Friday, September 27, 2013

Celebrate Musicals Week: My Top Five Favorite Barricade Boys

This is the last day (for me- I won't be able to post on Saturday) of Celebrate Musicals Week.  Before I get started, I'd like to say a huge thank you to Miss Dashwood, who arranged all this.  I'm sure it was a tremendous amount of work, and I really appreciate it. :)

While doing the tag for CMW earlier this week, I had to answer a question about my three favorite characters.  I answered Jean Valjean, Fantine and Eponine 'cause it was too hard to narrow it down otherwise.  However, I'm making up for it now with an in-depth post about the barricade boys!  More specifically, my top five favorites.

1. Combeferre
 "Combeferre was as gentle as Enjolras was severe, through natural whiteness. He loved the word citizen, but he preferred the word man. He would gladly have said: Hombre, like the Spanish. He read everything, went to the theatres, attended the courses of public lecturers, learned the polarization of light from Arago, grew enthusiastic over a lesson in which Geoffrey Sainte-Hilaire explained the double function of the external carotid artery, and the internal, the one which makes the face, and the one which makes the brain; he kept up with what was going on, followed science step by step, compared Saint-Simon with Fourier, deciphered hieroglyphics, broke the pebble which he found and reasoned on geology, drew from memory a silkworm moth, pointed out the faulty French in the Dictionary of the Academy, studied Puysegur and Deleuze, affirmed nothing, not even miracles; denied nothing, not even ghosts; turned over the files of the Moniteur, reflected. He declared that the future lies in the hand of the schoolmaster, and busied himself with educational questions. He desired that society should labor without relaxation at the elevation of the moral and intellectual level, at coining science, at putting ideas into circulation, at increasing the mind in youthful persons, and he feared lest the present poverty of method, the paltriness from a literary point of view confined to two or three centuries called classic, the tyrannical dogmatism of official pedants, scholastic prejudices and routines should end by converting our colleges into artificial oyster beds. He was learned, a purist, exact, a graduate of the Polytechnic, a close student, and at the same time, thoughtful "even to chimaeras," so his friends said. He believed in all dreams, railroads, the suppression of suffering in chirurgical operations, the fixing of images in the dark chamber, the electric telegraph, the steering of balloons. Moreover, he was not much alarmed by the citadels erected against the human mind in every direction, by superstition, despotism, and prejudice. He was one of those who think that science will eventually turn the position."
-Chapter I, "The Friends of the A B C," Marius, Les Miserables

 Combeferre is my favorite barricade boy, ever.  He's calm and logical, and has his own kind of cool strength.  He loves peace and "prefers the whiteness of beauty to the radiance of the sublime."  He's also very compassionate, and hates to see anyone get hurt.  He is willing to consider anything, he's very studious, and he's Enjolras' best friend.
At the barricades, he's usually doing something that will comfort someone.  He supports Enjolras when he murders Le Cabuc (brick only), he is the first to suggest that the insurgents negotiate with the National Guard for the life of Jehan.  In the movie, he's one of the last ones standing; he dies with Joly and Courfeyrac, trying to protect them.  In the brick, he's helping a wounded soldier, one of the enemy, to safety.  His reward?  Getting bayoneted in the back.

2. Jehan Prouvaire
"Jean Prouvaire was a still softer shade than Combeferre. His name was Jehan, owing to that petty momentary freak which mingled with the powerful and profound movement whence sprang the very essential study of the Middle Ages. Jean Prouvaire was in love; he cultivated a pot of flowers, played on the flute, made verses, loved the people, pitied woman, wept over the child, confounded God and the future in the same confidence, and blamed the Revolution for having caused the fall of a royal head, that of Andre Chenier. His voice was ordinarily delicate, but suddenly grew manly. He was learned even to erudition, and almost an Orientalist. Above all, he was good; and, a very simple thing to those who know how nearly goodness borders on grandeur, in the matter of poetry, he preferred the immense. He knew Italian, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew; and these served him only for the perusal of four poets: Dante, Juvenal, AEschylus, and Isaiah. In French, he preferred Corneille to Racine, and Agrippa d'Aubigne to Corneille. He loved to saunter through fields of wild oats and corn-flowers, and busied himself with clouds nearly as much as with events. His mind had two attitudes, one on the side towards man, the other on that towards God; he studied or he contemplated. All day long, he buried himself in social questions, salary, capital, credit, marriage, religion, liberty of thought, education, penal servitude, poverty, association, property, production and sharing, the enigma of this lower world which covers the human ant-hill with darkness; and at night, he gazed upon the planets, those enormous beings. Like Enjolras, he was wealthy and an only son. He spoke softly, bowed his head, lowered his eyes, smiled with embarrassment, dressed badly, had an awkward air, blushed at a mere nothing, and was very timid. Yet he was intrepid."
 -Chapter I, "The Friends of the A B C," Marius, Les Miserables

