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.

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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.

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.

Letter to Enjolras and the Barricade Boys

Dear Enjolras and the Barricade Boys,

I love all of you. One of the things I love about you all is how you take in Gavroche. He is like the mascot of the rebellion. I love how passionate and hopeful you are about the cause. I love the brotherly love you all have for each other. Enjolras, you make such a wonderful leader. You are the most passionate of all the boys. I know at “Drink With Me”, you feel like you have lost hope for the rebellion. The next day even though you know you are going to lose, you still stay passionate towards what you believe. All of guys are heroic through the entire rebellion.

What are your opinions on this group of students?

“Drink With Me” Analysis

[Feuilly]
Drink with me to days gone by
Sing with me the songs we knew

[Prouvaire]

Here’s to pretty girls who went to our head

[Joly]

Here’s to witty girls who went to our beds

Here’s to them and here’s to you

[Grantaire]

Drink with me to days gone by

Can it be you fear to die

Will the world remember you when you fall

Could it be your death means nothing at all?

Is your life just one more lie?

[Men]                                                                 [Women]

Drink with me                                                   Drink with me

To days                                                                To days

Gone by                                                               Gone by

To the life                                                           To the life

That used                                                           That used

To be                                                                    To be

[Women]

At the shrine of friendship never say die

[All]

Let the wine of friendship never run dry

[Men]                                                                         [Women]

Here’s to you                                                            Here’s to you

And here’s                                                                 And here’s

To me                                                                         To me

[Marius]

Do I care if I should die

Now she goes across the sea?

Life without Cosette means nothing at all

Would you weep, Cosette, should Marius fall?

Will you weep, Cosette

For me?

-Drink with Me, Les Mis

Today, I will be analyzing the song, “Drink With Me”. The lyrics above are the lyrics from the show. “Drink With Me”  is one of the lesser known songs, but it is quite an emotional and heartbreaking song. This song does not seem that heartbreaking the first time around, but eventually you will realize just how devastating and hopeless this song is.

Major Spoilers:

This song happens after Jean Valjean lets Javert go. In this song, the students realize that they will most likely lose the uprising and most likely are going to die. But once you know what is going to happen to all of them, this song becomes even more heartbreaking. In the musical, one attack has already happened and that is when Eponine dies. Marius is still heartbroken over her death at this point. You can clearly see the students’ brotherly love for each other. There is a big chance this will be the last time they will have a meal together.

This song talks about will people miss them if they die. They feel hopeless in this scene because the battle is going to be a lost cause. They know how outnumbered they are. Yes, Marius brings up Cosette, but if all of his friends die, all he has left will be Cosette. So this song is quite an intimate moment between all the students.

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Just to let you know, the final battle does end in rather heartbreaking results. All of the students (excluding Marius) die. So once you know what is going to happen, this song becomes even more heartbreaking. It happens so close to the final battle. Poor Marius, he faces a lot of trauma at the barricade. First he loses Eponine and in this scene he is still upset over her death, but then at the final battle, he will lose all of his friends. “Drink With Me” is a wonderful moment to show the students love for each other.

What are your thoughts on this song?

 

 

Big Character Moments in Musicals

I have talked about musical characters a lot on this blog. But I don’t think at once I brought up what their big character moments are and that is where they develop the most. So in this post I will bring up characters and next to them say what their big moments are. Just to let you know, I might be missing some big moments from characters that I can’t think of right now.

Possible Major or Spoilers Ahead:

Elphaba:

  1. Wizard and I- this is an important step for Elphaba. This happens very early on in the show. Elphaba shows in this song that she just wants to be accepted. She is quite hopeful in this scene and still innocent because she is still quite young-basically college age.

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2. Popular-yes, I put one of Glinda’s song with Elphaba’s big moments and I say it is because it is when the two girls become friends for the first time.

3. For Good- this is a big moment for her because that is when she understands just how important her friendship with Glinda is.

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4. Defying Gravity-this is when Elphaba truly matures.

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Glinda: 

  1. Popular-this is a new step for Glinda when she befriends Elphaba. This moment is important for both girls because it is when they become friends, which is the center of the show

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2. For Good-it is here as well because this is really when Glinda realizes the impact that Elphaba has had on her life

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Fiyero: 

  1. Lion Cub Scene-this may be a speaking scene, but it still is a big moment for Fiyero. Fiyero may not notice it this time, but this when the audience notices that he in fact has a crush on Elphaba. It is hard to describe why this is an important moment for Fiyero, but it is an important step for him.

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2. Thank Goodness-this is when Fiyero puts a big curve on the love triangle. While everyone was spreading rumors about Elphaba, he realizes something important. He has truly matured at this point and discovers that he in fact is in love with Elphaba and not Glinda.

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Eponine: 

  1. On My Own-this is the moment where she finally accepts the situation she is currently in. She talks about how empty her life is through lyrics like “without a home, without a friend, without a face to say hello to” and “a world that’s full of happiness that I have never known. On top of all of that darkness, she also is dealing with unrequited love for Marius and here is when she can accept the fact that Marius will never love it, but it does bring up the fact that she will continue to stand by his side despite the the unrequited love.

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Jean Valjean: 

  1. What Have I Done?- this is a gigantic step for Valjean. He has been released from prison after nineteen years just because he stole a loaf of friend for his family. Right before this scene, the bishop give him food and a place to sleep for the night, but Valjean still steals the bishop’s silver. But when the police took him back, the bishop laid and said that it was a gift. Through the bishop, Valjean has learned the ways of the Lord. Through this song, Valjean reflects on this past and the kindness of the bishop and realizes he has to change and become a better person images-2
  2. Meeting Cosette- this is so important because Cosette was the first person he ever loved after being released so she gives him a new purpose in life unknown-2
  3. Who Am I?- another big moment for Valjean. An innocent man accused of being him is in court so Valjean has a tough decision to make. Does he save the innocent man or does he not? Valjean has decided to turn himself in despite the fact that he still is going to help Fantine.
  4. Bring Him Home-Valjean has arrived at the barricades to protect Marius, Cosette’s love. Here he is praying to save him.

