Les Mis Songs- Choosing a Favorite

Musical theatre fans know that in a musical they have their favorite song. There is an exception to that, and that is in Les Mis. Why do I think that is? I think it is a combination of things: the passion, the epic nature, the powerful nature, and the level of emotion. There is something found in the songs that has made Les Mis last so long in the West End, and had made it keep on touring throughout the World. The songs are key to any great musical- they are the first step- then the characters and plot.

On My Own- this is one of my favorite songs in the musical. It is perfect for Eponine. It is about her unrequited love for Marius while still giving some insight into her life outside of Marius. It perfectly complements her character- it shows just how strong of a character she is. It also shows how strong and deep her love for Marius is. A beautifully heartbreaking song, which can be sung in so many ways- different emotions can be shown each time. This easily can be my favorite song from Les Mis, but the same applies to a number of other songs from Les Mis.

A Little Fall of Rain- this song ends Eponine’s story. She has sacrificed herself after seeing a gun aimed at Marius. This is the most intimate moment Marius and Eponine have. After Eponine collapsed in Marius’ arms, he realized she was dying, and he was devastated. Despite how he felt, he ended up staying with her to the end. A bittersweet scene- you do feel devastated for BOTH Eponine and Marius, but happy for Eponine because she is in the arms of Marius. He is there for her, and is comforting her. You get to see how much compassion Marius is capable of. This is my favorite death scene in Les Mis.

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables- While “On My Own” can easily be my favorite solo, I can’t help but think about how this song can also be that song. Devastatingly heartbreaking-more heartbreaking than “On My Own”. It perfectly complements Marius- the rebellion has ended, and Marius is the only one who comes out alive. He lost all of his friends, and is now dealing with survivor’s guilt. Marius is my favorite survivor in Les Mis, and has become almost a core favorite character.

One Day More- the perfect act I finale. Do I have to say more? This easily could be my favorite song from Les Mis song too. There is no way to describe what you are feeling in this number. It is one of my all-favorite musical theatre finales.

Bring Him Home- This song is another song that can be my favorite song from Les Mis. This further highlights the love Valjean has for God, and shows his love for Cosette in a way. After all, he went to the barricade to protect and save Marius, the revolutionary his adopted daughter loves, from dying. It sounds like a prayer.

Do You Hear the People Sing- This song is a very passionate song. It perfectly shows the passion the students have for the rebellion. It easily gets stuck in your head- it got stuck in my head after seeing the movie the first time.

Drink With Me- The thing I really love about this song is how intimate it is. It shows a vulnerable side to the students. It is sadder than it seems to be- you will understand after seeing it a first time. Once you know what is going to happen to them, the song becomes heartbreaking. This is the last moment they will truly get to spend time with each other. They know this is a last cause, and that they will most likely die, and feel hopeless. At least, they still have their brotherly love for each other, and they still have the passion.

Finale- the perfect finale to a musical. The first half is heartbreaking. Valjean is dying, and he is alone in a church. However, you know he has become a better person, and that he has redeemed himself, become “saint-like”. You might think he will die alone, without anyone by his side. Soon enough, Cosette, his adopted daughter, and Marius, his now son-in-law, come to his side. I think there is some symbolism in the deaths- Fantine, Eponine, Gavroche, Enjolras and the students, and now Valjean will have died with someone with them- have you noticed a pattern with these characters? They know how to love- it doesn’t matter if it is love for a child, love romantically (even if it falls unrequited), or love for a country. After Valjean dies, you are heartbroken, but then a reprise of “Do you Hear the People Sing” starts- you are still heartbroken, but you feel hope- I think the ending represents heaven. You do not leave devastated- you leave the theatre uplifted and with hope.

See what I mean? There is something about each song that makes it hard to choose which is your favorite. Whether that is the bittersweet “A Little Fall of Rain”, the heartbreaking “On My Own”, the devastating “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”, the intimate “Drink With Me”, etc….. So many of the songs have something special about them: you can see the spirituality shine in some of them: “Bring Him Home”, “Come to Me”, “A Little Fall of Rain”, “Finale”, “What Have I Done” are examples of that.