Jehan is so sweet.  He loves flowers, writes poetry, has a sweetheart, and is adorably awkward.  But he's also brave and honorable, and ready to stand up for what's right.  He's also the only barricade boy who's said to be a Christian.

At the barricades, he's taken prisoner by the National Guard.  Enjolras and Combeferre are about to try to trade his life for that of Javert, but they're too late.  Before he dies, Jehan shouts, "Long live France!  Long live the future!"  He's making one last stand against what he thinks is wrong.

3. Enjolras

"Enjolras was a charming young man, who was capable of being terrible. He was angelically handsome. He was a savage Antinous. One would have said, to see the pensive thoughtfulness of his glance, that he had already, in some previous state of existence, traversed the revolutionary apocalypse. He possessed the tradition of it as though he had been a witness. He was acquainted with all the minute details of the great affair. A pontifical and warlike nature, a singular thing in a youth. He was an officiating priest and a man of war; from the immediate point of view, a soldier of the democracy; above the contemporary movement, the priest of the ideal. His eyes were deep, his lids a little red, his lower lip was thick and easily became disdainful, his brow was lofty. A great deal of brow in a face is like a great deal of horizon in a view. Like certain young men at the beginning of this century and the end of the last, who became illustrious at an early age, he was endowed with excessive youth, and was as rosy as a young girl, although subject to hours of pallor. Already a man, he still seemed a child. His two and twenty years appeared to be but seventeen; he was serious, it did not seem as though he were aware there was on earth a thing called woman. He had but one passion--the right; but one thought--to overthrow the obstacle. On Mount Aventine, he would have been Gracchus; in the Convention, he would have been Saint-Just. He hardly saw the roses, he ignored spring, he did not hear the carolling of the birds; the bare throat of Evadne would have moved him no more than it would have moved Aristogeiton; he, like Harmodius, thought flowers good for nothing except to conceal the sword. He was severe in his enjoyments. He chastely dropped his eyes before everything which was not the Republic. He was the marble lover of liberty. His speech was harshly inspired, and had the thrill of a hymn. He was subject to unexpected outbursts of soul."
 -Chapter I, "The Friends of the A B C," Marius, Les Miserables

Enjolras is my third-favorite barricade boy.  He has his faults, it's true- he's too narrow-minded and dogmatic, and he can be pretty ruthless.  But he's also incredibly strong and mature, and he doesn't turn bitter or angry even though he has no one to support him and he loves no one but France.

At the barricades, Enjolras dies facing an entire army without flinching.  They respect him, even though he's their enemy.  He is ready to comfort Grantaire when they're about to die.  And he doesn't try to escape or plead for his life.
I've actually written a post about Enjolras- if you want to hear my full opinion on him, you can read it here.

4. Courfeyrac
"Courfeyrac had, in fact, that animation of youth which may be called the beaute du diable of the mind. Later on, this disappears like the playfulness of the kitten, and all this grace ends, with the bourgeois, on two legs, and with the tomcat, on four paws.
This sort of wit is transmitted from generation to generation of the successive levies of youth who traverse the schools, who pass it from hand to hand, quasi cursores, and is almost always exactly the same; so that, as we have just pointed out, any one who had listened to Courfeyrac in 1828 would have thought he heard Tholomyes in 1817. Only, Courfeyrac was an honorable fellow. Beneath the apparent similarities of the exterior mind, the difference between him and Tholomyes was very great. The latent man which existed in the two was totally different in the first from what it was in the second. There was in Tholomyes a district attorney, and in Courfeyrac a paladin.
Enjolras was the chief, Combeferre was the guide, Courfeyrac was the centre. The others gave more light, he shed more warmth; the truth is, that he possessed all the qualities of a centre, roundness and radiance."
 -Chapter I, "The Friends of the A B C," Marius, Les Miserables

