Les Mis Songs- Choosing a Favorite

Musical theatre fans know that in a musical they have their favorite song. There is an exception to that, and that is in Les Mis. Why do I think that is? I think it is a combination of things: the passion, the epic nature, the powerful nature, and the level of emotion. There is something found in the songs that has made Les Mis last so long in the West End, and had made it keep on touring throughout the World. The songs are key to any great musical- they are the first step- then the characters and plot.

On My Own- this is one of my favorite songs in the musical. It is perfect for Eponine. It is about her unrequited love for Marius while still giving some insight into her life outside of Marius. It perfectly complements her character- it shows just how strong of a character she is. It also shows how strong and deep her love for Marius is. A beautifully heartbreaking song, which can be sung in so many ways- different emotions can be shown each time. This easily can be my favorite song from Les Mis, but the same applies to a number of other songs from Les Mis.

A Little Fall of Rain- this song ends Eponine’s story. She has sacrificed herself after seeing a gun aimed at Marius. This is the most intimate moment Marius and Eponine have. After Eponine collapsed in Marius’ arms, he realized she was dying, and he was devastated. Despite how he felt, he ended up staying with her to the end. A bittersweet scene- you do feel devastated for BOTH Eponine and Marius, but happy for Eponine because she is in the arms of Marius. He is there for her, and is comforting her. You get to see how much compassion Marius is capable of. This is my favorite death scene in Les Mis.

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables- While “On My Own” can easily be my favorite solo, I can’t help but think about how this song can also be that song. Devastatingly heartbreaking-more heartbreaking than “On My Own”. It perfectly complements Marius- the rebellion has ended, and Marius is the only one who comes out alive. He lost all of his friends, and is now dealing with survivor’s guilt. Marius is my favorite survivor in Les Mis, and has become almost a core favorite character.

One Day More- the perfect act I finale. Do I have to say more? This easily could be my favorite song from Les Mis song too. There is no way to describe what you are feeling in this number. It is one of my all-favorite musical theatre finales.

Bring Him Home- This song is another song that can be my favorite song from Les Mis. This further highlights the love Valjean has for God, and shows his love for Cosette in a way. After all, he went to the barricade to protect and save Marius, the revolutionary his adopted daughter loves, from dying. It sounds like a prayer.

Do You Hear the People Sing- This song is a very passionate song. It perfectly shows the passion the students have for the rebellion. It easily gets stuck in your head- it got stuck in my head after seeing the movie the first time.

Drink With Me- The thing I really love about this song is how intimate it is. It shows a vulnerable side to the students. It is sadder than it seems to be- you will understand after seeing it a first time. Once you know what is going to happen to them, the song becomes heartbreaking. This is the last moment they will truly get to spend time with each other. They know this is a last cause, and that they will most likely die, and feel hopeless. At least, they still have their brotherly love for each other, and they still have the passion.

Finale- the perfect finale to a musical. The first half is heartbreaking. Valjean is dying, and he is alone in a church. However, you know he has become a better person, and that he has redeemed himself, become “saint-like”. You might think he will die alone, without anyone by his side. Soon enough, Cosette, his adopted daughter, and Marius, his now son-in-law, come to his side. I think there is some symbolism in the deaths- Fantine, Eponine, Gavroche, Enjolras and the students, and now Valjean will have died with someone with them- have you noticed a pattern with these characters? They know how to love- it doesn’t matter if it is love for a child, love romantically (even if it falls unrequited), or love for a country. After Valjean dies, you are heartbroken, but then a reprise of “Do you Hear the People Sing” starts- you are still heartbroken, but you feel hope- I think the ending represents heaven. You do not leave devastated- you leave the theatre uplifted and with hope.

See what I mean? There is something about each song that makes it hard to choose which is your favorite. Whether that is the bittersweet “A Little Fall of Rain”, the heartbreaking “On My Own”, the devastating “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”, the intimate “Drink With Me”, etc….. So many of the songs have something special about them: you can see the spirituality shine in some of them: “Bring Him Home”, “Come to Me”, “A Little Fall of Rain”, “Finale”, “What Have I Done” are examples of that.

