Les Mis Collection

In today’s collection, I decided to talk about my collection of Les Mis-related things I have collected over the years.

First up are the three playbills from Greenville, Central Piedmont Community College, and the West End. The phenomenal community college production was in 2013, the epic West End production was in 2015 with Adam Bayjou as Jean Valjean, and the powerful Greenville production was in 2017 with Talia Simone Robinson as Eponine. So that shows that my Greenville and West End productions was home to an understudy. The West End playbill is signed by Adam Bayjou and while watching the show, I completely forgot I was watching an understudy because was that good as Jean Valjean.

The soundtrack- I first owned the Original Broadway soundtrack in 2013. I love listening to the songs on that soundtrack. They are so brilliant and well-crafted that the complement the characters and story so perfectly. The songs are one of the biggest reasons why I love Les Mis. Even the songs alone can be powerful.

The book- I first read the unabridged book in 2015. I used my knowledge of the musical to get through the book. That helped me understand what was going on so I could picture the songs at certain moments of the book and wrote in the songs. I inserted my knowledge of the musical into the book and put what I learned from the book into the musical. While there are slight differences, I feel like the musical is quite faithful to the book.

The Stage to Screen book- I got this for Christmas one year from the sister. It talks about the history of the musical, which gives some info about Victor Hugo. It talks about how the musical was created all the way to knowledge about the movie musical.

The three tickets- yes I am crazy, but I ended up keeping the tickets from all three productions. At CPCC, I sat in row Q towards the center and I also sat I believe in the back of the Mezzanine and the back of the Orchestra. In the West End, I sat nine rows back from the stage. In Greenville, I sat in the balcony towards the center.

The Program- in summer of 2016, I went to my first Les Mis party. It was a surprise so I did not dress up as a character that time around. My mom’s friend knew a friend who knew someone who played Jean Valjean so it was arranged that I would this program and he signed the program on a picture of him as Jean Valjean.

The two filers-There are two filer-like things in this picture. One of them is talking about the CPCC production and the other is a filer dealing with the West End production.

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The Poster- the poster was something else I bought at the Queens Theatre. It is currently having up in my room in Charlotte.

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These two T-Shirts- The gray one I got at the Queens Theatre when I saw the musical in the West End. The red one was a T-Shirt my friends made for me on my 22nd birthday.

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The Movie- Another Les Mis thing I have is the musical movie. That movie is what gave me my first full experience of the musical. I first watched this in December of 2012, but at the end of it I did not know if I liked it or not. I was shocked and confused at the idea of it being a tragedy since I had no idea that tragic musicals even exist so I had a hard time paying attention to what was going on in the movie. When I actually gave it a second chance, I was able to calm down and began to notice something special about the musical. I have seen this movie several times and yet each time I still tear up. Without this movie, I wouldn’t have developed a passion for musicals or wouldn’t have become a true fan of Les Mis.

The 25th anniversary concert-I first saw this movie around December of 2013. I have seen it more than once and I love this film. I do not watch it as much as the movie due to it being 3 hrs, but I still have watched it quite a bit and still affected by it. IMG_1531.JPG

So I have quite an impressive collection of Les Mis things.

 

 

 

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Ranks of My Five Les Mis Casts

This post will rank the actors from the movie, 25th anniversary concert film, the community college production, West End production, and Greenville production. It may not be accurate because I don’t remember some of the actors. About the community college one, I can’t put the actor down since I don’t know the names.

