Carter was the third, but didn’t know it).

There were certain things I was blind to. This first experience was the most negative experience I ever had with the musical. My parents initially kept me blind that Les Mis was a tragedy. If I had known, I probably wouldn’t have gone. But once I figured that out, I did not know to react, feel or even respond. I wasn’t even close to being an emotional wreck. Due to that, I did completely forget about what I what I thought of the actors, actresses, and characters.

I came away from the film saying TOO DEPRESSING, but still had “Do You the People Sing” stuck in my head. So I couldn’t figure out if I loved Les Mis or not. What was weird was that soon after, I started researching the musical.

2019 London Stage Concert- In Cinemas

By this point, already saw the film so many times I had to buy a 2nd copy, seen the 25th concert maybe more than twenty times, and saw the stage show six times. I think that does say something about my love for that musical. Les Mis is why I am passionate about musicals. It actually was after the 2013 Central Piedmont Community College where I formed a dream for seeing it in the West End. That came true July 30th, 2015 with understudy (Adam Bayjou) as Valjean. Went to stage door and met the actor who played Valjean.

Let me actually compare and contrast the two experiences with the film and this particular concert. The first time, negative experience, not emotional wreck, and did not quite interpret Les Mis the right way. Something tells me I must have been connected somehow to at least one character- now that I think of it, most likely it was Fantine and the students. I say that because I knew about “I Dreamed a Dream” and was stuck with “Do You the People Sing” in my head. I subconsciously was most likely attached to even more. Giving the film a 2nd chance was key—I do know that was when I formed an emotional connection to Eponine.

As for the 2019 concert, I had no choice but to see it in Cinemas due to living in the US. This time was not a negative experience, but positive. I already became a massive fan of the musical and massive fan of musicals. There are a lot of memories in between- the times seeing the stage show. This concert was my first experience of seeing a concert of Les Mis in cinemas. What was interesting is that the concert had actors/actresses I had seen once before-part were my West End cast, and the other repeats the 25th concert.

Just like expected- the staged concert made me an emotional wreck, and just like usual “I Dreamed a Dream” was the first moment where I literally was in tears- no actress had failed at that. After, still continued to feel that that way. Here is what is incredible- my mom and I had three Les Mis dates: West End, US Tour 2019, and Staged Concert. So how did I go from this not liking Les Mis to developing a strong and massive love for Les Mis? My emotional response was built up over time- eventually becoming an emotional wreck.

Simply put, I had a lot of repeats in 2019: it was not just the staged concert where that happened, but the US Tour as well.

So…..

Look at my 1st experience with the film- negative and not really becoming a fan of Les Mis. By being confused and not knowing how to feel or react. I did not even know from that I would eventually see it again. That very first time-no where close to being an emotional wreck. It was a 2nd chance- if that didn’t happen Les Mis wouldn’t be a part of my life and would have no idea The West End existed.

Then, by the time the 2019 Concert in cinemas happened, I already had a lot of experiences with Les Mis. At Central Piedmont Community College, West End, and the US Tour. Had seen the film so many times that I had to buy a 2nd copy and seen the 25th more than 20 (I think). So, from not really a fan to being obsessed with it was something I NEVER expected. I really believed I would not be a fan of tragedies, but Les Mis decided to prove me wrong. There are times when I feel like Les Mis was supposed to enter my life- even the timing worked.

The Two Most Meaningful Musicals

While I am a musical theatre fanatic, who has multiple meaningful musicals, there are only TWO that stand out from the rest. Both Wicked and Les Mis entered my life at separate times in my life. Wicked entered my life: August 2006, and Les Mis: March 2013. I was only in middle school when I saw Wicked and only my first year of college when Les Mis entered. In simple terms, I will try to say only certain things that made each musical meaningful (will try not to go too much in detail.

Wicked

Emotional connection- where I first discovered the importance. Strongly showed through Elphaba, Glinda, and Fiyero. Especially in the case of Elphaba.

Emotional and Complex side- discovered both the emotional and complex side. All because of Wicked, four core emotions existed: excitement, joy, love, and sad (would be helpful later on). In addition, was the first time discovering what it meant for both a character and plot to be complex

Who did I see with- 1st time was on Broadway with my mom August 2006—this was really special, think my 2nd time was in 2008, 3rd time was date with my dad US Tour 2013, and went with Gardner Webb with the US Tour 2016. Look, the really special thing about GWU is that I was watching a musical that changed me for good with a school that changed me for the better. Even seeing Wicked on Broadway was special: was my first time and date with mom.

