A New Revolution- 6th

On November 3rd, I saw Les Mis at Ovens Auditorium during the US Tour. As so many know, I am a massive fan of the musical. This cast will consist of some of the actors I saw back when the tour first was launched- only five of the nine actors from last time were part of this particular cast.

Cast:

Jean Valjean: Andrew Maughan (Understudy)

Javert: Josh Davis

Fantine: Mary Kate Moore

Cosette: Jillian Butler

Marius: Joshua Grosso

Eponine: Paige Smallwood

Enjolras: Matt Shingledecker

Monsieur Thenardier: Jimmy Smagula

Madame Thenardier: Allison Guinn

Young Cosette: Mackenzie Mercer

Gavroche: Robbie Crandall

Seats:

The best seats, at Ovens, in my opinion are in the Mezzanine. I got to sit in the Mezzanine. I loved those seats- I got to see everything and hear everything. They were also were part of the center.

Staging:

As this is the new production, I still love it. I love how it adds a little bit more color by using the paintings as the backdrop- those also add a bit more Victor Hugo into the set. I loved how “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” was staged- that was one of my favorite parts of the new production. The new staging really shows the vastness of Paris. My only disappointment though was that when time changed- there was no year on the backdrop- that does help explain things.

Portrayals:

Jean Valjean- I was hoping to get Nick Cartell (a standout from 2017), but ended up with an understudy. Because he was an understudy, I knew I had to respect and appreciate his Valjean. In most cases, that wouldn’t be the case. Usually, when I see Les Mis, my tears start at “I Dreamed a Dream”- but when I saw it, guess what happened- I started crying during “What have I Done”. I started to become an emotional wreck sooner than I expected. So, Valjean’s transformation started to show- I was wondering how would be tackle “Bring Him Home”, the song many Valjean’s look forward to singing the most. I loved his version of “Bring Him Home”. So, Andrew defiantly was able to bring out Valjean’s transformation.

Javert- so, Josh Davis was an actor that stayed with the tour in 2017 and was part of my cast yesterday. I was wondering if he would be better yesterday. I always struggle with Javert. It is hard to find common ground or feel sympathy. I think Josh was a little bit stronger this time around. He defiantly mastered Javert’s voice like last time, and the reason why I said he improved was because I think he had a much stronger “Stars”.

Fantine- I wanted Mary Kate Moore as Fantine. Back in 2017, she was part of my ensemble, and then in 2018, she become Fantine after being the understudy. It is hard to watch any Fantine on stage. Just like I expected- “I Dreamed a Dream” reduced me to tears. Her Fantine was amazing.

Cosette- Jillian Butler was part of my 2017 cast. She has this beautiful soprano voice. She somehow can connect to a charming and awkward Marius. It actually makes those two a more adorable and better couple. I strongly love Jillian and Joshua together as Marius and Cosette.

Marius- I am glad that I saw Joshua Grosso again. In 2017, he was one of my standouts. So seeing him again was such a delight. He was still a charming and awkward Marius- one example was during “A Heart Full of Love”- he literally treated falling in love with Cosette like he had no idea what to do. Once again, during “A Little Fall of Rain”, he focused more on comforting Eponine less than the heartbreak he was feeling. People might think he should show the heartbreak more, but do not forget in that scene, Marius is also supposed to show comfort and compassion to Eponine as well. At the end, the reaction was a bit different- that was because he was interacting with a different Eponine. I did not even know if he was going to end the song- that did tell me was heartbroken over her death. So, I saw all of the same things I loved about Joshua’s Marius in the first place.

Paige Smallwood- While Jillian and Joshua were still Marius and Cosette, I had a different Eponine. I had no idea how just one actress could impact the love triangle. She could affect it in a minor or major way only because I already saw the other two back in 2017. “On My Own”- that song actually made me cry this time around. “A Little Fall of Rain”- so believable and I could easily tell she was getting weaker and dying and that she was dying after getting shot.

Matt Shingledecker- He was a standout from 2017. It was nice getting to see him this time around. So I had two of my three standouts from last time. He still felt like a passionate leader. It can be hard to describe why I love Matt so much.

