Les Mis Collection (Part 4)

Well this is my 4th post relating to my Les Mis collection. That is because a couple days ago, I added something to that collection. So I will be talking about it once again. Some things in my collection are kind of interesting in a way.

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The above pictures gives kind of an overview of just how massive my collection of Les Mis stuff is. I think it bizarre how Eponine is holding both the book and the original Broadway soundtrack. I have listened to the songs in that soundtrack who knows how many times- over maybe over 800 times and yet not sick and tired of them. The book is an unabridged copy of the book, and it took me less than one summer to finish the book: fun fact- I read the unabridged book the same summer I saw the musical in the West End.

Okay, I have to explain Eponine a bit. Every year around Valentine’s Day, Gardner Webb has this Candy and Critter’s event where students make a stuffed animal. Well, this year I wanted to make a stuffed animal and name it after a musical character. I had never named a stuffed animal after a musical character before, and it had to after a musical character before; here’s the catch- it had to resemble a musical character in some way and had to be a musical character I love. I eventually came across the skin of the bear in the photo, and I realized it reminded me of Eponine. I mean Eponine tends to wear a brown color scheme due to her living in extreme poverty and there are heart-shaped patches, which to me reminded me of the fact that Eponine is part of a love triangle; but eventually I looked even closer and there were stitch marks around the patches; and instantly I thought of the unrequited love. So I named the bear, Eponine- it not only resembled Eponine, but Eponine was also a character I strongly love in Les Mis and in the entire musical theatre world. To make the stuffed animal, we go to these stations and hand stuff the animals so it is an unique experience.

I own both the movie and the 25th anniversary concert. I remember reading a movie review, which referenced the fact that Samantha Barks, a standout actress from the film, played Eponine in the 25th concert as well. That fact led me to watch the 25th concert as well. That is why I have seen one less Eponine actress than all the other characters. I watch the movie a lot more than the concert due to it being shorter. I still find myself an emotional wreck watching either of these, and that is a good sign.

Found within in that gigantic collection picture, there are three separate playbills: CPCC (Central Piedmont Community Community College), Queen’s Theatre (West End, London), and the Peace Center (Greenville, South Carolina). Thinking of playbills, I also have each of those tickets.So yes, three production and 5 times- so how is that possible? Well, I ushered twice for CPCC’S production along with seeing it once with family.  I have two separate filers in that gigantic photo as well: one for the West End and one for CPCC.

I have a easy version piano book. I own a page to screen book, which explains the musical’s journey from how it went from Victor Hugo’s book to the movie musical. My most recent part of my collection is this book, which explains how the musical went from the book to how it became the sensation that it is: it basically stops in the musical’s more early years- it doesn’t talk about the film for instance.

In that gigantic photo, I have these very fun colored pencils. The names of the pencils say things like “do you hear the purple sing”, “tantine”, “blue4601”, “green him home”, and “look brown look brown” among other things.

The big poster in the upper left I never thought I would own. When my school was advertising to take people to Les Mis in Greenville; they used this gigantic poster. Student Activities- knowing how much I love Les Mis gave me that gigantic poster after they took it down. The poster right next door it is one of the souvenirs I got from the West End. The two paintings were painted for me in my first semester at Gardner Webb: I was in a dorm where there were two R.A.s per floor: the R.A. who wasn’t my main one painted those for me knowing how much I love Les Mis.

I feel like my graduation cap fits perfectly into my Les Mis collection: I wanted to decorate it in a way that represents what everyone on Campus knows me as: they know me as a Les Mis Freak- which is why it is very Les Mis themed- the gray and yellow border represents the tragedy and spirituality of the show. The words in red and blue bring out the fact that the show takes place in France. I had the hardest time coming up with the right words: then I realized just how much the words “A Heart Full of Love” can work- while it is the romantic duet- I have such a heart full of love for Gardner Webb so it does work.

The two t-shirts- the gray one was another souvenir I got at the Queen’s Theater. The red t-shirt was made by one of friend who knows just how much I love the show so I felt like it just perfect. I been to two Les Mis parties. At my very first Les Mis party- the host knew a friend who knew a friend who knew someone who has played Valjean so that friend got in touch with that actor so the actor signed a souvenir program for me.

Below are some Les Mis-related pictures. The entire top row except for the upper left comes from times I have seen the show. The last two in that row come from my experience in the West End. I actually met the actor (Adam Bayjou) who played Jean Valjean at the stage door. Still seeing Les Mis in the West End was the best theater experience of my life and will always be one of the BEST. The other one was at the Peace Center in Greenville when I saw it with my school: I had a major dilemma that year: see it with school or see it in my hometown: I choose it with school because 1) the Peace Center is such a gorgeous venue and 2) it would create such a lasting memory with my school. The upper left is from last Halloween when I was Eponine: that was my 2nd time that year since I dressed up as her for a Les Mis party earlier that same year. The lower left picture; I included Eponine in the picture.

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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 that 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.

Contribution Understudies Put to Theatre

I talked about this before, but I feel like understudies keep on being under appreciated. Without them, so many shows would be cancelled. You have to know how to truly respect them and what they are able to bring to their roles. From the years 2014-2017, I have had a lot of understudies and throughout those years, I have truly learned to really respect them. Without them, you know how much trouble theatre would be? They would be in a lot of a lot. Below I will put a list of mine and if I remember anything about them, I will talk about them.