Do you think Les Mis is hard to chose your favorite song, and why? I gave a few examples.

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Non-Survivors I love in Musicals

What do I mean by the non-survivors? These are the characters who die in musicals. So this will be SPOILER HEAVY. I used to think a character death would be not memorable, but I learned my lesson.

  1. Enjolras and the students
  2. Gavroche
  3. Eponine
  4. Fantine
  5. Jean Valjean
  6. Don Quixote
  7. Angel
  8. Mufasa
  9. Kim

It was Les Mis that taught me that I can love a character death. I love more characters who survive than characters who don’t survive. A lot of that it because I can’t think of more. Death in musicals are not EASY to watch, but you have to understand WHY they had to happen- all of these deaths had to happen. Yes, character death is sad, and you are heartbroken because you loved the character. The only way they will continue to live is in you.

How do you feel about character death?

Some of my favorite Literary friendships

I did talk about about my favorite musical theatre friendships before, but I think it is time to talk about some of my favorite literary friendships.

Friends of the ABC:

  • This is an overlap between literary and musical theatre friendship. This friendship is in both. This friendship is found in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. Enjolras is the leader of this group. They not only are friends, but they are like brothers. They are passionate about the cause that they fight to the end. What I love about the book is that you get to know them individually unlike the musical where you get to know them together as a group. It is their passion and their friendship that I love about them.

Nicholas and Smike

  • This two characters are my favorite characters in Nicholas Nickleby. I love the compassion Nicholas shows to Smike. When Nicholas leaves that school, Smike follows and Nicholas allows Smike to stay with him throughout the rest of the book.

Frodo and Sam

  • Would Frodo have made it without Sam? It is Sam’s loyalty to Frodo that makes me love the two of them. At end of Fellowship, Frodo was going to do the rest of the quest alone, but Sam would not allow it. Sam was going to staying with Frodo. That first question is the biggest reason why I love the two of them as friends- Frodo never would made it without Sam.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione

  • This trio is one of my favorite things about the Harry Potter series. It is one of the biggest reasons why I love the series. Just like with Sam, would Harry have defeated Voldemort without his two best friends? He relied on the two of them as the books went by. All three of them went through some trials and tribulations as the books went by. Harry wanted to do some of these things alone like Frodo, but his two best friends would not allow it either. Harry and Ron quickly became friends, but it took a while until they befriended Hermione- they finally became friends with her at the troll incident- that trial was going through the trap door. Each book- they had to go through some trial- it seems- which used some rule-breaking.

What are some your favorite literary friendships?

Journey with the Les Mis movie

As many musical fanatics know, there is always a way you become a fan of a musical. It is either by songs, stage, or film. Where did my love of Les Mis begin? It was by the musical movie.

I first saw the Les Mis film in December 2012. I came into the film with a very slim knowledge. I knew of the song, “I Dreamed a Dream”. I barely knew the plot. I knew of the actresses, Amanda Seyfried and Anne Hathaway. I was unsure coming into the film- I only went to listen to “I Dreamed a Dream”. Right after Fantine died, I came to a realization- Les Mis is a tragedy. I was shocked and confused after realizing that. After all, I never knew musicals could be tragic. I did not know how to exactly respond. By the end of the film, I did have “Do you Hear the People Sing” stuck in my head, but at the same time, I did not know if I liked Les Mis. So I had a rocky start to Les Mis. I was NOT an emotional wreck watching Les Mis this time around.

Fantine singing "I Dreamed a Dream" during the film, Les Mis

Despite not knowing if I liked Les Mis, I started researching the musical. I also wanted to listen to the songs on Pandora. I have no idea why I wanted to do that.

March 2013- I don’t why I did this, but I decided to watch the film a 2nd time. Due to knowing the film’s tragic nature, I was able to calm down. I got so much more out of it. This time around, I truly became a fan of Les Mis. By the end, I felt uplifted. I was thinking “why would such a tragic musical make you feel uplifted?”. So I continued researching it. By Summer 2013, I was officially obsessed with Les Mis. I know the 2nd time was when I began to have a beautiful bond to Eponine; I have no idea when I began to have an emotional connection to the other characters I have an emotional connection to. If I didn’t give the film a 2nd chance, I never would have a Les Mis fan.