Do you think Les Mis is hard to chose your favorite song, and why? I gave a few examples.

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Death in Musicals- My feelings on It

How it Once was Viewed:

There was a time when I had this negative view on death in a musical. I believed that death was ALWAYS going to be unmemorable. How can you fall in love with watching a death scene? I truly believed that if it was going to happen with a core favorite character- after all you are going to feel angry with the fact that they are going to be killed of. I even believed that there is no way it could happen during a song- that seemed like there has a high chance that could NEVER happen. That was only because growing up, I never once came across a death song.

After Les Mis entered: Major Spoilers

All of those thoughts I had would soon be tested. Les Mis was the musical that would go against everything. Les Mis has songs such as “Javert’s Suicide”, “A Little Fall of Rain”, and “Come to Me”- all songs that deal with a death or happen while a character is dying. So my thought on a song could NEVER happen during a death scene was disproven. Even my thought on a character’s death could NEVER be memorable was disproven as well. In Les Mis characters’ deaths are memorable.

“Come to Me” is a memorable death scene. This is Fantine’s death scene. She has been fired and lost her hair, and became prostitute. She has been through some very awful things. She did what she did for the sake of her daughter, Cosette. Even while she was dying, she still was thinking about Cosette. She was still worried about what would happen to her. Valjean was with her while she was dying. “Come to Me” is memorable in the fact that Valjean promised that he would raise Cosette- so Fantine is able to die in peace. The fact that Fantine did not have to die alone- she was shown compassion by Valjean.

“A Little Fall of Rain” is also a memorable death. This time, Eponine is dying from a gunshot wound after sacrificing herself to protect Marius. During this scene, Marius is devastated, but ended up showing her compassion by holding and comforting her while she dies. Eponine is dying in the arms of Marius, the love of her life, who is also the only good thing in her life because he is the only person who showed her kindness. So I just gave you two examples of memorable deaths in just one musical. In “A Little Fall of Rain”, I am heartbroken for BOTH Eponine and Marius, but feel joy knowing that this is Eponine’s happiest moment of her life despite the fact that she is dying.

Tragic Love Stories:

Here is where things can be messy. If you fall in love with the couple, you don’t want it to end tragically, but it WILL. I know this first hand due to recently seeing Miss Saigon and falling in love with Kim and Chris as a couple. Even Kim’s death was memorable- like the other two I mentioned- she wasn’t alone. Chris was there- he actually realized he always loved her- I believe more than Ellen- that was how good Emily Bautista and Anthony Festa were as Kim and Chris were. I can especially tell due to Anthony’s Chris’ cry at the very end- he realized just how much he loved Kim. Kim died to give her son, Tam, a better life- another reason why it is a memorable death.

Conclusion:

Yes, deaths in a musical are devastating, but they can be memorable. The first time, you are shocked. You are like “but I loved that character, why did they have to die?”. You soon realize they are meant to die even each time, you hope that doesn’t happen, but you can’t change it- that death will always happen.

Journey with the Les Mis movie

As many musical fanatics know, there is always a way you become a fan of a musical. It is either by songs, stage, or film. Where did my love of Les Mis begin? It was by the musical movie.

I first saw the Les Mis film in December 2012. I came into the film with a very slim knowledge. I knew of the song, “I Dreamed a Dream”. I barely knew the plot. I knew of the actresses, Amanda Seyfried and Anne Hathaway. I was unsure coming into the film- I only went to listen to “I Dreamed a Dream”. Right after Fantine died, I came to a realization- Les Mis is a tragedy. I was shocked and confused after realizing that. After all, I never knew musicals could be tragic. I did not know how to exactly respond. By the end of the film, I did have “Do you Hear the People Sing” stuck in my head, but at the same time, I did not know if I liked Les Mis. So I had a rocky start to Les Mis. I was NOT an emotional wreck watching Les Mis this time around.

Fantine singing "I Dreamed a Dream" during the film, Les Mis

Despite not knowing if I liked Les Mis, I started researching the musical. I also wanted to listen to the songs on Pandora. I have no idea why I wanted to do that.

