I Can Only Imagine Review

Yesterday was my last time going to the Big E. This time the movie I picked was I Can Only Imagine. This movie is about how the song, I Can Only Imagine was written.  I choose this movie because I love the song and I love God so it was a good choice. Plus, it was the only movie that I wanted to see from the options that were available.

This is a good movie to watch if you love the song and if you love God. The main character’s name is Bart Milliard. He had a complicated childhood and his father was emotionally and physically abusive. He eventually left his father and went on a journey, which eventually led him to write I Can Only Imagine. This movie is about faith, forgiveness, and redemption. His father was eventually changed from a monster to a more loving father after Christ entered his life. Bart eventually wrote I Can Only Imagine in honor of his father.

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Les Mis Milestone

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.

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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.

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.

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2015/12/23/i-dreamed-a-dream/

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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

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2017/05/21/les-mis-party-2017/

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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.

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2017/11/06/review-of-les-mis/

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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.

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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.

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/candy-and-critters/

Below is a link explaining my entire Les Mis collection.

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2018/02/16/les-mis-collection-part-three/

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.

Spiritual Themes of Les Mis

Today, I decided to focus on the various spiritual themes in Les Mis and where they are located in the musical. There will be some overlap between these themes so some scenes might repeat sometimes. SO THIS WILL BE A HEAVY SPOILER POST.

Love: in various ways 

Love for God:

1. First is shown in the bishop scene. The bishop clearly loves God. It is shown through how he shows forgiveness, compassion, and mercy on Jean Valjean. The bishop allows Jean Valjean to have a second chance at life.

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2. Another obvious scene is during “Bring Hime Home”. This is the scene where Jean Valjean is praying to God to make sure Marius survives the barricade. Jean Valjean went to the barricade to protect Marius because Cosette, his adopted daughter, loves Marius.

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Love for a Child:

  1.  Fantine’s selfless love for Cosette- She is a single mother was abandoned by Cosette’s biological father so she is left to care for Cosette by her self. At the time was dangerous to have an illegitimate child so she leaves Cosette in the hands of the Thenardiers, but little does she know how horrible they will treat her child. After getting fired from Valjean’s factory, she literally sells her locket, her hair, and her body in order to care for her child. She is willing to die in order that Cosette has a better life. So she is selfless when it comes to Cosette.

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2. Valjean’s Love for Cosette- Valjean adopts Cosette after her mother dies. Even though Cosette is not Valjean’s biological father, Cosette makes such a huge impact on his life. It makes him even more compassionate than before. She allows Valjean to be a kinder person and later because of how much she loves Cosette, he goes to the barricade to protect Marius, the love of her life. He is willing to sacrifice his happiness for the sake of Cosette’s.

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Romantic Love: Love Triangle

1. Cosette and Marius – These two make such an adorable couple. They are perfect for each other and help add hope to the story. They are meant for each because Cosette represents hope and light so these two need to be together.

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2.  Eponine and unrequited love- Eponine loves Marius, but he loves Cosette. But the way she responds to unrequited love is amazing. She will do anything for Marius to make sure he is safe and happy. That is why she makes sure Cosette and Marius end up together. That is why she screams at Valjean’s house to protect Marius even though it means standing up against her father. That is also why she takes a bullet for Marius at the barricade. She is willing to sacrifice everything even though Marius is the only good thing in her life and that to me takes a lot of strength. She falls in love with Marius because of the kindness he shows her.

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Love for Friends:

1. The love found between all the students is incredible. This love found these friends is so inspiring. They have such a brotherly love for each other. They are a group of college students who are a political group who are planning an uprising against France’s weak government. At the barricade, they eventually realize they will eventually lose and die, but yet they still fight.

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Love for the Law:

1. Javert-Love for the law is quite a weird one. Javert does have this love for the law. He strictly follows it. He believes “once a crminal always a criminal”. After Valjean broke parole, which is against the rules, Javert is determined to capture Valjean send him back to prison. But once love for the law is very odd.