Allison Guinn/ Jimmy Smagula- I had seen Allison Guinn both in 2017 and this time around. I had no idea what she would be like with Jimmy. I knew I loved her as Madame Thenardier so it was interesting seeing her with a new Thenardier. Like many Thenardiers, they were hilarious. So Allison does work well with Jimmy.

Young Cosette/Gavroche- The children of Les Mis were Mackenzie Mercer and Robbie Crandall. Playing Young Cosette and Gavroche, they had a challenge to do. To be on stage and to be a child in a show like Les Mis is not easy. They still were incredible in their roles.

Some of my Favorite Les Mis lyrics

Well, part of why Les Mis is such a wonderful musical is because of it’s powerful songs. What are some of my favorite lyrics from its songs?

-Even the Darkest Night will End and the Sun Will Raise

-To love Another Person is to See the Face of God

– A Heart full of Love

– A Life About to Start when Tomorrow comes

-Tomorrow we’ll discover what our God in Heaven has in store

– A Little Fall of Rain can Hardly Hurt me Now

– 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?

-Bring Him Home. Hear my Prayer.

-etc: there are a lot of beautiful lyrics in Les Mis. That is part of why it is a powerful musical

Reasons why I still Love Les Mis

There have been people who still can not seem to understand why I still love Les Mis. I usually am asked “why would you still want to see “Les Mis” if you will still feel that way?”. I guess those people do not understand how the connection between emotional connection and negative emotions. I will explain below why I am still a Les Mis fanatic.

I still have a strong emotional connection to the characters, songs, and plot- it is important to form that between all three. If you fall in love with a tragic musical, you need the emotional connection to be strong. In Les Mis, I am NOT just feeling the negative emotions. I am also feeling love, hope, passion, joy, and excitement- those are part of Les Mis as well. When I first saw the movie- I fell in the trap of thinking it was TOO DEPRESSING. I eventually saw the underlying spirituality, which is part of why I am such a strong emotional connection to Les Mis: there are themes of hope, love, forgiveness, compassion, sacrifice, humanity, and redemption in there.

As for the characters, I love the strong connection I have to them. I love most of the principal characters: compassionate and protective Jean Valjean, Fantine, romantic Cosette, romantic and revolutionary Marius; brave and strong Eponine; and passionate and leader, and revolutionary Enjolras. The three other principal characters are obsessive and policeman Javert and the funny, unloving, and abusive Thenardiers. I love the other Friends of the ABC as well. They are so interconnected that they all feel like they belong in Les Mis. I have created such a beautiful bond to these characters. I am surprised that I still can find something new about them each time I see the musical. They will always stay alive in me- even the ones that do die. I love watching their stories unfold on stage even though some are harder to watch than others.

As far as songs: this musical has one of the strongest song lists. Usually in a musical, I can choose my favorite song. However in Les Mis, I cannot seem to choose. From the empowering and epic”One Day More” to the passionate and hopeful “Do you Hear the People Sing” to the bittersweet and heartbreaking “A Little Fall of Rain” to the devastating “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” to the beautiful and soulful “Bring Him Home” to the intimate and heartbreaking “Drink with Me” to the heartbreaking and beautiful “On My Own” to the heartbreaking “I Dreamed a Dream”- there are others that could easily be my favorite. The songs perfectly match the characters and plot. I am still an emotional wreck with these songs- I am glad there is “Master of the House”- it gives you a break- it is comic relief.

As for the plot- it is ultimately a tale about humanity. It is about Jean Valjean’s journey to redemption after being released from prison for stealing a loaf of bread to provide for his family. On top of that, there is a love triangle and an uprising. It is a very complex plot- it can be hard to follow along during the first viewing. It is truly a human story. All of the characters experience some kind of hardship- it truly does show this is what happens in life at times. Everything in the plot is meant to happen: as in if you get rid of one tiny thing, the entire story starts falling apart. It may be a tragedy, but it gives you a message of hope. When a musical is meaningful, it is impossible to stop loving it.