Possible Spoilers:

1. Grace Morgan (Christine)- I don’t fully remember her when I saw Phantom of the Opera. However, I remember getting choked up by this cast. I remember being drawn to Christine so I bet she was really good as Christine.10354149_10203791645890941_4955988638206113711_n

2. Lisa Karlin (Leading Player)- This was my first time seeing Pippin. She was the true standout in this production. Everything I know about the Leading Player was based off of her portrayal. She was able to hide her evilness around Pippin to make it seem like she was someone he can trust and to do that she was very playful around him. She was quite crafty and in “Magic to Do”, I detected a small hint of evil, and then in “Glory”, she was much more dark and evil. Everything I know about this character is Lisa Karlin. Just by one actress, I know so much about one actress: that is impressive.

3. Sam Lips- due to being so intrigued by Lisa Karlin, I don’t remember a clue about Sam.

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4. Adam Bayjou- I literally was in the West End, and I was thinking “wait a minute, I am in the West End about to live my dream and I have a understudy for Jean Valjean”. I was a little bit nervous. Here is how I can say how brilliant he was: I forgot I was watching an understudy: think about that: if you forgot you watched an understudy, that is real talent right there. Below is a picture of me with Adam at Stage Door.

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5. Mary Kate Morrissey- When I have an understudy for Elphaba, it can be kind of scary for me because Elphaba is my all-time favorite musical character. She was actually the standby for Elphaba. Mary Kate embodied everything about Elphaba while bringing something new to the character. She made me appreciate a song I always hated, a song that always seemed emotionless to me: “No Good Deed”. She changed her voice to fit the character: act I: her voice was so much more innocent, but in act II, she changed it to be mature.

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6. Kaitlyn Frank- I did basically forget about her version of Katherine Plumber. I got so into Joey Barreiro as Jack that I did forget about the other acting. I also got mind-blown with the talent into the dancing. However, I recently saw my original Newsies review and it did say she had incredible chemistry with Joey.

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7. Talia Simone Robinson- this was a bit of a coincidence. How is it that my 2nd professional cast of Les Mis did I end up with an understudy? I thought that was the craziest thing, but this time instead of Jean Valjean, my understudy was Eponine. Talia wasn’t the strongest actor in the love triangle: it was Marius instead. However Talia had extremely strong moments as Eponine. She did not start out that strong as Eponine, but she eventually was able to embody the role. She was flirty and playful around Marius. As I recall, I think I heard some tears at the end of “On My Own” and during that song, I got some goosebumps. Than during “A Little Fall of Rain”, each time she tried to move, she barely could showing that she was weak and just getting weaker indicting that she was dying.

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So RESPECT the understudies. They have much more talent than you realize. They are able to embody the roles more than you think. Look at all of these understudies. When I saw Lisa, I didn’t even know who the Leading Player was, and Lisa was able to get me so intrigued by that actor and usually the first time I discover the antagonist, that usually that doesn’t happen. Then at Mary Kate, she made me appreciate I song I always hated for once. I was able to respect what Talia was able to bring to Eponine even though she didn’t start out that strong; she eventually was able to embody the role. It is not easy to be an understudy: they have to work harder than anybody. You have to be aware how many productions would be canceled if they didn’t exist. Just appreciate them much more.

Who are Enjolras and the Students?

One of the best sub-plots of Les Mis is the uprising.

Major Spoilers:

Enjolras is the leader of the students. He is the most passionate about the cause. He is a natural leader and is the most hopeful, which makes his death on the barricades the most heartbreaking out of all the students the most heartbreaking.

About all the students, they have this brotherly love for each other and are basically this one family. They are standing up against a weak government and are passionate no matter what. Prior to the uprising, they try to rally up support on the streets. They show their passion so strongly. They are wanted several times to just give up if they want to  live, but that doesn’t stop them. It is amazing just how passionate they are. I love how they take in Gavroche. Even when they know they are going to lose and die, they still stand up and fight. All of them, except for Marius, lose their lives at the barricade, but at least they die standing up for what they believe in.

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Who is Young Cosette?

Possible Spoilers:

I love Young Cosette in Les Mis. She may be horribly abused, but yet she is so strong and hopeful. She has this incredible hope that she will be rescued. She is treated as a servant by the Thenardiers. She gets through the day by imaging a fantasy world. Soon enough, she gets rescued by Jean Valjean. Young Cosette has this incredible spirit and I love that about her.

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Who are the Thenardiers?

Some people think that Javert is a villain in Les Mis, but in reality the Thenardiers are the true villains in Les Mis.

Major/Minor Spoilers:

They are the parents of Gavroche and Eponine. You first get an idea of how despicable they are through how they treat Young Cosette. They treat her as a servant and at the same time, they pick pocket the people that stay at their inn. That gives you idea of the environment Eponine is going to be growing up in. They seem to love Eponine when she is young, but as they fall into poverty, you realize they are more neglectful and unloving towards their daughter. They just use her for their advantage and raise her to be a thief and criminal. They force her to be a part of their schemes by being watchdog for the law.

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About Gavroche, they kicked him out of the house at such a young age. So they do not love either of their children. Then at the barricade, both Eponine and Gavroche are killed, and their parents don’t care. They are not saddened by the fact that their children have died. All the Thenardiers care about is themselves and money. When Thenardier is about to rob Valjean’s house, he basically disowns his daughter for preventing that. At the end of the uprising, Thenardier robs the students despite how young they are.

However, I have a love/hate relationship to them. I love how they provide the much-needed comic relief and without them, two of my favorite characters wouldn’t have existed. I hate them due to how neglectful, despicable, abusive, and unloving they are.