March 2013- I don’t why I did this, but I decided to watch the film a 2nd time. Due to knowing the film’s tragic nature, I was able to calm down. I got so much more out of it. This time around, I truly became a fan of Les Mis. By the end, I felt uplifted. I was thinking “why would such a tragic musical make you feel uplifted?”. So I continued researching it. By Summer 2013, I was officially obsessed with Les Mis. I know the 2nd time was when I began to have a beautiful bond to Eponine; I have no idea when I began to have an emotional connection to the other characters I have an emotional connection to. If I didn’t give the film a 2nd chance, I never would have a Les Mis fan.

Eponine singing "On My Own" during the film, Les Mis

Summer 2013- I think my family was on vacation in Florida, and we were in target in the DVD section. My mom told me, will you find it? I did not know what she was talking about at first. She told me- you know what I am talking about. I realized- my mom was talking about Les Mis. My emotional response to the film grew over time.

Present- now it is 2019, and I have watched the film so many times. Now, I have to buy another copy of the film. Usually in that amount of time, I don’t wear out a DVD. I still am an emotional wreck watching it. This film was why I love Les Mis, which led to my obsession with Les Mis. Without the film, Les Mis wouldn’t have been in my life.

Uniqueness of Each Musical Year

I thought this would be an interesting post idea.

One of the most fascinating things about being a musical theatre fanatic is just how different each musical year is. That is because the musicals you see vary, and the same is for just how many musicals you see. Some years you might see just two musicals or three or four or five. The number has to do with where you live, can you afford them, the months you see them and where exactly you see them (as in community college/ regional/local theater, West End/Broadway, and tours plus the city).

Major and Minor Spoilers

If you think about it, the shows vary a lot. In 2018, all I saw were happy musicals- Oklahoma, Grease, Newsies, Lion King, and A Christmas Story. At the same time, they still came with their more serious and emotional moments (as in sad and heartbreaking. After all, Newsies is home to “Santa Fe” and “Letter from the Refuge” and Lion King does have Mufasa’s death, which did get to me and “Endless Night”. I ended up seeing these musicals in June, July, September, and December.

Crutchie during "Letter from the Refuge"

2017, on the other hand was highly different. Instead of being home to all happy musicals, I started with a horror comedy, Little Shop of Horrors, and ended on the more sad side of things- Rent and Les Mis. These were one college production and two tours- one in Charlotte and one in Greenville. So in 2017, I was an emotional wreck twice- both Rent and Les Mis gave me an emotional wreck twice. This set of musicals ended up being in February, September, and November.

Joshua Grosso singing "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" at the 25th Anniversary Production- US Tour

So you see, two different years, but still so different. So every single musical year is so different. You might have one year will all happy musicals. Still, I have never found a year where there has never been at least one sad or heartbreaking moment in at least one musical. After all, the five core emotions are excitement, joy, love, sad, and heartbreak. If I broke down year after year after 2012 to now, it would take forever. So I was just giving you an idea.

The Hopeful and Heartbreaking Love Triangle

Here we are venturing into the Les Misérables love triangle. It is less complex than the Wicked love triangle. It is between Cosette x Marius x Eponine: in this one Marius and Cosette are the couple while Eponine has the unrequited love. It is one of the major storylines that I am emotionally connected to. Of everyone in the love triangle, Eponine is my favorite character.

MAJOR SPOILERS:

I will start by bringing up Eponine and Cosette’s childhood. At one point both Eponine and Cosette lived together. Eponine’s parents are the Thenardiers, who abuse Cosette and treat her like a servant. Eponine, on the other hand, is spoiled and appeared to be loved by her parents. Then Valjean arrives and rescues Cosette.

You already know the Thenardiers are abusive. In “Master of the House”, you learn that they also are pickpockets. You start to get a general idea of the environment Eponine is going to grow up in. You already know Cosette is going to have a better life. So the girls situations are reversed- while Cosette’s horrible childhood improves; Eponine’s life gets worse. That is one of the things that intrigues me- the switch that happens between the girls.