Eponine singing "On My Own" during the film, Les Mis

Summer 2013- I think my family was on vacation in Florida, and we were in target in the DVD section. My mom told me, will you find it? I did not know what she was talking about at first. She told me- you know what I am talking about. I realized- my mom was talking about Les Mis. My emotional response to the film grew over time.

Present- now it is 2019, and I have watched the film so many times. Now, I have to buy another copy of the film. Usually in that amount of time, I don’t wear out a DVD. I still am an emotional wreck watching it. This film was why I love Les Mis, which led to my obsession with Les Mis. Without the film, Les Mis wouldn’t have been in my life.

Favorite Friendships in Musicals

You know how love shows up a LOT in musicals through ROMANCE? What about love that shows up through friendship? What are the memorable ones for me? Today, I thought I will talk about those.

Major and Minor Spoilers:

1. Elphaba and Glinda- seriously, what can this post be without Elphaba and Glinda? They are the first friendship I ever fell in love with in a musical. You never thought they would be best friends. They started out as basically enemies, than later became best friends. When they both fell in love with Fiyero, they did not let a boy get in the way of their friendship. They changed each others lives for the better. The fact that Wicked centers on their friendship is why Wicked is one of my top two favorite musicals. “For Good”, the most emotional song in the musical, really shows just how they changed each others lives for the better. It is a bittersweet moment for the two of them- it is the last moment they will see each other, but at least they can say what they meant to each other.

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2. Enjolras and the Students- I just love their brotherly love for each other. You just can’t help but love them. Then you love their hope and passion for their cause. I just love how they take in Gavroche. I really love how they keep their passion strong- even at the end when they know they are going to die.

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3. Newsies- I am going straight to the Newsies because the Newsies parallel Enjolras and the students. Just like the students, the Newsies have a cause they truly believe in and have hope in it plus have a brotherly love for it. The result is different: only difference in the Newsies is that they win. On a side note: I love the intimate bond found between Jack and Crutchie: I just love how they are best friends and that Jack is so protective of Crutchie. Jack is the one who cares more about his brothers than the strike, but it is Crutchie he cares about the most.

4. Rent Batch- This is another friendship I love. I love how they live how they do their best to live their lives in love and in the moment. They may not get along at times, but they do make up for it. They are this family.

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5. Lumiere and Cogsworth- I don’t what it is about these two, but there is something interesting about this friendship. I mean we are talking about a talking candle and a talking clock throughout most of Beauty and the Beast. I find something fascinating about this friendship- don’t you find something fascinating about this particular friendship?

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6. Marius and Eponine- I know this is a unpopular opinion, but I do enjoy their friendship. Look, Eponine has a dark and tragic life: at least Marius is in her life. People believe Marius is a jerk to Eponine. I do not believe that at all. Marius and Eponine are seen as close friends in the musical- I know that doesn’t exist in the book- I like how that is changed in the musical. It makes the love triangle stronger and “A Little Fall of Rain” more emotional. Marius is kind to Eponine, and that is why she falls in love with him. I know it doesn’t seem that way when Marius asks Eponine to find Cosette for him and those other errands.

I believe at the barricade, Marius asks Eponine to deliver the letter to try to protect her from the uprising. He does not want her to get hurt or worse KILLED. That is why he was worried when she came back. That is why he asked, “why she came back”. When she collapsed in his arms, he realized she was shot, and that her wound was fatal. He was devastated. He could have left her in that moment, but he didn’t. He stayed with her- that shows he is kind and sweet. By being with her in that moment, it shows an incredible act of COMPASSION. He offers her comfort and peace while she was dying. It shows that he truly did care about her.

This line after she died shows that he knew how dark her life was- “her name was Eponine, her life was cold and dark, yet she was unafraid”.

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Top Ten Songs From Les Mis

Oh Boy, how can earth can I pick my top ten songs from Les Mis. That to me is like picking a needle in a haystack. Les Mis’ songs are just that brilliant, but will just do the best I can do. This musical is filled with emotional songs that touch you in such a way that even words alone can’t describe them.