  1. Jean Valjean- Hugh Jackman, community college, Alfie Boe, Nick Cartell, Adam Bayjou (understudy)- hard to pick between Alfie, Nick and Adam.
  2. Javert- Russell Crowe, community college, Norm Lewis, Josh Davis, Jeremy Secomb (only actor where I found an emotional connection to Javert)
  3. Fantine-community college, Lea Salonga, Melissa Mitchell, Anne Hathaway, Rachelle Ann Go
  4. Monsieur and Madame Thenardier-community college, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen, Jenny Galloway and Matt Lucas, Allison Guann and J. Anthony Crane, Kathy Secombe and Phil Daniels
  5. Eponine-community college, Talia Simone Robinson (understudy), Carrie Hope Fletcher and Samantha Barks (tough call between the two of them)
  6. Cosette-community college, Zoe Doano, Amanda Seyfried, Katie Hall, Jillian Butler
  7. Marius- Nick Jonas, community college, Rob Houchen and Eddie Redmayne, Joshua Grosso
  8. Enjolras-community college, Aaron Tveit, Matt Shingledecker, Ramin Karimloo, Bradley Jaden- tough call between all five

This list is the way it is is 1) due to not remembering some of the actors and 2) some there was no way I could pick. Enjolras was a very tough call and so was Jean Valjean because I loved all of them. Even two of the Eponine’s were tough calls so they were placed together. This is just the best I could do. All of the casts were incredible in different ways. But the ones that stand out the most were the Greenville cast and the West End cast.

My Week in Review

This week, I had a busy week. I ended up doing three activities with Student Activities at my school. I decided to talk about each of them today.

  1. Les Mis- Gardner Webb took a group of students to see Les Mis on Sunday in Greenville. This was my 5th time seeing Les Mis live, but my 1st time seeing it on tour. It was so good that I was speechless at the end. Wonderful cast and incredible staging. There are so many reasons to love Les Mis.

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2. Pinterest Night- Wednesday I ended up going to Pinterest night. Everyone painted their own canvas with different painting. Originally I came thinking mine was going to be a Gardner Webb them. But after a friend told me that the dome looked like a stage, I decided to base it around theatre. I at first thought I only Elphaba on the stage, but decided to put Eponine too. It fits that those two girls are on my painting since I equally love Les Mis and Wicked, which puts them both on the top.

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3. Big E- I have never done this before. The Big E is located in Gaffney, South Carolina. For Gardner Webb, the doors opened at 11 at night. In the place, you can either bowl, play laser tag or end up watching a movie. Usually I never go because the movies that were being offered at the time never interested me. When I saw Murder on the Orient Express being offered, I decided to give it a try. I came and there was no way me and my friends could play laser tag since the next game started at 11:30, the same time my movie started. We couldn’t bowl because all the lanes were taken. It is hard to say what I felt about Murder on the Orient Express because I think I might have fallen asleep for part of the movie.

 

 

Pinterest Night

Last night at school, I attended Pinterest Night. It ended up being painting a picture for that. I literally came in just deciding to think of what I wanted to paint on the spot instead of coming up with an idea ahead of time. Originally I was thinking of doing a Gardner Webb theme. That is why I started with the red dome with the black line outlining it. Then my suite-mate told me that the dome reminded her of a stage, which led me to making the painting a theatre theme. The yellow is supposed to be curtains, which I did get some help on. The stars just adds to the theatre theme.

Eventually I decided the stage needed musical characters on there. I just know there had to be Elphaba on there since she is my all-time favorite musical character. I knew that somehow Les Mis had to be incorporated onto my canvas. While thinking of what Les Mis character to put, it was so hard to think of one. Then I decided that I was going to use Eponine on painting and I don’t know why I picked her.

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Major Spoilers:

In some ways it is fitting that both Elphaba and Eponine are on that canvas. I see some parallels between the two girls. Both girls live in broken families, which I think is worse in Eponine’s situation. Both girls go through unrequited love, but Elphaba eventually gets Fiyero in the end. Both of the girls are taken advantage of: Elphaba through the wizard and Eponine through her parents. Personality wise: they both are complex, strong, brave, and loyal. It took a while till I realized there are some similarities between the two of them and I think that might be part of why I love Eponine. Elphaba is my all-time favorite musical character due to how much I relate to her so I have such a personal bond to her. Eponine on the other hand is a character I don’t even relate to, but her story is so intriguing and heartbreaking, but the fact that she has similarities with Elphaba is part of the reason why I love her.

Tragedies of the Les Mis Characters

Yes, yet another Les Mis post. Today I decided to talk why each of the characters in Les Mis have something tragic about them.