Courfeyrac is cheerful and fun.  He's witty, and he likes to laugh.  He's optimistic and rarely takes things seriously.  However, he is courageous and honorable (a "paladin" is "a knight renowned for heroism and chivalry," after all), and he never hesitates to do good for someone.

Victor Hugo gives no particulars about Courfeyrac's death; only "Courfeyrac was killed."  But in the movie, he dies with Enjolras, Joly and Combeferre.  He stayed strong in his own way, making fun of the soldiers and cracking jokes until he fell.

5. Grantaire
 "Among all these glowing hearts and thoroughly convinced minds, there was one sceptic. How came he there? By juxtaposition. This sceptic's name was Grantaire, and he was in the habit of signing himself with this rebus: R. Grantaire was a man who took good care not to believe in anything. Moreover, he was one of the students who had learned the most during their course at Paris; he knew that the best coffee was to be had at the Cafe Lemblin, and the best billiards at the Cafe Voltaire, that good cakes and lasses were to be found at the Ermitage, on the Boulevard du Maine, spatchcocked chickens at Mother Sauget's, excellent matelotes at the Barriere de la Cunette, and a certain thin white wine at the Barriere du Com pat. He knew the best place for everything; in addition, boxing and foot-fencing and some dances; and he was a thorough single-stick player. He was a tremendous drinker to boot. He was inordinately homely: the prettiest boot-stitcher of that day, Irma Boissy, enraged with his homeliness, pronounced sentence on him as follows: "Grantaire is impossible"; but Grantaire's fatuity was not to be disconcerted. He stared tenderly and fixedly at all women, with the air of saying to them all: "If I only chose!" and of trying to make his comrades believe that he was in general demand."
 -Chapter I, "The Friends of the A B C," Marius, Les Miserables

Grantaire is lazy, a drunkard, and cynical.  He's only tolerated by the other Friends of the ABC because he's also cheerful and friendly.  The only thing he believes in is Enjolras, and he keeps his faith in him even though he's continually yelled at or disdained.  (I think Enjolras was way too harsh with him, but that's no the point here.)

At the barricades, Grantaire gets drunk and sleeps through the entire battle; he wakes up just as Enjolras is about to get shot.  He could have stayed where he was; the soldiers would probably have missed him, and he could have escaped.  Instead, he stood up and proclaimed that he was one of them, redeeming himself for all his past mistakes.  He was shot with Enjolras.

And those are my favorite barricade boys!
Note: I consider the term "Friends of the ABC" to include only the nine young men Victor Hugo listed.  Therefore, Eponine, Gavroche and Marius are not included in "The Friends of the ABC."  However, they did fight at the barricade, so I consider them "insurgents," and to a lesser extent, "barricade boys."  That's why Eponine, Gavroche and Marius are not on this list.

Who are your favorite barricade boys?  Why?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Celebrate Musicals Week: The Songs of Les Miserables