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Hope: 

1. Fantine- Yes, I said there will be some overlap. Fantine has hope that her daughter, Cosette, will have a better life.

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2. Eponine- Marius is the light of her life. He is all she has in life. Her love for him is extremely strong and deep. He is the only person in her life that shows her kindness. Throughout the show, she shows true love towards Marius even if it means losing him forever.

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3. Cosette- She represents hope and light. As a child, she was terribly abused. But she still has hope she will be rescued and she eventually is by Jean Valjean. When she becomes a teenager, she falls. in love with Marius.

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4. Marius- His love for Cosette is hope. The love for each other brings hope to the story. If these two didn’t love each other, Marius would have died at the barricade.

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5. Enjolras, Marius and the students- These guys have hope for the rebellion. That is mostly shown in act I. Even in act II< they hold on that hope even when they realize they are going to die and lose. But they still have hope that others will eventually stand up against the weak government. They are so passionate about the cause that they are willing to die.

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Forgivness: 

1. The bishop scene- After Valjean steals the bishop’s silverware, the is able to forgive Jean Valjean and shows him an incredible act of mercy. The bishop gives Jean a second chance at life.

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2. Valjean forgiving Javert- Javert is Valjean’s enemy but is able to forgive Javert. At the barricade, Valjean lets Javert go and end up forgiving Javert and this takes Javert by surprise.

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Compassion: 

1. Valjean showing compassion to Fantine-This happens in two ways. First shows compassion to Fantine by intervening to protect Fantine from being arrested. Then as Fantine is dying, she is still concerned about Cosette and Valjean promises to raise Cosette as his own and this gives Fantine peace and comfort as she is dying. Valjean stays with Fantine as she is dying.

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2. Marius showing compassion to Eponine- This is mainly shown during “A Little Fall of Rain”, Eponine’s death scene. After Marius realizes that Eponine is shot and dying, this totally devastates him, but he still decides to be with her and comfort her while she is dying. Eponine is dying because she takes a bullet for Marius. Marius totally cares for Eponine and he holds her until she dies. It it hard on Marius, but he shows comfort to Eponine.

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3. Valjean and Cosette- Valjean is able to show compassion to Cosette. He is able to rescue her from the Thearndeirs. When realizing that Cosette is being terribly abused by the Thearndiers, he is thankful that he rescues Cosette. He promised he would raise Cosette after her mother dies. Not only does he keep his promise, but he rescues Cosette from a life of abuse.

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Sacrifice: 

1. Fantine- Like I said, themes seem to overlap each other. Fantine is willing to sacrifice everything including her life in order to care for Cosette. She is such a selfless mother willing to die to make sure her child gets a better life than she had.

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2. Eponine- She risks everything for Marius. Even though he is the only good thing in her life, she is willing to make sure that Marius ends up with Cosette. Everything she does it out of love for Marius. Her love for Marius shows that she has a spark of goodness left in her and that shows she is kind of different from her parents. She is willing to sacrifice her life so that he will survive the barricade.

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3. Students- Due to how passionate these students are, they are willing to die for the cause they strongly believe in. They are college students and they all die for this uprising. Enjolras, the leader of the group, is the most passionate  about this cause, which makes his death very heartbreaking. The students also are willing to die even if they know they are going to lose.

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4. Jean Valjean- He is willing to sacrifice his happiness for the sake of Cosette’s. When he finds out that she is in love with Marius, he goes to the barricades in order to protect Marius to make sure he comes out alive. When Marius gets seriously injured and falls unconscious, he carries Marius through the sewers and makes him strive the barricades. Another scene he shows sacrifice is when he turns himself in when an innocent man is accused of being the “real” Valjean and he can’t bear to see an innocent man get sent to prison because Valjean knows what is like.

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Humanity: From worst to best

1.Thenardiers- They represent the very worst of society. They only care about themselves and money. The first scene you realize they are quite abusive is when you see how they treat Cosette. Then during Master of the House, you realize they are in fact pick pockets. After Cosette gets rescued by Jean Valjean, they start using abuse on Eponine, their daughter. They raise her to be a thief and criminal and they fall into extreme poverty. AT such a young age, they kicked Gavroche, their song out of the house. Then with both Eponine and Gavroche die at the barricades, the Theanrdiers don’t even care. They do not love both of their children.

