Les Misérables Series-Episode 1

What is it like to see Les Misérables without the music? Les Misérables has a six week series, but without music. I was thinking, I don’t know how I can watch Les Misérables without the music. After all, I had been watching Les Misérables with the music for six years now. Then again, I had the book, and when a scene came on that resembled a song, I did not play the song. It was Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables that the musical came from. Yesterday, I watched the first episode- since I only knew the musical film and the stage show, I had no idea what the order of scenes would be and had no idea if I would be affected in the same way the musical affects me.

Major and Minor Spoilers

Right away, I knew how different this series was going to be different. It starts at the end of The Battle of Waterloo- that would mean the first character you would be introduced to would be Thenardier. This episode gives you a backstory to Marius- it was Thenardier that unintentionally saved Marius’ father from the Battler of Waterloo. In the musical, you never saw Waterloo or Marius’ father. You never knew about Marius’ grandfather and the conflict between Marius’ father and his grandfather- that is an important part of Marius’ backstory. You got to see that Marius’ grandfather did not want Marius’ father in Marius’ life.

You got to see that life in the prison was affecting Valjean even deeper. The prison was terrible. You saw them working for more days, and the guards yelling at them. You understood why prison made Valjean a harsh and angry man when he left. The musical only shows a snippet of that- at least in this version, you understood it much much better. When he visits the bishop, he did say to him that he does not believe that love could change a man. He still was angry at society. It has that scene in the book where he stole a coin from a young boy- this is when he realized he truly messed up, and that he needed to change.

Even with Javert, you got to explore more of his backstory. The only thing I learned of his backstory in the musical is that he was born in jail. I did not know anything else. In one scene, Valjean saved a prison guard. Javert questioned him, and he explained to Valjean that he was born in jail, and that his parents were criminals-that now makes sense why Javert believes that “once a criminal always a criminal”. He was born to criminals and in jail. So Javert learned to hate them- now that logic makes sense.

Now with Fantine- like the other characters, backstory. You got to see her when she was truly happy. You saw her before she was abandoned. You got to see her living life and loving Felix, the one who would be Cosette’s biological father. This episode ends with Fantine holding baby Cosette wondering what they are supposed to do now that Felix left them.

Since there was no music, I had no idea how I would react. I cried and got emotional- which is my same reaction in the musical. I had gotten so emotionally connected to Les Misérables- the plot and characters. I feel like next week is going to be harder to watch.

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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.

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.

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.

Who is Javert?

Javert is one of the most complex antagonists. One of the most complex protagonist/antagonist dynamics is Jean Valjean and Javert.

Major Spoilers:

Javert was born inside a jail. He is a policeman who strictly follows the law. He has the motto of “once a criminal always a criminal”. He does not think any person can possibly change. That is how he feels like Jean Valjean. Once Valjean breaks parole, Javert feels like he must bring Valjean back to prison. He just does not realize that Valjean is trying to become a better person.

Not only is Javert struggling with his idea of criminals, he also is struggling with mercy and forgiveness. He does not know how to show mercy to others. You first see this through Fantine. All Javert sees is that Fantine is a prostitute not a prostitute with a child. Javert should have arrested this man not Fantine, who attacked him in self-defense. So mercy is just something that Javert does not know how to show.

In “Stars”, Javert lays than his beliefs and principles. Javert makes you know that he wants to capture Valjean. In many ways, the law is his religion. Javert strictly follows it so much.

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He came to the barricade to spy on the students, but Gavroche caught him. Well, Javert was surprised that Jean Valjean let him go. That changed the way that Javert believed all of his different beliefs. Even though, he was given an incredible act of mercy, for some reason, he was not able to receive it. He was in a middle of a inner turmoil- he released that Valjean has become a better person- Javert realized that his motto of “once a criminal always a criminal” is not exactly sure. Javert felt like he had no purpose so he killed himself in the end.

What Makes Javert and Valjean Opposites?

For Western Civilization II, my hardest class this semester, we had the choice of two optional papers, which gives us a better chance of passing. I struggled with coming up with an idea for the first paper and I got help from the teacher and he saw that I was having a hard time with it. When I told him I  wanted to focus the next paper on Romanticism, a topic I was strongly familiar with due to loving Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo. I decided to talk about how the Enlightenment thinkers and the Romantics view imperfection differently. My teacher decided to let me combine both papers into one, which means I was required to write more, which would be around 2400 words.

I had a Les Misérables section. I kept on seeing references that Javert and Valjean were opposites and I never understood why. My paper brought up how one of these characters  show how the Enlightenments thinkers were flawed in their thinking and how Romantic thinkers look at imperfection. This paper finally made me start to understand why the two are opposites.

Possible Spoilers Ahead: 

In Victor Hugo’s, Les Misérables, he used the contrasting characters of Javert and Jean Valjean to show how the Enlightenment is flawed and how emotions and imperfections are important. These two characters are opposites, and each want to do what is right, but they have different ideas of what that means.

Javert is the antagonist of Les Misérables, and he is a product of the Enlightenment. He has a belief that “once a criminal always a criminal”, and he sees the world in black and white and right and wrong. He does not understand forgiveness, love, compassion or mercy. When Fantine attacks a man in self-defense, Javert plans to arrest her even though she pleads for mercy. After telling him she has a child, he shows no mercy or compassion and sees her as just a prostitute who has broken the law. Also he cannot forgive Jean Valjean even though he has become a better person, nor can he accept Valjean’s forgiveness of him. His ideal of perfection is so extreme that he eventually commits suicide rather than accept human imperfection and celebrate life’s emotions.

Jean Valjean is the protagonist and is in contrast with Javert. He is an ex -convict, who stole to feed his family, and he was unfairly sentenced for nineteen years. While he did break the law, he was harshly judged by an unforgiving society, and being in prison led Valjean to be filled with hate and anger. But when Valjean stole the bishop’s silverware, the bishop said to Valjean, “do not forget, never forget that you have promised to become an honest man” and  “Jean Valjean my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdrew it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God” (Hugo, “Les Misérables”, 99). After the bishop’s actions, Valjean learned how to show compassion and love to others. He ended up showing compassion to Fantine by preventing her from being arrested and agreeing to raise her child as she was dying. Both the bishop and Valjean showed compassion by accepting those with imperfections, and they are willing to let emotions rule their actions. As a result, they expressed a better sense of humanity than Javert.

My Favorite Javert Actor

Now, I am talking about my favorite Javert actor. I always struggle with finding common ground for Javert. I also struggle with feeling any sympathy for the character. Javert is a character I don’t like. Yes he is complex and an interesting character to get to know, but I still don’t like him.

Possible Spoilers:

My favorite Javert is Jeremy Secomb and I saw him in the West End. For the first time, I was able to finally find common ground and feel sympathy for Javert. His Jean Valjean was Adam Bayjou (understudy), one of my favorite Jean Valjean’s, and those two worked well together that I have found the strongest Javert/Jean Valjean dynamic I have ever found. I remember during the suicide scene, feeling Javert’s torment and feeling some kind of sympathy for Javert. When I saw the show in the West End, I did not expect to feel anything for Javert or to find common ground, but Jeremy exceeded expectations. The fact that I could find common ground and feeling sympathy for a character that I don’t like says something about Jeremy’s Javert.

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