Today, I'm going to post about the songs of Les Mis.  I was originally going to rank them in order of like/dislike, but I couldn't make up my mind 'cause I love them all so much (with the exception of MotH and LL, of course).  So, I'm just listing them and putting my thoughts underneath.  I was also going to put up the second part of my review of Les Mis today, which is the songs, so I'm just combining the two.  Enjoy! :)
"Look Down"
This song is so cool.  I loved it in the movie, where it was in the shipyard and you can actually see Valjean's strength.  This is not my very favorite song, but I like it a lot, and it's definitely a great, dramatic opening to a show like Les Mis.
"The Bishop" 
Sung to the tune of "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables," this song is one of the turning points of Valjean's life.  I was so excited to see Colm Wilkinson's performance as the Bishop in the 2012 movie, and he did not disappoint.  He was a perfect Bishop, and he managed to reach that low note at the end amazingly well.
 "Valjean's Soliloquy" 
Valjean is completely bewildered by the mercy of the Bishop.  This song is so stirring and tense as he decides what he wants to do with his life.  Hugh Jackman's performance, though...he got the guilty, confused part amazingly, and when you watch it, it's very convincing.  But when you listen to it...except for the end, where he actually breaks down and is crying, he doesn't convey much emotion in his voice. 
"At The End Of The Day" 
This song is one of the huge ensemble songs that always wow me in the movie because the scope is so huge.  The movie of it was just amazing.  You could actually see the sad condition the poor were in, and they sounded so angry and hopeless.  The 2012 version is quite probably my favorite.
"The Docks (Lovely Ladies)" 
Well.  I really, really wish that they had made this song more appropriate, so I could watch/listen to it.  Unfortunately, they didn't.  I've watched several clips of Fantine (Anne Hathaway) getting her hair cut, and wow.  She was so emotional.
 "I Dreamed A Dream" 
 I'm sure you've all heard it: Anne Hathaway was wonderful and marvelous and you could just feel her pain during IDAD.
It's true.  Anne Hathaway deserved every award she received on the merit of that song alone.  But there's more...
 "Fantine's Arrest" 

Anne Hathaway did a wonderful, amazing job.  'Nuff said.
One little thing that I loved was that they had Jean Valjean out there administering to the poor and that's how he found Fantine.  It's always been a little mysterious to me how he just suddenly appears and saves her.
"Who Am I?" 

I love this song and I love Hugh Jackman's version.  He was at his best here, IMO.
"Fantine's Death" 
This is one song that has never really made me cry all that much.  I feel sad, but I've never actually gotten into it as much as, say, "A Little Fall of Rain."  This changed all that.  Ohmygoodness, it was so heartbreaking.
"The Confrontation" 
Annnnd this is where Russell Crowe comes in again and...I really enjoy his performance on this one.  He does a sort of monotone, growly thing that, in my opinion, personifies the character of Javert.  Hugh Jackman did a good job too, but I didn't like Russell Crowe as much in some of the other songs, so this was his chance to shine, I guess.
"Castle On A Cloud" 

Agh.  I've always liked "Castle On A Cloud," even though it's not the most popular song in the world of Les Mis.  But this was the cuuutest version EVER.  Isabelle Allan is so talented.
"Master Of The House"
This was another one that we skipped entirely.  No thoughts on it.
 "The Bargain" 

This was one of the rare funny songs in Les Mis, and Helena Bonham-Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen both did marvelous jobs.  They were hilarious! "Let's not haggle for darling Colette!" "Cosette."  "...Cosette!"
I'd heard a lot about this song, both good and bad, and I was curious about it.  I actually really loved this song.  It was very meaningful and since the music was written for him, Hugh Jackman did a wonderful job. (Not that he wouldn't have was just a bonus.) 
"The Convent" 

This song isn't really a "song," per se, but I thought the nuns singing the tune of ECaET was really nice and the escape was SpiderMan-ish.
Well.  I'd actually seen snippets of Russell Crowe singing this before I saw the movie, and I had been really scared by them. (I knew nothing about Les Mis back then, and I thought he was going to commit suicide then and there by jumping off the building.)  So, I was rather apprehensive about the song.  It was a liiiitle scary, what with the great height and all, but Russell Crowe did a good job with it.  (And "Stars" is one of my favorite Les Mis songs.)
"Paris/Look Down" 

Well.  The music of "Stars" started to segue into "Look Down," and I may or may not have jumped up and down and squealed, because this was where all my favorite characters came in.  I was definitely not disappointed.  Eddie Redmayne and Samantha Barks had some heartbreaking little moments, Aaron Tveit was completely awesome, and Gav and Courf's relationship was so. cute.  (Gavroche was cute by himself, too. :D)
"The Robbery" 
Well...I loved how they did the Marius/Cosette meeting, with her giving money and everything.  The Thenardiers and Nick, Montparnasse (didn't he look like NJ?) were hilarious, and Russell Crowe did a fine job.
"ABC CafĂ©/Red & Black" 

