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, Ryan Deal, 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 Guinn and J. Anthony Crane, Katy Secombe and Phil Daniels
  5. Eponine- community college, Talia Simone Robinson (understudy), Carrie Hope Fletcher, Samantha Barks
  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 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.  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.

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.

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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.

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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 Guinn 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 the best she could. 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Letter to Les Mis Characters

Dear Jean Valjean, Javert, Fantine, Eponine, Marius, Cosette, Monsiuer and Madame Thenardier, Enjolras, and rest of the students,

All of you are an important part of my life. You all create such a heartfelt and inspirational story. You all showed me just how amazing a tragic tale could be and that tragedies are way more than being sad. Now I will talk about you all individually.

Major Spoilers:

Jean Valjean, you are one of my favorite literary and musical protagonists. I love the spiritual transformation you take throughout the tale. You taught me that people can raise above their upbringing. You showed me just how one person can impact someone’s life and that is something you learned from the bishop. I love that you promised to raise Fantine’s daughter as your own. I am glad you rescued Cosette and gave her a better life. I love the compassion you show to others. Love that you rescued Marius due to the love you love for Cosette. Boy there is so much I could say about your character. Your redemption is so strong and glad you got to die with Cosette and Marius by your side.

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Javert, you belong in Les Mis despite the fact that I am not a big fan of your character mainly because I love Jean Valjean. I cannot believe you always believed that people would never change. You showed me that there are people that do see the world in black and white. Still, you are very hard to find ground with just because of how complex you are as a character. All you wanted to do was recapture Valjean and send him back to prison. I wish you had realized that Valjean did become a better person. But you still fit in Les Mis. In a way I like you because you are one of the most complex literary antagonists and you do belong in Les Mis.

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Fantine, oh my, your story is so hard to watch because it is so heartbreaking. I cannot believe that the biological father of your daughter abandoned you and left you to be a single mom. I wish you did not leave Cosette in the hands of the Thenardiers because they treated her horribly. Boy, at the factory, I wish those factory women never read that letter. Still you had to turn to prostitution in order to provide for Cosette. I love the love you have for Cosette. I wish you had you realized that the Thenardiers were scamming you out of money. I am so glad that Valjean came to the rescue and promised to raise your daughter as his own. He showed you compassion as you were dying and at least you were able to die in peace and comfort after Valjean made that promise.

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Monsieur and Madame Thenardier, I completely hate you, but at the same time I love the two of you. You provided the much needed comic relief, but at the same time hated you for how you treated Cosette when she was living there. You horribly abused her and made her a servant of your inn. You even were scamming Fantine out of money spreading false lies about Cosette. Well, Valjean came for Cosette and rescued her, but then you started horribly abusing Eponine and kicked Gavroche out of your house. Boy you are so neglectful and unloving towards your children. You raised Eponine to be a criminal and a thief. In a weird way, you made me realize just how fortunate I am to be living in a loving family.

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Eponine, you are one of my favorite characters in the musical. As a child, you appeared to be loved by your parents, but things were eventually going to get darker and even worse. Your parents horribly abused you and raised you to be a thief and a criminal so you lived a very horrible and dark life. Boy, at least you found light through Marius, the only good thing in your life and the only person who showed you kindness and that is what moved you to love him. At least you had him in your life even though he didn’t love you. Still, I love the way you respond to your unrequited love. You continued to stand by Marius’ side and would do anything for him so you risked your life several times. I love that you died in his arms and even though you were shot, you were at peace because you were in the arms of the man you loved. Still, you did not have many good things in your life and you were able to raise above your upbringing. Boy, there is so much I could say about you and why I love you.

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Cosette, I am so glad Jean Valjean rescued you from the Thenardiers and you were so strong as a child and always hoped you would be rescued. You ended up being in better hands with Jean Valjean. He was such an incredible father even though you and him were always on the run from Javert. Still, I love that you represent hope and light in Les Mis. You and Marius make a wonderful couple. That helps bring even more hope and light to the tale. I cannot believe that your adopted father died at the end, but at least you still had Marius. You may not be as developed as some of the other characters, but I love what you represent.

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Marius, I love the relationship you have with the students, Eponine, and Cosette. You were a revolutionary. In the case of Eponine, I love that you were in her life because she needed it because you gave light in her life. So glad that you showed your kindness and were a good friend towards her. Yes, she eventually dies and that leaves you heartbroken, but I am glad you stayed brave and stayed by her side as she lay dying from a gunshot wound. On top of that trauma, the rest of your friends died, but at least you were rescued by Jean Valjean, Cosette’s adopted father. You are such a sweet, kind, and compassionate person. You and Cosette are a beautiful couple and she helped you recover from the trauma you faced at the barricade.