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Boy, Valjean has a lot of big character moments due to how complex he is and how much he changes throughout the show.

Marius: 

  1. Empty Chairs at Empty Tables- this is Marius’ big song. He is suffering through survivor’s guilt after being the only survivor at the barricade. He has lost everyone from Eponine to Gavroche to Enjolras and the rest of his friends. I can’t exactly describe why this is a big character moment for Marius, but it is.

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Jack Kelly: 

  1. Santa Fe- this scene is when Jack starts to go through a lot of internal conflict, but it still is an important moment for him. He sees this huge fight break out due to the strike and sees Cruthcie being arrested. Because of what he witnessed, he is about ready to give up on the strike even though he does not want to give on the other Newsies especially because he is their leader. He has such a wonderful bond to Crutchie and that drives him a lot of internal conflict, which makes this song sad.

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2. Something to Believe In- yes, I think a big character moment for Jack is in a love song. But this is truly the moment where Jack is able to get through his inner conflict. It shows just how much Katherine believes in him. Leading up to this, she saw some of his drawings and thinks it would be a good idea if they put them in the paper. This song really helps Jack climb out of the inner conflict. That inner conflict made Jack a complex character.

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Newsies as a Whole: 

  1. The World Will Know- this is when the Newsies decides to unionize to head towards the strike so it is an important part to the story
  2. Seize the Day-this is truly when the strike begins. They understand the meaning of courage which is shown through the lyrics, “courage cannot erase our fear. courage is when we face our fear”
  3. Once and For All- this is yet another big character moment for the characters. This is the last step of their strike. They start printing their own papers and this shows their cause and this is when it truly comes out. This song shows their determination and shows that Jack has not given up yet despite the fact that he recently has gone through a lot of inner conflict.

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Students of the ABC: 

  1. Do You Hear the People Sing- this is when they go to the streets to try to rally up citizens to help in their strike. It shows just how passionate and hopeful they are when it comes to the strike. It is their revolutionary anthem so it is important step  towards the uprising
  2. Drink With Me- this song is important to the cause. They understand that their uprising is a lost cause and feel hopeless. They know most likely they will die the next day. You can really understand their love for each other throughout this song. Marius is still upset over the loss of Eponine, but he sings about Cosette because it is his hope that he will be able to see her again since he loves her.

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Pippin:

  1. Corner of the Sky- this is when Pippin realizes what he truly wants in life. He wants to find out where he belongs so this song shows what his main goal of this story is. He just wants to find his “corner of the sky”, so he starts going on this kind of adventure after this.

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Roger:

  1. One Song Glory- here is where we find what Roger’s main goal is. He hopes to write one last song before he dies of HIV. Here we can understand how hurt he is at this point due to what happened in his last relationship. This hurt makes you understand why he is so reluctant to enter a relationship with Mimi
  2. I Should Tell You-this is the first time that Roger realizes that he needs Mimi in his life. It is when he finally decides to enter a relationship with her so this is a big step for him.

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So you see character big moments are important. I honestly wish I could add more. Do you agree with this characters moments. What are some big character moments you can think of?

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Sympathy and Empathy in Musicals

The word sympathy reminds me of musicals. A musical has the advantage of song to make you feel for the characters. They want you to feel empathy for the characters, but sometimes all you can feel sympathy for them especially if you are feeling for a character you don’t like.

The emotions the actors are played to the audience makes the audience feel what the character is feeling. In my eyes, I feel like the characters personally know everyone in the audience and are comfortable with sharing their emotions to the audience even if they are not willing to share it to the other characters.

Some musical emotions are hard to feel and are tough. You don’t want the characters to go through what they are going through at times, but you still learn to care about them and they end up living in you. The negative emotions are the best example of feeling sympathy and eventually empathy for them. I don’t mind feeling the negative emotions especially if I fall in love with the sad and heartbreaking songs and fall in love with the character and plot because you feel like you are ingrained into the plot and when that happens, you end up having a positive experience.

What makes the songs make you feel for the characters? Well, for starters, songs are usually more powerful than words alone. Sometimes a musical’s use of crescendos makes a song feel strong and powerful, which is a very unique thing to see. The crescendo makes you see just how strong a character is and that can make you feel the emotions the song is trying to convey. There are key changes when it comes to a crescendo. Songs like “On My Own”, “One Day More”, “Defying Gravity” among others have a use of crescendos and crescendos help with emotions a lot. It lifts the song and makes a song even more powerful.

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I feel like the melody shows the nature of the emotions. A slow and quiet song is how you end up feeling love and the sad or heartbreaking songs fit under that category as well. “I’m Not That Girl” is an unrequited love song, but because the melody stays consistent throughout, it  shows that Elphaba’s love for Fiyero is not that strong at that point in the story. But with the case of “On My Own”, which is another unrequited love song, the melody which has this whole introduction shows just dark and empty Eponine’s life is and when that sudden key changes after “all I see is him and me forever and forever”,  the melody  slowly builds up over time sells how just strong and deep Eponine’s love for Marius is. So melody does play a part in the emotion of the song. The exciting songs have the pattern of starting and suddenly speeds up and that gives you the wow factor that an exciting is supposed to have.

 

What is your opinion about feeling sympathy and empathy in musicals? Do you like the use of crescendos in musicals? Why you think songs bring out the emotions in the characters better than words alone?

Sympathy

Crescendo