The energy and hopes in this one were heartbreaking and amazing and enthusiastic, all at once.  George Blagden as Grantaire did a great job developing Grantaire's character, Aaron Tveit just was Enjolras, and I loved the spirit of camaraderie pervading the Cafe.  You could tell that these young men were all friends and that they were really serious about revolution.
"In My Life" 
 This is where we really get introduced to Cosette, and Amanda Seyfried, while her voice could have been stronger, got in some terrific acting.  Her relationship with her adoptive father was so trusting and loving, and you could tell that she really respected him as well.  Then the scene changed to Marius and Eponine, and they both turned in great performances.  
 "A Heart Full Of Love" 

Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried and Samantha Barks were all amazing in this.  Sam's heartbroken expression was so...well, heartbreaking, and Eddie and Amanda made such a cute couple.
"On My Own" 

First of all, I really approved the decision to put OMO right after AHFOL.  It makes a lot of sense that Eponine would sing it right after she learned that Marius would never love her.
The performance...this was my favorite version of OMO, bar none.  I wish they'd kept in the beginning lyrics, but gorgeous.  The rain, the pavements actually shining like silver, Samantha Barks's emotional performance were
"One Day More" 
 One Day More.  The big ensemble song that happens just before the revolution.  This is one of my favorite songs.  Let's see...I didn't really have a problem with any of the actors.  As I've said before, Russell Crowe has a growly, monotone sort of voice that he uses sometimes and the result is that he can be heard over everyone else.  I really liked this performance.
"Do You Hear the People Sing?" 
This is when the revolution starts, and I absolutely love this song.  (Hmmm...this seems to be a common reaction.)  This is my favorite version EVER of DYHTPS?.  You could see the soldiers lining the streets, and all the people were looking tense, and then everyone starts singing and Aaron grabs a flag...and then they go build a barricade.
"Building The Barricade" 
Agh.  The coffins...

This. was. so. epic.  Seriously, they added in this part  I loved the reprise of "Red and Black," Gavroche's little part ("Fleas will bite!"), Eponine showing up actually disguised (I mean, let's face it, when all she does is change into a trench coat and put on a hat on the stage, it doesn't fool anybody.), the great music playing while they built the barricade...yeah.  The actual building of the barricade was so cool, and who can forget Courf's awesome line?  (No, I'm not going to try to phonetically spell it- there are too many spellings already. :D)
 "The First Attack" 
All the barricade scenes were much more real and raw in the movie because you could actually see the carnage that was happening and what the insurgents were fighting against.  I loved that they included more of the brick in there with Marius threatening to blow up the barricade and Eponine taking the bullet for him.
"A Little Fall Of Rain" 

ALFOR is usually where I start to lose it while watching Les Mis, and this version was no exception.  They cut the lyrics, and I stopped crying in shock, like, "Did I miss something?"  I was pretty mad that they cut it.  But then it switched to the shots of Gavroche and Enjolras crying, and Eddie Redmayne did such a wonderful job, and I didn't stay dry-eyed for long.  This song was done so beautifully.
"Drink With Me" 
Aaaagh.  THEY CUT GRANTAIRE'S PART OUT.  Other than that, though, this was done well.  I loved how they had Gavroche take the place of the women, and Aaron's acting in this song was just tearjerking.  I think that that was when he really realized that his friends were all going to die.
"Bring Him Home" 
Um.  I have mixed feelings on this one.  On the one hand, Hugh Jackman's acting was great; on the other, his singing was not so much.  His voice sounded strained, and I could not believe Marius didn't wake up. :D

"The Death Of Gavroche" 

So.  Remember how Courfeyrac is sort of like a father or big brother to Gavroche?  Oh. my. goodness.  This was just so heartbreaking.  Gavroche went out, singing his cocky little reprise, and then the soldiers are kind of snickering as they take aim at him (HATED that), and then you think he might escape...and then he's shot down, and Courfeyrac pretty much goes crazy.  I can't describe it, really...just watch it.
"The Final Battle" 