Eponine’s family ends up living in extreme poverty. Eponine’s parents have raised her to be a thief and criminal. You realize they do not care or love their daughter. They just use her for their advantage. She serves as watchdog for the law. She wasn’t shown kindness growing up- it never happens to her. That never happened- it eventually did happen- Marius was the only person who treated her with kindness. The kindness that Marius showed her made her fall in love with him. I am glad he was in her life- she needed Marius even though he didn’t love her romantically. Soon enough, Marius and Cosette bump into each other and fall in love with each other. Eponine is well aware that the two have fallen in love.

Eponine’s unrequited love for Marius is quite heartbreaking and painful. After all, he is the only good thing in her life. Despite that, she is the girl who would do anything for him. She risked her life several times for him no matter the cost. She ended up finding Cosette for him when he asked her to. She ended up protecting Marius and Cosette from her father and his gang. Her love for Marius is so strong that she ended up sacrificing her life for him. At least in the end, she died in the arms of Marius= at least she was with him. Her death scene was the happiest moment of her life.

I love Marius and Cosette as a couple. They are the ones who help bring hope to this tragedy. Marius had to survive the rebellion in order to keep hope alive. They are such an adorable couple in so many ways. Both of these characters are so sweet and kind. In the end, although they lost so many important people in their lives, at least they still have each other. Marius was the only survivor from the the barricade and Cosette lost her adopted father.

The love triangle offers a lot. I love all three characters. Yes, Eponine is my favorite character in the love triangle, but of all three Marius is my favorite survivor. I have never found the love triangle to be silly. Even though I understand that Marius and Eponine are not friends, but neighbors in the book, I love that their friendship is in the musical.

The Uniqueness of Bittersweet Musical Theatre Songs

Two days ago, I analyzed “For Good” and a few days before that, I analyzed “A Little Fall of Rain”. There is something in common between both of those songs- they fall under the category of bittersweet songs. There is something touching and moving about those types of songs. What exactly makes a musical theatre song bittersweet?

MAJOR SPOILERS:

A bittersweet song is usually one of those “goodbye” type of songs. They tend to have a combination of joy and sad. Some are much sadder than other- some fall under the category of devastating. All bittersweet songs have joy and happiness in them. It can be very hard to describe why those songs have joy and happiness in them due to the sad part of them. The more devastating bittersweet songs are the hardest songs to describe the joy. You have to understand the characters to understand why the songs are bittersweet in the first place. I will use “For Good” and “A Little Fall of Rain” to bring up what I am talking about.

Elphaba and Glinda at "For Good" during a production of Wicked
“For Good”

“For Good” is a song that happens towards the end of Wicked. This is the song where Elphaba and Glinda realize that they have to part ways. Elphaba is the only friend that has truly mattered to Glinda, and Glinda was Elphaba’s only friend. It is sad in the fact that they will never see each other again, but joyful in the fact that they are able to tell each other what they meant to each other. It is the most emotional moment in Wicked. It hits you harder than the heartbreaking “I’m Not That Girl”.

Eponine dying in Marius' arms during "A Little Fall of Rain" in the film
“A Little Fall of Rain”

Now, “A Little Fall of Rain” is more devastating. It is Eponine’s death scene- you might be thinking, how can a death scene be bittersweet. Eponine is dying in Marius’ arms. You have to understand Eponine’s life, and why Marius means something to her to understand why. Marius was the only person in her life who treated her kindly. Her parents, the Thenardiers, didn’t care about her and raised her to be a thief and criminal. Her life was dark- her only light was Marius- the only good thing in her life. She fell in love with him due to the kindness he showed her.

Back to the song. Leading up to “A Little Fall of Rain”, seeing that Marius was about to get shot, Eponine sacrifice herself to save Marius. She would do anything for him no matter the cost. The joy of the song comes from the fact that Marius was there with her, the only good thing her life. You do feel heartbroken for both of them- the fact that Eponine was dying and the fact that Marius was devastated, but at least he was there. Eponine got to die in the arms of the man she loved- there’s the joy right there. If you did not understand Eponine- you would not understand why this scene is bittersweet.

There is something touching, moving, and special about the bittersweet songs. I don’t know why the first songs that come to mind when I think of the bittersweet songs belong to “For Good” and “A Little Fall of Rain”. The bittersweet are some of the most emotional songs in musical theatre.

What are some your favorite musical theatre bittersweet song?