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2. Javert-He is this obsessive policeman who has a very shady view on the world. He views the world in black and right and believe that no one can change. He is further up in humanity than the Thenardiers. He always tries to do good even if it may not be the right thing to do.

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3. Eponine- She is a young girl who doesn’t have a lot of good things happen in her life. She lives with parents who abuse her and teach her the ways of being a criminal and forces her to participate in their schemes. The entire family falls in to extreme poverty. She falls in love with Marius, but that loves falls unrequited. She falls in love til him because of the kindness she shows her. I think the reason why she has s park of goodness in her is mainly because of Marius. Her love for Marius is quite strong and deep and constantly shows true love towards him. She eventually takes a bullet for Marius and dies in his arms.

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4. Students- they are a group of college students who are planning an uprising against France’s weak government.

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5. Fantine- She is a selfless mother who does anything in order to provide for Cosette. Even during her death, she is still concerned about Cosette, but Valjean agrees to raise Cosette as his own.

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6. Cosette- She represents hope and light. After Valjean rescues her, she lives a very sheltered life, but i don’t blame that because Valjean is always on the run from Javert. But Valjean gave her a better life. She is such a sweet person and she falls in love with Marius and their love help provide hope to this tragic tale.

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7. Marius- He is such a nice, sweet, and a little awkward law student. who is capable of an amazing amount of bravery and compassion. His bravery comes from being willing to be part of the rebellion. His compassion is mainly shown through how much he cares about Eponine. When Eponine is dying, he ends up staying with her and comforting her and holding her while she dies even though this devastates Marius. He is the only survivor from the barricade and eventually realizes that Valjean is the reason he is alive and ends up thanking Valjean.

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8.   Jean Valjean- He starts out as being a harsh, hateful, and angry man and it doesn’t seem like he will become a better person. But then he meets the bishop who teaches him the ways of the Lord. The bishop shows him compassion and forgiveness and mercy by allowing him a place to sleep and food to eat and forgives Valjean after stealing his silver.  These actions gives Valjean a second chance at life and is determined to become a better person. It is why he rescues Fantine from being arrested, why he turns himself in when an innocent man is accused of being the “real” Valjean. He even promises Fantine that he will raise Cosette.

All of his actions he does after the bishop scene he does out of the example the bishop teaches him. He shows compassion to a number of people. He rescues Marius from the barricade. He raises Cosette. So you see as the show continues he continue to becomes a better person.

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9. The Bishop- Even though the bishop plays such a small role in the musical, his role is crucial. If he didn’t show compassion and forgiveness, to Valjean, there really wouldn’t be a story. Valjean would have stayed a hateful and angry and harsh man if it wasn’t for the actions the bishop does. He shows compassion by allowing Valjean a place to sleep and food to eat and is able to forgive Valjean.

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So you see , Les Mis deals with various levels of humanity. You have the the very worst and the very best and those in between.

Redemption: 

,1. Jean Valjean- Valjean goes on a path to redemption after the mercy shown to him from the bishop. By the end, he become a very saintlike and compassionate person despite his years in prison.

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Because Les Mis deals with so many areas of these spiritual themes, it makes Les Mis so much more than just a tragedy. It has this beautiful underlying spirituality, which is what I am able to relate to. It is why this tale is so inspirational. It is why it is not too depressing and why I am not sick and tried of it.

What I Love about Jean Valjean

Jean Valjean is the protagonist in Les Mis. He is an ex-convict unfairly sentenced for nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family. He is one of the best protagonists in the world of musicals.

Major Spoilers:

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He is a character that goes through a wonderful transformation. When he is released from prison, he is stuck on parole forever. Being in prison has hardened him to become a hateful and angry man. It is his transformation that makes him such a wonderful character in so many ways.