My Overall Opinion of the PBS Masterpiece Les Mis Series

For the past six weeks, I have been watching the PBS Masterpiece Series of Les Mis. Each week on this blog, I did talk about each episode, and what happened. This post will focus on what my overall opinion was.

Major Spoilers:

In my opinion, I felt like this series needed more than six episodes. The last two episodes felt rushed with two subplots. I wished the series could have spent more time on the romance between Marius and Cosette and the Uprising. Those were speed up too quickly just to fit everything in- those are my favorite subplots that happen in Les Mis: the love triangle and the uprising.

What I do love is that the series focused much more on backstory. This series was not based on the musical- it was more book based- even though some things I saw never happened in the book or musical.

We were able to see what happened to Fantine before Felix (Cosette’s biological father) abandoned her- we saw her when she was truly happy. It makes her story much more heartbreaking- not only did we see Felix leaving her, but we also saw Fantine leaving Cosette in the hands of the Thenardiers. Seeing those two elements puts much more pain into her storyline- after all, if you know Les Mis, you do know how poorly the Thenardiers treat Cosette. It was harder for me to watch the “Lovely Ladies” scene in this version- I felt more uncomfortable with it- the scene always made me uncomfortable, but this one was more intense. I actually do love the fact that Azelma is in this series- she is one of the Thenardier children after all.

Thinking of Thenardiers, at the beginning of the series, it starts at the Battle of Waterloo, which helps clear up the fact that Les Mis does not take place during The French Revolution. It does show Thenardier “rescuing” Marius’ father- that scene is important to Marius’ backstory. When it comes to the Thenardiers’, you saw how abusive they really are-when you first saw them, it does appear as if they are “good” people, but after Fantine left them, you eventually saw Azelma and Eponine mistreating Cosette. You saw Cosette being abused at a much deeper level. You saw Gavroche in their house- now you know he is their son. You saw them falling into poverty. This version made me hate the Thenardiers even more- seeing just how poorly they treat Azelma and Eponine- right when Cosette left, we saw a scene with one of their daughters being treated as a servant- so we do realize that if Cosette wasn’t there, both daughters would have treated the same way.

Back to Jean Valjean- in the musical, you have an idea of how prison affected him. What this version is able to do is show you how poorly Toulon really is. You saw that Valjean did believe that love can’t change a man- that was before he was forgiven. You saw multiple scenes of Toulon, and you saw them affecting Valjean at a much deeper level- so you can understand better why he left prison as man with so much anger at society- because of his days in prison. Now one thing never made sense- one plot point never happened- in this series, he fired Fantine- well, in the book, it was a woman foreman who fired Fantine. I did not understand that change.

At the same time- I can now understand why Javert believes “once a criminal always a criminal”- he says Valjean that he was born in jail and that his parents were criminals, and that he learned to hate them- I never really understand that viewpoint- now it makes sense.

Now, I would like to talk about the love triangle. It actually showed a side to Marius that we never get in the musical- a side that shows up only in the book: it is a part of him that makes him complex. This does start when he was a child- you saw his grandfather raising him to believe his father hated him, which he eventually realized wasn’t true. That is what soon led to him having this political conflict- that side is what made him complex-one of the reasons why I love him as a character. Many people say he is annoying and a jerk- but I disagree: yes, even from the book, I never saw him that way. Marius still is a revolutionary- not at first- he is not close to the revolutionaries here- which I did expect- still sticking close to the book.

The love triangle was subtle in the book, and it is in this series, but I did feel like the romance was rushed. I love Marius and Cosette as a couple- but I felt like the series could have spent more time on their relationship. They only had like one scene in the Gardens and two in Rue Plumet- this was before the barricade- wish there was more of them. As far as Eponine goes- I am glad this series focused on what her life was like outside of Marius more than the unrequited love. They do show the unrequited love-yes, but we got several scenes that showed her life outside of him. I knew it was there for all the scenes she had with him (since I saw the musical and read the book), but the first scene she made it clear was right after she led him to Rue Plumet-That was when I realized she was in love with him. The love triangle still feels rushed- even though it still stays subtle like the book- but it is too rushed. Marius and Eponine’s relationship is closer to being acquaintances here- which I was expecting due to knowing this series was following the book. Just like in book, Eponine sacrificed her life for Marius at the barricade, and Marius stayed with her. In both the book and musical, I believe Marius is still this kind, sweet, compassionate, brave, and romantic revolutionary.

