Thursday, December 1, 2011

12-1-11: Les Miserables - The Motion Picture

In just a little over a year, 12-07-12, the motion picture version of one of my all-time favorite musicals "Les Miserables" will finally hit the silver screen. Based on Victor Hugo's timeless classic, the story follows Jean Valjean, an ex-con and his powerful journey to redemption.

I think this was one of the first musicals I had ever seen, not counting high school productions. It was either this or "Phantom of the Opera". I'm pretty sure it was this. My brother insisted on taking me, I was at first hesitant since I never watched that many musicals. I was blown away, I even shed a tear or three. I was in my late teens or early twenties.

It did not feature a single spoken word, every word was sung. Now I've heard that there will be spoken dialogue in the feature film which I'm fine with as long as it's used properly.

Tom Hooper, who directed last year's Best Picture "The King's Speech", is directing. I remember way back when I saw "Les Miz" for a second time the Playbill featured an ad that the film version was coming and would be directed by Sir Richard Attenborough. That never came to pass. "The King's Speech" was a fantastic film so I feel the project is in good hands.

Now my biggest concern was the casting. The film will clearly be a different experience. On stage, sitting in back you can focus on the music and not so much the acting. If you can feel the performance through their singing then they've done their job. However, with film the camera will be feet away from the performer's face which means they must not only be able to sing and sing well but have to be able to act as well.

Thankfully, Hooper is taking this to heart and is putting together a great cast of actors who CAN sing and CAN act, some who have been nominated or won Academy Awards. Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean. When given the right role, he can act. Since he's been on Broadway and sang at the Oscars he can sing. Russell Crowe as Javert. Fine actor and he's in a band so he can sing. Despite this being the first film where he'll show his chops I'm confident he will do fine. Anne Hathaway is Fantine. A fine actress and excellent singer. She had auditioned for Schumacher's "Phantom of the Opera" but could not do it due to prior commitments. I thought she would have been great. As the Thenardiers, Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush. Great actors and yes singers. I simply cannot wait to see the showstopper "Master of the House." Eddie Redmayne is Marius. I recently saw him in "My Week with Marilyn." He's a very good actor but I've never heard him sing so we'll see but I think he's a good choice.

This leaves the pivotal role of Eponine. The two songs and moments that have always stuck with me were "Bring Him Home" and "A Little Fall of Rain". The first time I saw "Les Miz" when "A Little Fall of Rain" was sung I was very moved, moved to tears. I could feel her performance. When I saw it again with a different Eponine, I didn't feel her performance because it felt to me like she was just singing. She didn't give the moment any depth or emotion which is why I hope they get the right actor for this part.

I've heard four names in the running. Scarlett Johannson, Evan Rachel Wood...I don't know perhaps. Taylor Swift...if you respect the material then NO. Finally, Lea Michelle. Yes, Rachel Barrett from Glee. Not only can she sing but she can emote the proper amount of emotion necessary for this role. Am I really basing my opinion on her role in Glee. No. Watch the following video.


Her performance here captured everything I loved about the first time I saw "A Little Fall of Rain" performed. So if the powers-that-be are paying attention, this is a no brainer, cast her!

So needless to say this is one of my most eagerly anticipated films of next year. I can't wait to see the first trailer.

If you haven't seen it on stage, do so. Otherwise, pick up the DVD/Blu-ray of the Anniversary Concert.

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