Major Spoilers:

Jean Valjean- sent to jail and punished for five years just because he stole a loaf of bread to save his sister’s son and in total served 19 years due to multiple escapes. Has to serve his life as an ex-convict and faced injustice. At the end, he ended up dying, but with Cosette, his adopted daughter and Marius, his now son-in-law by his side.

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Javert- was born inside the jail, his tragic flaw is that he sees the world in black and white and believes “once a criminal always a criminal” and he thinks it is his purposes to recapture Valjean after he broke his parole. Did not know how to show love, mercy, or forgiveness or receive it. He built his principles wrong and strictly follows the law and eventually commits suicide.

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Fantine- her lover abandoned her living her to raise her daughter, but it is dangerous knowing you have an illegitimate child so she left Cosette in the hands of the Thenardiers not knowing how poorly they were going to treat her. Fired from Valjean’s factory unfairly by the foreman, turned to prostitution to care for her child and later died, but she got to die knowing her child will be care for since Valjean promised he would raise Cosette

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Monsieur and Madame Thenardier- their inn went bankrupt and fell into extreme poverty

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Eponine- was raised to be a thief and criminal, unloved, abused, and neglected by her parents, living in extreme poverty and dealing with unrequited love from Marius, the only good thing in her life. Ended up dying after being shot, but got to die in the arms of the man she loves.

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Cosette- had a horrible childhood because the Thenardiers abused her and treated her like a servant. At the end of the show, she lost her father and even though she lives, she still had tragic things happen in her life. She only has Marius left in her life.

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Marius- faced loads of trauma at the barricade. He was the only survivor of the barricades. He first lost Eponine and later would loss the rest of his friends. At the end of the show, all he has is Cosette.

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Enjolras, Gavroche and Students-all lost their lives fighting for what they believed in. Gavroche is kicked out of his family at a very young age (he is Eponine’s little brother), but loved by the students

By seeing that each of these characters have faced tragedy in their life shows just how human Les Mis is. Many of them died and some of them have a very dark life or lost everything important to them. So these characters are very real because of what they had to face in their life.

Les Mis at CPCC, the West End, and Greenville

Today, I decided to talk about the three different production I saw of Les Mis. I loved all three productions and because each had a different cast, I formed different opinions about the cast member.

CPCC was the first time I saw the stage show. This is at a community college and was back in 2013. I saw this production three times because I saw it once with my family and twice as an usher. Then in 2015, I went to England and got to see Les Mis in the West End. Now two years later from the West End production, I saw the show in Greenville. First up I am going to talk about the cast, but to be honest, some cast members from some of these productions, I don’t quite remember if I loved them or not.

Jean Valjean- my CPCC one, Adam Bayjou as an understudy in the West End, and Nick Cartell in Greenville were all incredible as Jean Valjean. I don’t fully remember why I loved my community college Valjean, but I still loved him. The fact that Adam was an understudy and was so good really says something. I truly saw Jean Valjean’s transformation through him. His voice was very harsh up until the end of “What Have I Done” and then it changed. It actually is his “What Have I Done” that I remembered the most, but I still remember loving him throughout the entire show. Nick Cartell, who I just saw, was another Jean Valjean I fell in love with. His version of “Bring Him Home” was quiet enough to sound like a prayer and strong enough for what the scene required. So between all three, it can be hard of who I loved the most, but Adam and Nick impressed me the most.

 

Javert- okay, I know exactly of these Javerts who was my favorite. I honestly don’t remember the CPCC Javert at all. I feel like I couldn’t feel anything for that Javert. Josh Davis was my Javert in Greenville and I felt like he had the right voice for Javert, but something just felt off so the dynamic between Jean Valjean and Javert was a bit off. My favorite Javert was Jeremy Secomb in the West End. Jeremy was actually the first Javert that I actually felt something for, which is saying something because I don’t like Javert. So the West End dynamic between Jean Valjean and Javert was the strongest.
Fantine-my CPCC Fantine was one of my favorite actors in that production. I do remember being moved during “I Dreamed a Dream” and her death scene. In the West End, Rachelle Ann Go was my Fantine and with her I non-stop cried during her entire story and her Fantine was the most desperate out of all three. Melissa Mitchell, my Greenville Fantine, portrayed Fantine as less desperate and more naive and was quiet enough during her death scene to be heard in the balcony, which was where I was sitting. I think Melissa and Rachel each showed a different side of Fantine so each portrayal worked.