Cosette- you have a lot more sympathy for Young Cosette. You actually saw how abused she is. As she gets older, I am glad you saw how overprotected and sheltered she. It does make sense- for starters, Valjean is an ex-convict and is trying not to be recaptured and Cosette means everything to him. What I do love in this series is that it shows Valjean raising Cosette.

Another subplot that I felt is too rushed is the uprising. I love Enjolras and the students. All the uprising events take place in the 5th/6th episode- so much had to happen in those episodes for the story to finish. You already saw a bit of uprising in the 4th episode, but you only got introduced to Enjolras and the students. The 5th episode is more about planning and the beginning of the uprising, but had to end with Valjean leaving for the barricade- I thought that was odd. I wanted more time with them- it was like it was quick action before the uprising even started. The musical makes it always clear who Enjolras is, but at times in the series- I kept on forgetting- you are supposed to always knew which one of the group he is. Literally in the 6th episode after Valjean released Javert, the final battle began- that was too rushed to get there.

Conclusion:

I thought it was a wonderful way to watch Les Mis. I still had moments I was in tears- some of those were moment I was expecting to cry during- “A Little Fall of Rain” for instance. I still think this series needed one or two more episodes. I wished some moments were not rushed- the uprising and romance was too rushed. The 5th and 6th episode were extremely rushed at the start just to fit everything. Some moments happened way too soon- as in should have happened later- reasons why there should have been more than six episodes.

Les Misérables-Episode 5

Major Spoilers:

Last week the final scene was “The Robbery”. This episode was more focused on the romance between Marius and Cosette, but was mostly focused on the Uprising. What I didn’t know was if we would see any of the Uprising taking place or not- would we only see the student planning the uprising and building the barricade and then the episode would stop.

Some things had to happen pretty quickly for this episode to work out. It was the 2nd to last episode. We did see Eponine and her sister in prison and released. We saw Javert still being obsessed over finding Valjean despite the uprising that is soon to happen.

Back to the love triangle. Last week’s episode, it was hard to spot the romance. I knew that the love triangle was subtle in the book. This episode made the romance more clear. Now Eponine is leading Marius to Cosette’s house. Marius and Cosette are finally able to confess their love for each other. I also was able to spot Eponine’s love for Marius- that was very very difficult to find in the book.

Well, in this episode, when it comes to the students you see them planning the uprising and building the barricade. The uprising does begin in this episode. There are two deaths in this episode- one of which is one that only happens in the book- Mabeuf, who is the first one to die during the uprising. We do see Eponine’s death as well, which I did cry during, which I did expect. Gavroche delivers the letter to Valjean, and the episode ends after Valjean leaves for the uprising. So we are in the middle of an uprising- at the end of this episode.

I am starting to feel like this series needs a 7th episode. I don’t know if an episode should end in the middle of an uprising- that seems like an odd place to end. The next episode needs to have things happen at quick speed in the same speed some of the events in this episode happens. Knowing Les Mis- the next episode is going to be filled with death considering the fact that we still are in the middle of an uprising and there are two more after the uprising. Knowing Les Mis- there is still a lot that needs to happen.

Below are what happened in the other episodes:

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2019/05/07/les-miserables-series-episode-4/

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2019/04/30/les-miserables-episode-3/

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2019/04/24/les-miserables-series-episode-2/

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2019/04/16/les-miserables-series/

Les Misérables Series-Episode 4

Now I have watched four episodes of the Les Misérables series. I was waiting until there was a time jump into 1832. Finally it happened. The last episode ended at Valjean and Cosette escaping into the convent- so there needed to be a time jump. Two of my favorite storylines of Les Misérables are the romance and the uprising- that happens later in the storyline- in 1832- and that wasn’t part of episode 3.