Extremely Spoiler Heavy:

1. On My Own- this will always be in my top ten no matter what. It is just a very beautiful song with a lot of depth and strength filled with emotion. I have this very beautiful connection to Eponine. I love being able to experience just how deep and strong her love for Marius goes, which is perfectly expressed through this song. It even gives you a glimpse of her life outside of him through this song. This even has become my favorite solo in the entire solo. This song can be portrayed in several different ways: each way a different group of emotions can be shown.

2. A Little Fall of Rain- this song is filled with emotion in a very touching and bittersweet way, but super heartbreaking. This is after all Eponine’s death scene. Marius is devastated  in this duet, but he does the right thing by being there for her. It allows her to be happy for once in her life. It is packed full of emotions. It really shows just much Marius really cared for her. It shows just how compassionate he really is. Even though he is breaking, he stays brave for her. There is just something about this song that touches me in such a beautiful way. This just happens to be my favorite death scene in the entire musical. This is once again another song that can be portrayed in several different ways- for instance, Marius can show his grief and compassion and Eponine can express her emotions, pain, and dying in various ways.

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3. One Day More- this song just had to be there. Just the perfect act I one closer: do I have to say more?

4. Do You Hear the People Sing- another perfect ensemble song. It perfectly expresses the students’ passion for the uprising. You can feel their fire, their passion, and it makes you root for them even if you know what is to happen in the end.

5. Epilogue- This includes both a death and a reprise of Do You the Hear the People Sing making it show both the tragedy and the spirituality of the show. Valjean is dying, but like with most characters, he doesn’t die alone. Cosette and Marius arrive so he gets to die with Cosette, his adopted daughter, and Marius, his now son-in-law by his side. So during that death, you are feeling very heartbroken, but once that reprise happens, you start feeling this sense of hope. I feel like this version of Do You Hear the People represents heaven. This shows how Les Mis perfectly mixes tragedy with elements of spirituality. Perfect ending to such a heartbreaking musical.

6. Empty Chairs At Empty Tables- of all the characters who don’t die, Marius is my favorite character. That is part of why this song is in my top ten. It shows all the trauma Marius faced at the barricade. He had to witness the death of Eponine and later all of his friends got killed. This song is extremely devastating: I even think it is even more devastating than On My Own. It reminds you of everything that happened at the barricade.

7. Drink With Me- What I love about this song is the intimate feeling found between all the students. It doesn’t seem that sad the first time you watch Les Mis. But once you know the fate of the uprising, it gets heartbreaking. This is when you really see how much they really care about each other. When you know this is really the last moment they will be with each other, it really hurts. You are faced with the reality that all of the students, but Marius, will die if you know what is going to happen.

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8. Bring Him Home- even this song does the same thing that Drink With Me does. Once you know what is going to happen, it affects this song. Valjean is singing this song hoping Marius will survive. It is just a very beautiful song that is a prayer and shows the importance of God in the musical. It reminds me of the reality that Marius will be the only one to make it out alive. That really hurts.

9. I Dreamed a Dream- Yes, I was going to include this song. Once again; another heartbreaking song. It is hard listening to this song; it hurts me much more in the movie than the stage show due to placement. It shows how Fantine got caught up in the situation she is in. Sad reality she has to put up with.

10. A Heart Full of Love- this song has a incredible brilliance behind it. It is mostly this romantic duet between Marius and Cosette so I am literally feeling so happy for the two of them. But just out of nowhere, Eponine starts singing. Than I have no idea what on earth to feel: I am still feeling happy for Marius and Cosette but then I am feeling heartbroken for Eponine- it becomes this jumble-load of emotions being thrown at me.

 

Literally about all the songs I put are heartbreaking songs. That is the reality that is Les Mis. About every single song is a heartbreaking song; there is only about two or so songs that give you a breather. One of the unique things about the Les Mis songs is that are just multiple ways to portray the songs.

I couldn’t literally pick just my top ten; just picked ten for now; but some will always be there no matter what. One of the Look Downs, Red and Black and some others could have been on this list. It is nearly impossible to pick my top ten Les Mis songs.