It wasn’t until he meets that bishop that he realizes he needs to change. He feels like society will always hate him. The bishop showed him an incredible act of mercy by inviting him to eat and sleep at his house. But Valjean hardened through prison repays by stealing his silver. But the bishop forgives him and gives him the silver. He has taught Valjean the ways of the Lord.

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It is in this particular moment, Valjean has realized just how much prison has hardened him and realizes that he needs to change his ways. He notices the compassion the bishop has shown him. In order to change his ways, he needs to break parole.

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So Valjean has become mayor and starts to show compassion to those of others. He opens up a factory. He helps the less fortunate. So his transformation has truly begun. He was given a second chance at life and starts to live by the ways of the bishop. He indirectly is responsible for the firing of Fantine. He shows compassion to her by promising to raise her child, Cosette, on her deathbed. So Valjean understands the value of compassion at this point. In addition, when an innocent man is accused of being the “real” Valjean, Valjean turns himself in to protect the man.

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Valjean discovers just how broken Cosette is. She has been abused by the Thenardiers. Valjean has become a father in the most unexpected ways. Jean Valjean has never known love and neither has Cosette. So the two form such a special bond. Cosette is the main happiness in Jean Valjean’s life. She helps him with his transformation to becoming a better person. You might think he is sheltering and protecting Cosette too much, but let’s remember he is an ex-convict on the run and knows that Javert is after him.

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In act II, Valjean realizing that Cosette loves Marius, he does an amazing act of courage. He realizes that his daughter loves Marius. He picks up on the fact that Marius might die on the barricade so he ends up going to the barricade to protect Marius in order to make sure that he lives. Marius and the students eventually realize the uprising is a lost cause. After “Drink With Me”, Jean Valjean prays to God to make sure Marius lives. So Jean Valjean has learned to love God and it is clear that he has such a strong spirit.

During the final battle, Marius seriously gets injured and he falls unconscious so Valjean carries him through the sewers and eventually rescues him from death. This act of courage shows just how much he loves Cosette. It shows that he is capable of both compassion and courage.

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Valjean dies at the end. But he gets to die with Marius, his now son-in-law, and Cosette by his side. He has finally redeemed himself. He has become such a compassionate and saint-like man. He has lived a tough life of being an ex-convict, but he learns to love through Cosette. He has learned a lot of lessons through the bishop and that is why he was able to become a better person.

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So his transformation makes him such a well-loved character. To start out as a hateful, harsh, and angry man into a compassionate and saint-like man is so inspiring. He has developed a wonderful love for God. Due to being to prison, he rescues an innocent man from being sentenced to prison. He also rescues a man trapped under a cart. So he does many moments of risking himself for the sake of other people. Cosette has taught him how to love and he would anything for her even if it means losing her forever. That is why he rescues Marius. So his transformation and his actions make me love him so much.

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.

My Strong Love for Musicals and Christian Music

I am so thankful for my deep love for Christian music and musicals. Because without them, I do not know where I would be right now. They truly taught me the power of music. Christian music did teach me that music can bring back memories and can make you feel connected to God. A lot of the Christian songs that I love remind me of the different memories I had at Kanuga. Part of the Kanuga songs remind me of Parish weekends and while the rest are more for Winterlight.

The lyrics below are from a Christian song I learned to love at Kanuga. It is called “The Servant Song” and it reminds me of Kanuga each time I listen to it, but it also reminds me of the Bristol Pilgrimage that I went on two years ago. I sing contemporary Christian music every week at school at our student-led worship service.

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Motto of the trip

On the other hand, musicals really did teach me the emotional impact of music especially considering the shows that are still so new and fresh in my life. Every single musical has more than one emotion in it. Some have a few and while some have a lot. The five emotions that tie musicals together are excitement, joy, love, heartbreak and sadness, which are five of the most common emotions found in them. I grew up with comedies and happy musicals. I grew up with musicals like Annie, Sound of Music, Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Cats, Grease, Aladdin and Wicked.