What I knew about musicals (overall): spectacle/dance; fore core emotions- excitement/love/joy/sad; the importance of emotional connection, and the emotional and complex side to musicals—-or so I thought

Favorite Actors/Actresses

Mary Kate Morrissey- Elphaba

Amanda Jane Copper-Glinda

Ashley Parker Angel- Fiyero

Les Mis- this might take some time

Before moving on, I have to say I kinda say that I had to grow into it. So 2nd chance was when it all began (March 2013). I kinda have to describe the meaning through the various experiences I had with Les Mis.

overall meaning:

  • Learned to love Tragedy the hard way– when I still was at Fletcher, during high school, I had told myself I will NEVER love a tragedy. I thought I knew the genre, but Les Mis proved me wrong. Well, had to give that film a 2nd chance- still don’t know why, but most about had some connection the first time (something tells me it most likely belonged to Fantine and the students). Said that because coming in, I already knew “I Dreamed a Dream” was a Les Mis song and coming out of cinemas, had “Do You Hear the People Sing” stuck in my head. Well, that 2nd chance is when everything else is history- here is one thing I remember about that 2nd chance on the film—I started developing a strong love for Eponine—so Samantha Barks became my favorite Eponine (that has not changed no matter how close other actresses get: being first is part of why), and I don’t know exactly where that came from, but eventually I think it had something to do with Elphaba.
  • Emotional Nature– one new core emotion entered (Heartbreak). All because of that, I have a deeper and stronger understanding of emotions. Les Mis makes me an emotional wreck: that response never fails starting at “I Dreamed a Dream). Well, the emotional and powerful nature in Les Mis was something new to me- had no idea how intense musical emotions could be
  • Death– well, some things surprised me about this. I really thought deaths were unmemorable and in no way would happen during a song. Proven wrong by Les Mis due to “Come to Me”, “A Little Fall of Rain”, and “Finale”.

Conclusion

Here is what I am going end up- naming each year I saw it, and then saying who I know for a fact is my favorite for some characters.

  • Well did see Les Mis 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2019: I think that says something about the meaning. 2015-date with mom in West End while 2017 went with Gardner Webb to Greenville during US Tour. 2019- another date with mom and some actors/actresses were same characters in 2017. Well, it is important to mention my 2019 Fantine-she was only in my ensemble 2017 and eventually secured the part of Fantine (she knew the role due to being understudy). 2019- got the same Javert, Cosette, Marius, Enjolras, and Madame Thenardier: standouts still Joshua and Matt. This could surprise UK fans, but while my strongest love triangle may be in my West End, but due to not comparing both 2015/2017- my favorite Marius is Joshua Grosso and Cosette is Jillian Butler.

Going to say here, who I know for a fact belong to my favorite actor/actress in the principal roles. Some, really have no idea. Some are literally that difficult- Valjean, Enjolras, and Fantine are the hardest ones to know who my favorite is. While Matt Shingledecker is a standout in the US Tour, Bradley, Ramin, and Aaron are literally basically tied with Matt. Here is what makes Fantine difficult- seven actresses. With Valjean, my top three are Nick, Adam, and Alfie- tough call.

  • Cosette- Jillian Butler
  • Marius-Joshua Grosso
  • Eponine-Samantha Barks
  • Javert- Jeremy Secomb
  • Thenardiers- Phil Daniels/Katy Secombe

What I know for a fact is that all of the actors/actresses I had seen combined have made the characters they are today.

What do I love about Fantine

Another principal character in Les Mis is Fantine.

MAJOR SPOILERS:

The hardest scenes to watch in Les Mis belong to Fantine. She may be one of the principal characters, but has the shortest amount of stage time. What I love the most about her is her unconditional love towards her daughter. Her ultimate demise is not even her fault- it is actually both society’s and The Thenardiers’ fault.

When she fell in love with Felix and got pregnant with Cosette, he ended up abandoning the two of them. So Fantine was left to fend for herself. In France at the time, it was dangerous to know you had a child out wedlock. She had such a strong love her Cosette, but had no idea what to do now that she was abandoned. She soon had to go to extreme measures and leave Cosette in the hands of the Thenardiers (not knowing how poorly they would treat Cosette). She did find a job at Valjean’s factory; however the Thenardiers kept on demanding more and more money (but those letters were hoaxes telling lies). It was soon discovered she had an illegitimate child- that was what made her get fired from her job. She was even more desperate now- how was she to care for Cosette now? Her life got even worse and now all of her dreams were broken. She hoped that her daughter would have a better life than she currently was having.

Now, she had to take things to even more dangerous measures. “Lovely Ladies” is the hardest scene to watch in Les Mis. She had to end up selling her locket, hair, and even turn to prostitution just for the sake of Cosette. This has always been the hardest scene to watch- once you understand why it had to be there, it makes it a bit easier to watch despite being really hard to watch.

Due to living on the streets, she become severely ill. When she attacked a man in self-defense, Javert did not care that she had a child and just saw her as prostitute. He did not give her any mercy or compassion. Only one person was able to help her- Valjean was there at the time- after realizing that she had a child and was fired from his factory, he ended up preventing her from going in jail and took her to a hospital. He may not have been able to save her life, but promised to raise Cosette as his own. He stayed with Fantine until she died.

Fantine and Valjean- Come to Me
Fantine and Valjean