Annnd this is where my heart gets ripped into pieces and stomped on.  It was so real; Combeferre was trying to get Jehan to safety, people were falling everywhere and one of the barricade boys (I'm not quite sure which) was screaming to Enjolras, and  And then they added that little scene from the brick with Enjolras and Grantaire (ohmygoodness, I loved that scene, but wow, was it emotional.), and then everything was quiet. *sob*
Then Javert comes in and inspects the dead during the reprise of BHH, and that was even sadder than the final battle.  All the barricade boys (plus Eponine and Gavroche) were laid out in a row, and Eponine was next to her brother, and that would have been bad enough.  But no.  Because then Javert leans down and pins his only medal on Gavroche. 
"The Sewers" 
Well, for once I actually got to see the sewers...and I don't want to repeat the experience.  Ugh.  They were so disgusting.  As Eva recently said, "they shocked me out of tears."
Other than that...I loved that they cut "Dog Eats Dog" out of there, and the scene where Jean Valjean confronts Javert was very well done.
"Javert's Suicide" 
Wow.  Russell Crowe did this scene perfectly, with the hunted desperation of a man whose world has been turned upside-down.  The only thing I didn't like was the actual suicide; did they really have to have his body fall onto that wall thingy?  I thought that was too much.


They cut this song down a lot.  I'm not sure whether I'm happy about that or not.  I did like seeing Katie Hall's cameo, though.
"Empty Chairs At Empty Tables" 
This is one of my favorite songs in Les Mis, and Eddie Redmayne did such a good job.  This was the only song that rivaled IDAD in terms of sheer emotion.  Wow.  It was just...amazing.
"A Heart Full Of Love (Reprise)"

This was such a sweet song.  Amanda and Eddie both did wonderful jobs, although Hugh Jackman was not at his best and the grandfather was sort of unnecessary.  This was where Marius and Cosette really convinced me that they belonged together.
"Valjean's Confession"
This is where we all throw rotten tomatoes at Marius.  He is so mean to Jean Valjean!  Eddie Redmayne managed to make Marius more sympathetic than usual, but the real credit for incredible acting goes to Hugh Jackman, whose inner turmoil and regret clearly show.
 "Suddenly (Reprise)" 
This was so sweet.  Cosette was just comforting Marius for the loss of his friends, and now Marius is supporting Cosette when she learns that her father has gone away.  Kudos to Amanda Seyfried, who made Cosette such a likeable character.  She obviously cared about her father a lot.
"The Wedding" 
The dress!  Gorgeous.
The wedding was so sweet (the twirl!), and I loved that we got to see a bit of the ball, etc.  And, of course, Cosette's wedding dress was so pretty.
"Beggars At The Feast" 
Hehehe...I loved this version (except for the last verse- ugh.) because the Thenardiers are actually getting thrown out of the wedding and not eating the wedding cake. :D
Wow.  This scene was amazing.  Amanda Seyfried, especially, did a marvelous job.  Anne Hathaway coming back as Fantine was so beautiful and tear-jerking (although I don't agree with the theology), and this was an all-around wonderful scene.  Then Jean Valjean dies and goes over the wall and...
 Wow.  This scene was just...ohmygoodness, it was awesome.  Everybody waving flags and looking happy at last was just too much for my already-strained emotions, and I totally lost it there.  But it was also gorgeous and hopeful, and a wonderful end to an amazing movie.

Annnnd that's my take on the songs of Les Mis (2012)!  Please comment and let me know what you think! :)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Celebrate Musicals Week: My Updated Dream Cast

So I published a dream cast awhile ago, but I'm going to do it again with my updated dream cast.  So here it is.  Please note that it's not really a "dream cast" because I'm just picking my favorite out of the people who have already been in a production of Les Mis.  This is pretty much my dream cast- if I could go back in time and get all these actors and bring them back here and put them in a production, I would certainly do so.  Sadly, I can't.  Anyway, just keep that in mind.
I hope you enjoy! :)

Jean Valjean
Colm Wilkinson is definitely my favorite Valjean.  He just seems to...I don't know, to "be" Valjean in a way no other Valjean that I've seen has.  Hugh Jackman looks most like I would imagine the brick Jean Valjean looked, and he can sing all right, so he probably gets second, and third is a tie between Alfie Boe (25thAC) and Gary Morris (CSR).