Wicked is the musical where I first started to understand the emotional side of musicals. That was back in 2006 when I first saw it on Broadway with my mom. I was only 12 at the time and I do remember “Popular” being my favorite song. This was the only show that I grew up with where I actually remember sad being part of. The main emotions growing up were basically excitement, love, joy, and sad. Heartbreak wasn’t there because I didn’t understand what it meant for a song to be heartbreaking. “I’m Not That Girl” was just a sad song and I strongly disliked “No Good Deed” at the time.

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Even though I learned to love two sad musicals, I found a way to still describe all musicals as joyful and I did that by describing them in the best positive way I can. Those two sad musicals are Les Mis and Rent. I fell in love with Rent by listening to the songs though Pandora and I fell in love with it first, but didn’t realize it was sad until after I had already seen the Les Mis movie. I was able to realize that they both have a positive nature. Rent is really a story about what to do with the life that you have and how do you measure it. It teaches you to live in the moment and measure your life in love and it really is a celebration of life. Les Mis is really a story about hope, love, compassion, forgiveness, sacrifice, humanity and redemption.  Without Les Mis, I may never have actually understood what it means for a musical song to be heartbreaking.

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Other emotions I found in musicals are hope, love, anger, compassion, haunting, uplifting, loneliness, guilt, desperation, devastation, depressing, fear and uncomfortable. I still cannot believe that musicals range from being very happy all the way down to very sad, which is more layers than one might find. Annie would be a very happy show even though it has one sad song in it, which is “Maybe”, but that song isn’t that sad at all. Annie is very happy because it is pretty much all joy from start to finish and barely has any conflict. On the other side, Les Mis would be very sad. Musicals are like a series of ladders overlapping each other with each ladder representing something different.

There is a huge difference between the emotions within a show compared to whether a show is happy or not. Musicals have come such a long way since shows like Annie and Sound of Music which are both very happy and simple and those two do not have that many emotions in it at all. Eventually they built up to a show like Les Mis, which is a lot more powerful and filled with this incredible wide range of emotions starting with uplifting building eventually to depressing. In the past I thought a song could not push past sad, but it sure did in Les Mis. I know deep down that musicals will continue to play games on me and change because I am still young and have yet to discover other new ones.

I don’t Doubt that I will stop loving Christian Music and musicals. I truly learned about the power of music through them. They taught me how music can bring back memories and the emotional impact that music can bring.

Heartbreak and Inspiration of Les Mis

A progress from evil to good, from injustice to justice, from falsehood to truth, from night to day, from appetite to conscience, from corruption to life; from bestiality to duty; from hell to heaven, from nothingness to God. The starting point: matter, destination: the soul. The hydra at the beginning, the angel at the end

-Victor Hugo

Yes, Les Mis again

The quote above just shows the tale of Les Mis and how the main character’s journey progresses from beginning to end.

The musical, Les Misérables, is one of the most successful musicals of all time. The tile literally means the miserable and can even mean the downtrodden, the outcasts, and the fugitives. The title literally gives away the fact that Les Mis is indeed a very heartbreaking musical. The musical takes place during early 19th century France starting in 1815 and ending up in 1832.

It can be quite curious as to why such a heartbreaking musical is so successful. I do remember the first time I saw the movie, the moment I learned Les Mis was a tragedy, I was so confused and sort of lost. That time around, I saw the musical as too depressing. I didn’t know if I actually liked that movie or not when it finished. I didn’t know if I would give the movie a second chance or not.

Despite all the confusion, I still decided to research the musical and learn more about the book. I even started to listen to the songs more and discover more about them. After all of that, I did decide to watch the musical movie a second time. This time around, I truly knew there was something special about the musical. I was curious as to why so much heartbreak can actually make you feel uplifted in the end.

In Les Mis, it is important not to view the musical as just a heartbreaking musical because it is way more than that. True, most of the scenes are sad and heartbreaking, but those scenes are incredible scenes to watch as a matter of fact. The story is one of misery, heartbreaking, suffering and death, but also a story of love, compassion, hope, sacrifice, forgiveness, humanity and redemption. In a lot of ways, the inspirational side of Les Mis does exist throughout the heartbreaking nature.