Monsieur and Madame Thenardier- okay, I just don’t remember how I felt about my CPCC Thenardiers. I do remember in the West End that Kathy Secombe and Phil Daniels were the funniest of all the Thenardiers and Phil was able to bring out the despicable side of Thenardier. Allison Guann and J. Anthony. Crane also were hilarious, but not as funny as my West End batch.

Cosette- well, I don’t exactly remember my CPCC Cosette. Zoe Doano was my West End Cosette and I have bit of the same problem not fully remembering this one either, which I wish I did remember. Jillian Butler was my Greenville Cosette and she had such a beautiful soprano voice and matched well with Joshua Grosso’s Marius.

Picture below is from my CPCC production.

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Marius-hmm, what was my CPCC Marius like? That is something I do not remember. My West End Marius was Rob Houchen. The main scene I remember him in is right after “A Little Fall of Rain” and out of all three Marius’, he was the most heartbroken after Eponine’s death. But between Rob’s Marius and Joshua Grosso’s Marius, it is hard to say which one I loved the most. Joshua Grosso was my Greenville Marius and he was so awkward in act I, which worked fairly well during “A Heart Full of Love”. He worked well with Talia’s Eponine during “A Little Fall of Rain” and he did sound heartbroken after “A Little Fall of Rain”. At the end, I remember him taking a while till he could end the song, but the way he said “grow” was heartbreaking to hear. Out of all three, I also remember his “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” the most. His version was so heartbreaking and I think it helped that there were candles on the floor and the students came out and held them and eventually blow them out. That was almost the same staging as my CPCC staging, but don’t remember how that Marius was at all.

Eponine-out of all three, I know who needed the most improvement. That was my CPCC Eponine, but she still was a solid Eponine, but not amazing like the other two. She was solid during both “On My Own” and “A Little Fall of Rain”. Okay between the West End Eponine and the Greenville Eponine, it is hard to say who I loved the most because I loved each for different reasons. I saw Carrie Hope Fletcher as Eponine in the West End and she really impressed me. Her version of “On My Own” introduced me to an emotion I never saw in Eponine and that was anger so she made the role her own. I remember believing that she was shot right after she collapsed, which was right after the gun shot and I do remember believing she was dying when she started singing the song as well. Then there is Talia Simone Robinson’s version of Eponine, who was an understudy. Talia was someone I remember all of her portrayal. She was very playful and flirty around Marius. I was able to pick up on the heartbreak she was feeling of Marius not loving her back. When it comes to “A Little Fall of Rain”, she was so quiet and throughout the entire song, I knew she was dying and it was this “Little Fall of Rain” that I remember the most. Her nonverbals and different sounds made me believe in the scenes. It still is hard to decide who was better when it comes to Eponine: Talia or Carrie because I really loved both girls.

Enjolras- the CPCC Enjolras, Bradley Jaden, and Mark Shingledecker were I think equally passionate about the uprising. But the CPCC one was the hardest to understand since his accent was so thick that it was hard to understand what he was saying. About Bradley and Matt, I feel like I loved them equally and had the revolutionary fervor that you need to see in an Enjolras and the feeling of being a strong leader.

Young Cosette- I remember that Young Cosette at CPCC and Greenville had such a beautiful voice. Sophie Knapp was my Greenville Young Cosette. My West End Cosette was also impressive and was scared around Madame and saw that she was a bit nervous around Valjean, but quickly learned to trust him. I loved each of this little Cosettes.