Major Spoilers:

In the beginning of this series, you see that Cosette has finally grown up. I was wondering when that time jump would happen. Valjean and Cosette are still living at Covent. Cosette convinces her adopted father that it is time for them to move out because she wants to see more of the world. They move into Rue Plumet, and they do go on walks into the Luxembourg Gardens.

Now we are back on a grown up Marius. Marius finds out the truth about his father. He realizes he has been lied to by his grandfather all of these years about his father. Learning this does help make Marius a complex character. His grandfather tells Marius to move out after Marius blows up on him after telling him “why did you lie to me all of these years”. Where Marius moves to is the same place the Thenardiers currently live. At some point in this episode, Marius meets Courfeyrac, who introduces him to The Friends of The ABC- finally we meet them. The Friends of the ABC are some of my favorite characters in the book and musical- it their brotherly love for each other and their passion for the cause that makes me love them so much.

This is the episode where Marius and Cosette first meet. Instead of Marius and Cosette learning each others names at Cosette’s house, they learn each others’ name where they first met, which never happened in the musical or the book. So, this episode begins the love Marius and Cosette have. I still love the two of them together, and my opinion will never change.

I will go back to the Thenardiers again- now they are living as the Jondrettes next door to Marius. Their poverty has gotten worse- they are now living in extreme poverty. You do notice that Gavroche is no longer living with them. Only Azelma and Eponine are living with them-you see Monsieur Thenardier showing his abuse on Eponine. You see Eponine delivering the letters, which are hoaxes. Eponine does recognize that Marius does have a good heart when they first interacted. Marius is able to look through a peek hole, and actually sees how terrible this family is treating their daughters and learns of the robbery that will happen later, and reports this to Javert.

The episode ends at the “Robbery”. The next episode will focus more on the romance between Marius and Cosette and the rebellion.

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2019/04/30/les-miserables-episode-3/

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2019/04/24/les-miserables-series-episode-2/

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2019/04/16/les-miserables-series/

Les Misérables-Episode 3

I have finally watched episode three in the Les Misérables series. It is interesting how you can match scene with song. Below I will talk about this episode.

Major Spoilers:

This episode starts where the last episode ends. Fantine is weaker now, and thinks that Valjean is getting her child. Valjean is actually saving an innocent man from getting imprisoned. They have convicts in the case, and they all believe this innocent man is Jean Valjean. The real Valjean proves it is him by saying markings he knows they have, and then turning to Javert. He does go to his factory asking if that woman came for Cosette, and she did not.

Fantine does die in this episode. She does figure out that Cosette isn’t there. Javert is there, and does tell Fantine the truth about Valjean- that he is a thief, and she dies from the shock. That is exactly how she dies in the book. She does not get to know if Valjean is going to raise her child or not- unlike the musical. Valjean, being recaptured, escapes once again, to find Cosette.

Cosette is treated even worse in this series. Madame Thenardier beats her and yells at her. You really get to see just how despicable and abusive those Thenardiers really are. When Cosette first meets Valjean, she does not know if she can trust him, but when he says he will not hurt her, she does trust him. He realizes the full extent of how Cosette is treated- he sees that Cosette is a servant. He ends up buying her a doll, and ended up buying her time to play.

A lot of this episode is focused on Valjean raising Cosette and being a father for the first time. You see other things happening like the moment when The Thenardiers’ inn fails, Javert chasing Valjean/Cosette (this is when they end up in Convent), and you do see the Thenardiers beginning to treat Azelma like a servant. So you realize, that if Cosette wasn’t there, the Thenardiers would have treated their daughters just as poorly. When Javert first visits the Thenardiers’ inn, he does recognize Thenardier as a scoundrel. There was no time jump into 1832 in this episode- that isn’t going to happen until the 4th episode.

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2019/04/24/les-miserables-series-episode-2/

https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2019/04/16/les-miserables-series/