The heartbreaking and the inspirational nature of this musical both show up in the prologue. The very first scene, the negative emotions enter the picture and up until the bishop scene, we see Valjean being treated poorly by society. No one is given him a place to stay, a job, or even something to eat all because he was an ex-convict. All of those scenes are heartbreaking and we can feel the injustice that Valjean faces. But enter the bishop and he offers Valjean a place to sleep and food to eat. But Valjean does still steal some silver from the bishop out of desperation and he is caught. He is surprised that the bishop actually lies and tells the police that he gave Valjean the silver has a gift and gives Valjean two candlesticks. Valjean uses the lesson that bishop taught him throughout the rest of this journey. The moment the heartbreaking and the inspirational natures clash together, the two are inseparable.

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Possible Spoilers:

You see inspiration through Valjean helping the poor once he becomes mayor. There is something inspirational about Valjean rescuing a man who has fallen under his cart. There is even inspiration when Valjean learns that a man was falsely accused of being him and Valjean turns himself in. But Valjean truly shows compassion towards Fantine, a former worker at Valjean’s factory, who turns to prostitution after being fired. Valjean promises to Fantine on her deathbed that he will raise Cosette, Fantine’s daughter, as his own. So there is compassion shown during death scenes.

Another death scene where compassion is shown is through Eponine’s death scene. She has just retuned to the barricades (different circumstance in the movie) and gets caught in the crossfire and gets shot and unfortunately her wounds are fatal. She loves Marius, a revolutionary on the barricade, unrequitedly. The moment she climbs over the barricade, Marius has no clue that she is terribly hurt. But after she collapses in his arms, Marius knows what is going on. He is truly devastated, but ultimately shows her compassion by never leaving her side. Even though he thinks it is too soon for her to leave, he still stays brave for her.

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There is something hopeful about the students standing up against the government. They are so passionate about their cause. Up until Eponine’s death, the students feel like there is a chance they will win. But after Eponine died, the students realized that they are way outnumbered and feel hopeless. But they still fight hoping that others will stand up for what they believe in. Valjean arrives shortly after Eponine died and he shows mercy and forgiveness towards Javert after he releases him from the barricades even though he promised the students he will execute Javert.

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If I never found a spiritual side to Les Mis, I feel like I would be kind of tired of the musical by now. I love feeling hurt and heartbroken in this musical because I strongly care about the characters and strongly love the plot and strongly love how the show makes you feel. You can feel hope, compassion, forgiveness, love, joy, excitement, uplifted, sad, heartbreak, guilt, loneliness, anger, hopeless, fear, desperation, devastation, depressed, and even uncomfortable and there are even more than that. To understand the success of Les Mis, you need to see beyond its heartbreaking nature.

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The reasons why I believe Les Mis is so successful because it has incredible and memorable characters, like the angered, harsh, hateful turned compassionate and saintlike Valjean, the strict and obsessive Javert, the loving and prostitute Fantine, the greedy, abusive and comical Thenardiers, the loving, brave, neglected and lonely Eponine, the revolutionary and romantic Marius, the kind and innocent Cosette, the passionate and hopeful, leader Enjolras, and the unloved and heroic Gavroche. In addition, I love the brilliance of the story, which is the tale of Jean Valjean, an ex-convict and his journey to redemption, which includes the love triangle of Eponine, Marius and Cosette, the student uprising (AKA June Rebellion of 1832), and the story of Fantine.

But ultimately, I think the biggest reason why Les Mis is so successful is due the emotional nature of the songs. They make you feel several emotions at such a deep level all the way to the deepest level of the Holy Spirit. This musical feel so realistic and feels like you can truly care about the characters. Even though it is heartbreaking, it has several topics found in Christianity like love, humanity, sacrifice,  compassion, forgiveness, hope, and redemption. Les Mis is the most powerful musical ever and its complexity changed my view on musicals and taught me the value of tragedy in the first place.

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