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The ensemble- when it comes to the ensemble, all three casts were impressive. I loved the ensemble in the West End and Greenville the most. Those who made up the students in the West End had such a strong love for each other and showed their hope for the rebellion and showed that they knew they most likely were going to die in the rebellion. The Greenville group of students also had the brotherly love. The rest of the ensemble of the West End and Greenville were really strong and had this incredible epic nature.

So I have different opinions about the leads and ensemble. However, the West End cast will always be special to me since it was my dream to see Les Mis in the West End.

Now on to the staging.

CPCC staging- I wish I remembered more about this staging, but I do remember the candles during “Empty at Empty Tables” and that is the main staging I remember.

The West End had the most simple staging and loved the use of the revolved to change sets and loved how during the barricade after “On My Own”, that the two sides, which are used for different things throughout the show, went up and down and interlocked to form the barricade.
But with the Greenville staging, it was the brand new 25th anniversary production and the staging was much more complex and helped add to the complexity of Les Mis. Its projections in the back and the different paintings in the backdrop were impressive because sometimes they moved. This Greenville set always seemed to be moving. During the second “Look Down”, different areas were shown as different sections opened up as the song continued. Even the sound system was incredible since you literally could hear bullets hit the back of the theatre. The one thing I wish this staging did was put the years up as the show continued, which is something the West End production did. Since I was very familiar with the show, I knew when time changed, but not having the years might be confusing with those who have never seen it. I think both the West End and the Greenville staging was both incredible, but just for different reasons.

CPCC was a phenomenal production. The West End production was epic and extremely powerful. The Greenville production showed different sides of Les Mis that I have never seen before and was epic and extremely powerful. So between the West End and Greenville, I cannot really say which one was better since the staging and the way the actors portrayed the characters were different.

Review of Les Mis

Just yesterday, I saw Les Mis in Greenville with Gardner Webb. It was my 5th time seeing it live and my 2nd time with a professional cast. With this production of Les Mis, I saw the 25th anniversary production. I had an understudy in this performance for Eponine, which was coincidental since last time I saw Les Mis, I had an understudy for Jean Valjean. I sat in the balcony towards the middle, which were impressive seats even though at first I didn’t know how much I would see since we were so high up, but still being up that high allowed me to see the entire stage.

Possible Spoilers on both plot and staging.

Leading the cast was Nick Cartell as Jean Valjean. He was such an impressive Jean Valjean. His version of “Bring Him Home” was so beautiful and sounded like a prayer and was quiet enough for what the scene required. He was warm and gentle around Cosette. It is amazing how his voice still had enough power when he was quiet during “Bring Him Home”. Then once again, he was quiet enough during his death scene. That is saying something because I was sitting in the balcony and I could still hear him even in quieter moments. During the scene where he let Javert go, he was able to act it to show that he forgave Javert.

Josh Davis was Javert and I felt like he had the right voice for Javert, but something felt off. He did a wonderful job during “Stars”. I had a hard time having an emotional connection to Javert. It is very hard to find common ground with Javert. I just do not know what it was, but something was off so he was weaker compared to Jean Valjean so part of their dynamic was off. Even though something felt way off in Javert, this production showed that Javert does have heart, which was shown when he saw the body of Gavroche when he went back to the barricades.

Melissa Mitchell was Fantine. She played Fantine as a naive young woman as opposed to a very desperate one. She played her naivety in a way that showed she was quite naive when she first became a prostitute because she did not quite understand that job at all at first even though she was fighting for the life of her daughter. She was so quiet in her death scene, but was still able to project to the balcony. It is heartbreaking that she is still thinking about her daughter during her death, but acted like she was thankful that Jean Valjean will be raising her daughter.

Sophie Knapp was such a wonderful Young Cosette. She has such a beautiful voice, which was clearly shown during “Castle on a Cloud”. She was small enough to look like she was eight at the time. She acted a bit nervous and scared around Madame Thenardier. Her “Castle on a Cloud” shows that she has hope that she will be rescued. She was quite a broken child.