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Enjolras, Gavroche, and the students, I love that you stand up for what you believe in. Enjolras, you are so passionate towards the uprising and you make such a wonderful leader. I love how all you take in Gavroche and you were like his family. Every single one of you stayed passionate towards the end even when you knew the uprising will most likely fail. I just love the brotherly love you have for each other. Still, I could on and on about why I love you all.

What are your thoughts on the Les Mis characters?

Opinions I Once Had About Musicals

This is a list of beliefs I had about musicals at one point my journey. I will talk about why I had those opinions and will talk about why I no longer have those opinions. But now, each of those points have been disproven by Les Mis.

Possible Spoilers:

My first opinion was all musicals are happy. I only said that because that was all I had seen and due to that I believed every musical was happy. Les Mis disproved that and even Rent did the same thing. But it really was Les Mis that disproved it. I saw the movie musical back in 2012 and that was my first full exposure to the musical. While watching I discovered Les Mis was a heartbreaking musical and did not know how to respond. Over time Les Mis became such an important part of my musical journey and my life. I realized NOT all musicals are happy like I once believed.

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A second opinion I had about theatre in general is that I will always hate tragedies and will never learn to love one. Both Les Mis and Rent disproved that opinion as well. I love both of them. Both of them are sad and I can be particular when it comes to tragic musicals. I love them because they have amazing songs, characters, and storylines. Both go beyond their tragic nature. Les Mis has this underlying spirituality due to its forgiveness, compassion, love, hope, sacrifice, humanity and sacrifice and Rent has the message of living in the moment and measuring your life in love.

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A third opinion I had about theatre is that a death scene can never be memorable. Prior to Les Mis, I have seen death scenes in musicals, but I have forgotten about some of them and overlooked some of them. All of the death scenes in Les Mis but Javert’s are memorable. Those memorable deaths happen to characters who do not die alone and they all have some kind of joy in their death scenes. Fantine dies with Valjean by her side who promises to her that he will raise Cosette as his own. Eponine, despite being shot, dies in the arms of Marius, the man she loves even though that love is unrequited. Gavroche and the students died standing up for what they believed in. Valjean died with Cosette, his adopted daughter, and Marius by his side.

So far, the only memorable death scenes in musicals happened to be from Les Mis. The fact that Javert was the only character to die alone shows just how memorable the other deaths are. All of my favorite characters are dead by the end of the musical. But they still have a wonderful fate.

A fourth opinion that formed is that every musical must have some dance or spectacle element and those two are still part of my musical vision. Once again, Les Mis disproved that point again. Through Les Mis, I realized just how incredible a musical can be without a dance or spectacle element.

A fifth opinion I had is that negative emotions can never go beyond sad. I started to understand the negative emotions in middle school. By high school, I knew sad was common and was important. But I believed the negative emotions could never be more. Les Mis once again disproved that point. I realized there is more to sad when it comes to the negative emotions. I had no idea I was 100% blind to heartbreak. It isn’t just heartbreak that entered: it is just how deep the heartbreak actually is in Les Mis.

This might be connected, but even other emotions changed as a result of realizing heartbreak is musical emotion. It affected joy and love as well. Look at heartbreaking love songs and look at heartbreaking song with joy in it. Look at just how insightful and truthful and powerful they can be. Prior to Les Mis, I don’t remember if a musical song made me cry, but in Les Mis, I cry each time I listen to the song or even watch the musical in any way.

So Les Mis really showed me a side of musicals I had never seen before. I had all of these opinions only because of what I had known about musicals. It had to do with what I remembered. It had to do with how I interpreted them. Since happy musicals used to take up every single musical, I ended up calling most musicals happy and calling all musicals joyful. It makes sense why I thought a death scene could never be memorable. So in many ways, this post shows a huge reason why Les Mis played such a huge part in my musical journey.

What are some opinions you once had about musicals and did anything disprove them?

Analysis of Les Mis Characters

I did this once on my blog already. I analyzed the principal Les Mis characters, but they felt more like plot summaries than actual analysis’. For the next couple of days, I will analyze the characters of Jean Valjean, Javert, Fantine, Cosette, Marius, Eponine, Monsieur and Madame Thenardier, and Enjolras/Gavroche/the students. Les Mis is just that kind of musical that is hard to pick a favorite character and where you learn to care about all the characters including ones you don’t like.