Standouts in Musicals

I never really talked about this. Standouts do exist whenever you see a musical. But what exactly makes certain actors standout more than others. That is very very hard to explain. It always has something to do with their performance: they are the ones that go above and beyond with their performance. They add something unique to their portrayal. Below I will mention some of my standouts in some of the musicals I have recently seen.

Minor and Major Spoilers:

Les Mis ( Tour 2017): Nick Cartell, Matt Shingledecker, Joshua Grosso

Nick Cartell (Jean Valjean)- I know he was one of the standouts, but that is hard to describe. I could tell he was throughout his portrayal. I had seen him previously in the ensemble of Phantom of the Opera. So I loved seeing him go from ensemble to lead. Part of why he stood out is his breathtaking and soulful performance of “Bring Him Home”. It was strong enough, but quiet enough for what the song required. It truly sounded like a prayer.

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Matt Shingledecker (Enjolrass)- Honestly don’t really know why he was a standout at all. But I could just tell he was.

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Joshua Grosso (Marius)- I like to describe his Marius as charming and awkward. I was extremely surprised of how much he stood out. I am always expecting Eponine to be the strongest actor in the love triangle, but in this situation, Joshua was the strongest actor in the love triangle. Much more my focus ended up being on Marius instead of Eponine. That sounds a bit odd in a way considering the fact that of all the characters in the love triangle, Eponine is my favorite character. But it did make me view the love triangle from a different perspective. It is important for me to get to know all three characters.

He embodied Marius perfectly while still bringing something new. I never knew Marius was awkward until Joshua. The awkwardness made me learn to love Marius even more. At “A Heart Full of Love”, he was like “I’m in love, but what on earth do I do with it”. It was really effective. As I was watching “A Little Fall of Rain”, he focused much more on comforting Eponine than showing how heartbroken he was. He showed his heartbreak at the end:  he actually acted stunned: he could not finish the song at first: he waited about 5-10 seconds: that is what I mean by stunned and then the way he said “grow” was hard for me to listen to. He really brought out all of his trauma and heartbreak during “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”. Because of what Joshua was able to do with Marius, he became my favorite Marius.

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Wicked (Tour 2016): Mary Kate Morrissey, Amanda Jane Copper, Ashley Parker Angel

About Wicked, I focus so much on Elphaba, Glinda, and Fiyero that I forget about the others so those three actors always easily standout from the others.

Mary Kate Morrissey (Elphaba): She was an excellent Elphaba. You never would suspect she was a standby. She embodied everything about Elphaba. She made appreciate a song I always hated and emotions in that song finally stuck. She was able to change her voice to match Elphaba’s. From a more innocent voice in most of act I to a more mature voice starting at “Defying Gravity”.

Amanda Jane Copper (Glinda): Here’s my rule about Elphaba and Glinda: you can’t have an excellent Elphaba without an excellent Glinda and vice versa. Amanda Jane Copper was just hilarious and every funny line of Glinda’s I laughed at. You could feel Glinda’s pain act II. You got to “For Good”, and I teared up at their very emotional song.

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Ashley Parker Angel (Fiyero): I was determined to get to the bottom of him this time around so I dug deeper. So the Lion Cub scene hit. He played that scene as if he has a crush on Elphaba, but doesn’t know it. I love how he played Fiyero in that way. He already showed weaker chemistry with Glinda and stronger chemistry with Elphaba foreshadowing the unrequited love shift in act II.

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Pippin (Tour 2015): Lisa Karlin

Lisa Karlin (Leading Player) -I was much more intrigued by the Leading Player’s portrayal than Pippin. She was able to be playful with a tad bit of evil in “Magic to Do”. Around Pippin, she was able to hide her darkness so that Pippin could trust her. So she was very crafty and very manipulative. In songs such as “Glory”, she was so much more dark and evil that you can tell that she was the antagonist of the musical. There is something very intriguing about the character. I may have been new to the show at time, but everyone I know about the character comes from just one actress. Usually I don’t know all of this information from just one actor or actress. This actress seemed to spend a lot of time getting to know her character and make it her own. She also tricked the audience.