Even though I first saw the movie of Les Mis six years ago in December, my journey of it really began about March of 2013. I said that because after that movie I really did not know if I liked that musical or not due to being shocked and confused that it was a tragedy, but despite the confusion, I still started researching. However, my love for the show really kicked off five years ago when I gave the movie a second chance.
Ever since the movie, the musical has come a long way. I still continue to watch the movie till this day and still not sick and tired of it. My first portrayals of all these characters come from the movie. The 2nd time I was able to calm down and not be shocked by it being a tragedy. My understanding of the emotions in Les Mis and my understanding of the characters has deepened over these five years. One of the things I remembered about the second time was that it was when I fell in love with Eponine due to Samantha Barks portrayal. She would become my favorite Eponine. When I found out, she played Eponine in the 25th anniversary concert, I decided to watch that concert.
Not only did this movie make me fall in love with Eponine, but it also made me fall in love with some of the other characters. After all, this was my first full experience with Les Mis. It was where I believe I fell in love with Jean Valjean, Enjolras, Gavroche and the students and Fantine. I started to fall in love with Fantine due to Anne Hathaway’s devastating portrayal of Fantine. It was where I began to appreciate Marius, I think. I have watched this movie over 50 or so times I think: it feels like so much more. I still get emotional watching this movie and that is part of why the songs are so brilliant and why I am not yet sick and tired of Les Mis.
Ever since the movie, I have researched the musical a lot. My love for Les Mis eventually turned my love for musicals into a passion. I am currently obsessed with the musical. I first saw the stage show in 2013, which was a community college production. I ushered twice for that production and saw it once with my family. It may have been a community college production, but it felt professional. My dream of seeing Les Mis in the West End was created all because of seeing the stage show for the first time.
It was December of 2013 when I finally decided to watch the 25th anniversary concert. Like I said earlier, I watched this concert because Samantha Barks, my favorite Eponine, played Eponine in this concert. Alfie Boe ended up blowing me away as Jean Valjean and he became one of my favorite Jean Valjeans’ and at this point he was my favorite Jean Valjean. Like expected, Samantha Barks was wonderful in this concert. Ramin Karimloo would be such a passionate Enjolras. So I also own this concert so my Les Mis collection keeps on growing. This concert is worth watching due to an incredible cast. Plus, it has the Valjean quartet at the end, “One Day More” sung by the original cast, and students singing the reprise of “Do You Hear the People Sing”.
My dream of seeing Les Mis in the West End came true soon after developing my dream for wanting to see it in London. My family was going up to England in 2015 to go on a pilgrimage with our church. The choir was going to be in residence at Bristol Cathedral and that pilgrimage started in London. So in 2015, my family went up two days early, which I found out in 2014. That was when I started convincing my parents to take me to see Les Mis in London. I remember in June sitting in my room and my mom texted me emojis of the French flag and musical notes and I do not know what she was talking about. She told me to check my email. When I found out I was going to be seeing Les Mis in London, I ran up to my mom and started crying. My dream was going to come true and that day was July 30th, 2015.
I remember on July 30th, it took a while to find the theatre. When I saw the theatre, it didn’t seem real that I was going to see Les Mis. Even when I bought souvenirs and the most surprising thing about the UK is that I had to buy my playbill. Back in the US, the playbills were handed at the door, but this time I had to buy my playbill. On the way to the auditorium, I found a sign that said I had an understudy for Valjean and that was going to be Adam Bayjou. It was crazy because I was in London fulfilling my dream, but yet was going to be an understudy for Jean Valjean.
I remember hearing the first notes of the orchestra, which were so powerful, and realizing this dream was becoming reality just by hearing those notes, I know the production was going to much more than expected. Not only did the cast including the ensemble were brilliant, but the staging was as well. The revolve helped with time change. I loved seeing the building of the barricade along with several other barricade scenes such as it turning when Gavroche climbed over or it turning after the final battle and you could see all the dead bodies on it and singing a light on Enjolras.
“I Dreamed a Dream”
But Adam Bayjou was going to turn out to be one of the best Valjean’s I ever saw. I remember sitting in my seat and looking at the set and realizing how close I was to the stage. My mom wanted to make sure I got the best possible seats. So we were nine rows back from the stage. My other actors were Jeremy Secomb as Javert, Rachelle Ann Go as Fantine, Zoe Doano as Cosette, Rob Houchen as Marius, Carrie Hope Fletcher as Eponine, Phil Daniels as Monsieur Thenardier, Kathy Secombe as Madame Thenadier and Bradley Jaden as Enjolras.
Back to Adam Bayjou. His version of Jean Valjean made me forget I was watching an understudy. Jeremy Secomb would make me actually connect to Javert and that during his suicide scenes and that really was strong talent because I don’t like Javert. This was the strongest Javert and Jean Valjean dynamic I have ever seen. Even the love triangle had such a strong dynamic. When Marius first bumped into Cosette with Eponine watching them, that was played so well that I was feeling so many emotions and the same happened during “A Heart Full of Love”. I was shocked to feel anger during “On My Own”, but eventually realized it does fit and due to that new emotion, I got new insight into Eponine.
This cast was quite brilliant, epic and passionate. I can’t describe the talent I found in this cast that well. That same summer I read the unabridged book, which did have an effect on the West End production. The book may have been a brick, but it made me appreciate the musical even more. After the production ended, I stood up right away and usually that doesn’t happen whenever I see a musical. Usually I wait until I see my favorite actor, but this time I stood up right away, but this time I stood up right away which really goes to show just how talented this cast is. This cast will always be special because of my dream to see Les Mis in the West End. After the show, I actually went to stage and met Adam Bayjou and he signed my playbill.