I present to you...
The One and Only Javert!  Aka Philip Quast. :D
But seriously, this guy was born to play Javert.  He's got everything...he looks like Javert, he acts like Javert, he behaves like Javert (on stage, anyway)...yeah.  I think you get the picture.  ;)

This one was harder- Lea Salonga from the 25thAC and Ruthie Henshall from the TAC are both really good, but in the end I had to go with Anne Hathaway (movie).  Her voice isn't what you generally hear for Fantine, but the movie is, well, not on stage and her acting is phenomenal.  Plus, her singing sounds the most like I've always imagined Fantine's voice should sound like.

There has never been a perfect Cosette, and Amanda Seyfried (2012 movie) is no exception.  Her singing, while being all right for a character like Cosette, is definitely not the strongest.  However, she is really pretty and makes the character naive while still being likeable.  Cosette is usually such a shallow character and I thought she added some depth to it, so she's my favorite.  Judy Kuhn from the TAC gets second place- her singing is gorgeous- and Katie Hall (25thAC) gets third.

Michael Ball is the ultimate Marius.  If you want a long, detailed, fangirly post, go here.  That's all I have to say.  :D

Kaho Shimada from the CSR is my favorite Eponine.  She was my introduction to Eponine, and I think she got the young, vulnerable aspect of Eponine like no other Eponine has done to my knowledge.  She really made me realize how young Eponine really was, and how pitiable a character she is.  Samantha Barks and Lea Salonga tie for second, and Frances Ruffelle gets third.


Ah, yes.  Enjolras.  I used to have mixed feelings on this guy, but I've now been converted to a total Enjolras fan, which many of you have probably already gathered.  Aaron Tveit is definitely my favorite Enjolras- his portrayal is closest to the brick's Enjolras, both in looks and charisma.  Ramin Karimloo (25thAC) is second (and almost got first- he is sooo good), and Michael Maguire (TAC) is third. 

This little gamin is one of my very favorite characters from the book, movie, and musical.  My favorite portrayal of him is probably Daniel Huttlestone's from the movie because I though he combined the cute, sassy gamin and the brave, angry little boy very, very well.  My second favorite is a tie between Adam Searles and Ross Mccall (both of whom got the brave, angry little boy better than the cute, sassy gamin :D) and Robert Madge is third.

Colm Wilkinson from the movie was a very good bishop.  Plus, even if he'd done it horribly, he'd still be my favorite because, seriously!  He's coming back to Les Mis!  Which is just awesome.   :)

In my opinion, Killian Donnelly from the movie completely owns this role.  Whenever I read the book, I see his face.  He isn't my favorite Enjolras or Courfeyrac, but he is my favorite Combeferre.  Also, Combeferre is quite probably my favorite barricade boy (I still can't deciiiiide, though!).


Fra Fee from the movie is my favorite Courf as well.  He looks like I always imagined Courf to look like, and his accent is awesome.  So...what can I say?  "What can I say?" sounds like a quote from something, but I can't remember it right now...ah, well.  It will come later.

It's starting to look like all the barricade boys will be from the movie, but hey, the movie's good!  George Blagden fought it out with Hadley Fraser for a long time, but I finally decided on George Blagden because I think he's the closest to Victor Hugo's Grantaire.

Jean Prouvaire
Now, Jehan Prouvaire (I always call him Jehan even though Victor Hugo calls him Jean most of the time) is my other choice for favorite barricade boy.  (Yeah...I can't choose.  I will try...eventually.  :P) He's so sweet-natured and brave.  Alistair Brammer is my favorite Jehan (he played Prouvaire in the 25thAC as well) because he manages to make Jehan Prouvaire courageous and sweet, instead of wimpy and cowardly as he too often gets labelled.

Again from the movie...Hugh Skinner is, hands down, the best Joly.  If for no other reason that his facial expressions are priceless.

I could have just summed all the barricade boys by saying that they were all from the movie.  But what fun would that be?  Anyway, Gabriel Vick is my favorite Feuilly- he looks like *my* Feuilly.

