Saturday, January 5, 2013

Les Miserablés: The Movie is Not The Broadway Show

Comparing Les Miserablés The Movie  to Les Miserablés The Stage Musical is bound to result in a disappointing experience with the film.  On stage the experience is a perfect blend of story, music and stagecraft. The movie is somewhat imperfect blend of story, music and film making, but a wonderful experience nonetheless.

The film brings context and detail that the stage production cannot.  Hugo's epic tale is much more completely realized.  The minor character connections are more clear.  Fauchelevent, for example is the character rescued from beneath the runaway cart by Valjean.  He later provides sanctuary for Valjean and Cosette in the gardener in a convent.

The film is a much more intimate experience when it is called for and more sweeping when that is needed.  The live recording of vocals pays off.  Anne Hathaway's "I Dreamed a Dream" has received all the praise it is due, but Eddie Redmayne's Marius is as impressive.

But is is a musical and the criticisms of vocal strength are valid.  However it is not opera and it is not on stage.  I enjoy live from the Met in HD and saw Company with Neil Patrick Harris on the big screen.  Many more broadway shows deserve the same treatment.  But a filmed stage play and a film are entirely different.  The days of South Pacific and My Fair Lady are gone.  No one wants Ethel Merman on screen. Realism is what audiences want and this film delivers it spectacularly.

Russell Crowe's Javert is wonderfully acted and his singing which would never make it on stage is fine in the film.  As fond as I am of Hugh Jackman, his singing voice is too nasal for the classical Broadway show.  In this production he is Javert and mature beautifully without the pure white hair that is needed to convey his  aging to the balcony of the huge Broadway theater where Les Mis debuted in New York.

Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are brilliant as the Thenardiers but their performances would never carry on stage.

See the film.  See the musical on stage. Both are amazing.

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