Below is a review from seeing Les Mis in the West End. I wrote this view a couple months after seeing it in London so it may not be fully accurate, but still is quite close.
The picture above is from my 2nd Les Mis party. One of my mom’s friends is a big Les Mis fan and she decided to have a Les Mis party due to my love for it. The first year, the party was a surprise and my mom tricked me by telling me to wear my Les Mis shirt which says “Keep Calm and Talk and Talk” about Les Mis. After all, this shirt was a shirt my friends made me for one of my birthdays. My mom told me that her friend wanted to watch the movie of Les Mis. But it would turn out to be party so I was dressed as just a fan. With Karaoke, I sang “On My Own” and I was called Eponine for the rest of the night.
The next year 2017, since I knew about the Les Mis party, I was able to dress up as one of the characters and I decided to dress up as Eponine. I found all of these pieces in just one trip to Goodwill. The makeup, which I used as dirt, came from the makeup kit I bought for Stage Makeup, a class I took in Fall 2016. It was the shadow from the kit and it was brown and was perfect to finish the Eponine look. In order to look like her, I had to get myself “dirty” since she was a girl living in poverty. I was still young enough to dress like her and she become one of my favorite characters from the musical.
Below is my link
The picture above is from my 5th time I saw Les Mis. I had a choice last year to see it in Greenville with my school or in Charlotte with my mom. It would be my fifth time seeing the stage show, but my 1st time seeing it on tour. I wanted to know how different the 25th anniversary production was from the version I saw in London. Once again, I would have an understudy, but this time it was for Eponine and that was Talia Simone Robinson. I was much further back from the stage since I was seeing from the balcony, but I got to see everything. The Peace Center is such a wonderful place to watch musicals in the United States. The standouts of this production were Nick Cartell as Jean Valjean, Joshua Grosso as Marius and Matt Shingledecker as Enjolras. The other principal characters were Josh Davis as Javert, Mellissa Mitchell as Fantine, Jillian Butler as Cosette, Anthony Crane as Monsieur Thenardier and Allison Guinn as Madame Thenardier. By seeing Les Mis in the balcony, I was able to pick up on how well these actors could project and I could hear everything even when they were quiet.
Even though I missed the revolve, this staging was wonderful. They used Victor Hugo’s paintings in the background but the problem was they never put up the years for the different time changes. Using the paintings put a bit more color in the set. At times the paintings would be moving. You could tell the vast size of Paris. You would be watching a part of a scene and than the set opens up, and that effect makes you get a feeling of how big Paris is.
About my standouts, Joshua Grosso stood out due to the awkwardness he brought to Marius, which made me love Marius more and he matched perfectly to Jillian Butler’s Cosette. He even portrayed “Empty Chairs At Empty Tables” in a heartbreaking way. At the end of “A Little Fall of Rain”, Joshua said the last word in a heartbreaking way and waited about five or ten seconds until he said it as if he was stunned that Eponine died. With Nick Cartell, his “Bring Him Home” was so soulful and was quiet enough and strong enough for what the scene required. Considering the fact I was an emotional wreck watching Les Mis a 5th time, it shows that I still have a wonderful emotional connection to Les Mis and that I am not yet done with seeing the stage show of Les Mis.
If you want more about my experience with this production, below is a link to that post.
Above is a picture from Halloween. I may have dressed up as Eponine for 2017’s Les Mis party, but because I had all the pieces, I decided to be Eponine for Halloween. This time I made myself “dirtier” than I did for for the party. I started getting into costume around three and stayed dressed as Eponine until after 9:00. I literally went to dinner dressed as her and went to the Gathering, my school’s student-led worship service, dressed as Eponine. Several people had no idea who I was so I had to explain. After the Gathering, there was a bonfire and I went to that. It was a bit cold, but I went around school dressed as Eponine without a coat to truly look like the character. Eponine is a girl living in extreme poverty so I had to show that, which was shown through the “dirt” and not wearing a coat.
Above is a bear from this year’s Candy and Critter’s event. I never named a stuffed animal after a musical character. When I looked at the different stuffed animals to make, I came across this bear and it reminded me of Eponine. It had the right color scheme and it had heart-shaped patches with stitches around the outside. Eponine tends to wear costumes with a brown color-scheme. Those heart patches with the stitches around the outside reminded me of a broken heart.
Below is a link about the day I made Eponine. It is quite special having a stuffed animal named after a favorite musical character.
Below is a link explaining my entire Les Mis collection.
As this post shows, I have gone on quite a journey with Les Mis. Les Mis is a show that changed the way I view musicals forever. It taught me that tragic musicals exist and that tragedies go beyond their tragic side. Les Mis for example has a beautiful underlying spirituality with themes such as compassion, forgiveness, love, hope, humanity, sacrifice and redemption. It was my first introduction to heartbreak in musicals. It would impact many other musicals. I noticed that because of Les Mis, emotions are much easier to pick up on. It may have been five years, but I already know so much about the characters and the storyline. I know about interesting parts about the story such as the mirror images of Eponine and Cosette. I understand why certain things had to happen to make the story work such as why the love triangle is set up the way it is and why so many characters had to die and son on. So this post may be long, but gives a good view of my entire journey with Les Mis. I still cannot believe that I saw the stage show in 2013, 2015, and 2017 because there is a bit of a pattern there. Those years make up 5x seeing the stage show.