Allision Guann as Madame Thenardier and J. Anthony Crane as Thenardier combined were hilarious like they needed to be. Allision Guann was able to be mean enough around Cosette and acted like she actually love her daughter, Eponine at the time. The Thenardiers’ version of “Master of the House” was quite hilarious and during the Bargain, the funny thing was the audience knew they were lying, which made it funny. Even during “Beggars at the Feast”, they were hilarious.

On to the youthful love triangle between Eponine, Marius and Cosette. This was such an innocent and youthful love triangle. Talia Simone Robinson as Eponine was an understudy and she was able to embody Eponine. During all of the Paris bits, she was very playful and flirty around Marius, but she still was able to express her heartbreak that he will never love her. “On My Own” was heartbreaking and at the end, I could hear tears coming from her, but she decides to continue to love Marius despite the unrequited love. “On My Own” demonstrates Eponine’s miserable and empty life and shows her strength and heartbreak over the unrequited love.

Jillian Butler as Cosette had such a beautiful soprano voice during both “In My Life” and “A Heart Full of Love”. Joshua Grosso as Marius was quite awkward during act I especially during “A Heart Full of Love”. It made the couple so cute and wonderful during that scene. When Marius first bumps into Cosette in Paris with Eponine standing in the back wasn’t fully effective, but feeling for all three was the most effective during “Heart Full of Love”. So I loved seeing the awkwardness during “A Heart Full of Love” and it was shown in a way that is like I am in love, but I don’t know what to do with it. This two were such a cute couple and I learned to love the two characters more.

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About Marius and Eponine, their version of “A Little Fall of Rain” was so believable. I really believed that Eponine was shot due to some of her non-verbals and noticing that it took effort to move since she was getting weaker as the song continued and she was also quiet enough. Joshua Grosso wasn’t heartbroken during the entire performance because he was comforting towards her and brave towards her. But when he ends the song with “grow”, that voice was so heartbreaking. It took him some time till he could say the word since he was quite stunned that Eponine died.

Joshua’s version of “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” was heartbreaking. Even during “Drink with Me”, when he sings about Cosette, it makes sense because he just lost Eponine and knows that most likely all of his friends will die and knows that if he survives, that he will only have Cosette.

Wow, Matt Shingledecker as Enjolras was such a passionate Enjolras. He brought out the intensity and passion that the character needed. All of the students were able to express their hope towards the rebellion. They also were able to show their passion towards the cause. Julian Emile Lerner was such a wonderful Gavroche. Even though he was just a boy, he keeps an eye on Paris and acts as if he runs the city. Despite being young, he had passion towards the cause as well.

About the ensemble, they were just so impressive. Their version of “One Day More” was so powerful and epic. Even in epic scenes like the opening or the second “Look Down”, there was the epicness that the songs required.

Wow, about the staging, I saw different staging than the West End. Even though the revolve wasn’t there, I still loved this staging. There was more color in this set. The different set pieces moved so smoothly between scenes. Like during “Paris/Look Down”, as the song continued, different areas opened up to show the scope of Paris. The paintings in the back actually moved some throughout the show. Those paintings gave a piece of Hugo in the show. The staging during the sewers showed how massive the sewers are and Valjean carried Marius in different ways. The staging during “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” adds even more emotion than the actor alone could do. During “Turning”, the women put candles down and then Marius comes out to sing the song and the students come out and pick up the candles and eventually blowing them out, which was a heartbreaking thing to watch.

About the sound system, the orchestra was so incredible. I could tell from the prologue that I would love the orchestra and they kept it together throughout the entire show. The sound system was incredible especially at the barricade. You could hear gunshots hit the back of the theatre so it felt like you were at the barricade.

So I would rate this production a 5/5 even though there were some actors that could have needed improvement such as Javert. But all in all, I loved this cast a lot, love the staging so much. Still such a beautiful story. To be honest, a more advanced staging gave more complexity to Les Mis. It was so good that I was an emotional wreck and that I ended up speechless.

Tomorrow, I plan to compare all three productions I have seen.