Well. Um.  Bossuet is supposed to be the oldest of the group (twenty-five, just think of it!), and have no hair at all.  Stuart Neal has more hair than Aaronjolras and I very much doubt he's over twenty.  But he's still my favorite Bossuet 'cause I really liked his performance during the barricade scenes. (*sob*)

This was the only picture of Bahorel I could find.  So, Iwan Lewis is my favorite Bahorel because he's the only Bahorel.  I was so happy they included him in the movie 'cause he's not in the musical.

The Thenardiers
Alun Armstrong and Jenny Galloway from the TAC (Jenny Galloway played Madame Thenardier in both the TAC and the 25thAC) are my favorite Thenardiers.  Finally, a break from the movie!  :)
But seriously...they are the best Thenardiers, in my opinion.  I don't care much for either of the characters, but Alun Armstrong's and Jenny Galloway's singing and acting were really good.  Plus...I don't know, they just had a certain "something" that gave the characters spice.

Little Cosette
 Isabelle Allan was the best little Cosette I've ever seen.  She was adorable, and, except for the brown eyes, she matches the brick's description.  She is really, really good.  And so cuuuute!  Wait...I think I already said that. :D

And that's my updated dream cast!

What's your dream cast?  Who are your favorite barricade boys?

-Miss Jane Bennet

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Celebrate Musicals Week: The Problem(s) With Musical-Eponine

When I first listened to Les Mis (the Complete Symphonic Recording), Eponine became my favorite character, hands down.  She was selfless, strong, and self-sufficient.  As I became more and more knowledgeable about Les Mis, I came to like and admire her even more.  Then it came to my attention that there were many people who didn't like Eponine.  In fact, there were people who said she was the worst character ever!  I was puzzled, until I realized that they were probably talking about brick-Eponine.  When I started reading the brick, I fully expected not to like the character of Eponine.

Then I got to her parts and...she was still my favorite character.  Sure, she was bitter, selfish most of the time, immoral, and possibly a bit insane.  But she was real.

Right now, I could probably go off on a tangent about why Eponine can still be a likeable character even though she's what she is, but that isn't the purpose of today's post.  The purpose of this post is the problems with musical-Eponine.  Predictably.

You see, I was surrounded by bloggers who had already read the brick, so I pretty much knew what Eponine was like in the book and what her situation was.  But a few days ago I was wondering why people disliked Eponine and I suddenly realized what a shock it would be to watch the musical and then read the book.

In the musical, Eponine is a strong girl who's somehow remained untouched by her parents' thieving, evil ways.  She loves Marius, but she hides it from him, delivers his letters without complaint or trickery, and in fact gives her life to get a letter from Cosette to Marius.  

In the brick, Eponine is a young girl who talks slang, steals, and I'm sure has committed many other crimes Victor Hugo doesn't cover.  She loves Marius, and it improves her speech and morals somewhat, but she's still willing to do underhanded things to gain Marius' love and separate Marius and Cosette.  She steals Cosette's letter to Marius and lures Marius to the barricades so that at least no one else will have him if she can't.  
 Then she sacrifices herself to save Marius and, dying, gives him Cosette's letter.

I'm tearing up just writing those words.  Eponine could have separated them forever just by doing nothing.  But her love for Marius was so strong that she couldn't bear to see him unhappy or in pain, even if it meant her own death.  

Do you see the difference?  In the musical, Eponine is almost as perfect as Cosette.  In the book, she's one of a gang of thieves.

That is one of the reasons I don't think musical-Eponine was portrayed as well as she could have been: that for anyone introduced to Les Mis through the musical, she's a completely different character and will inevitably disappoint anyone who starts reading the brick without warning.
The second reason I dislike (I don't dislike musical-Eponine; it's quite the opposite.  However, for lack of a better word, I'm using “dislike.”  Please keep in mind that it isn't really what I mean.) musical-Eponine is that she doesn't have enough meaning.  Her situation is heartbreaking, it's true, but she doesn't have any struggle between her selfless love and wish for happiness for Marius and the selfish wish for her own happiness.

In the musical, as I've said before, she does anything and everything Marius wants her to do, and will do anything to get it done- even risk (and give) her life at the barricades.  Her death and the giving of the letter don't mean as much to the audience because they don't mean as much to her. 
In the book, she wants Marius for herself so badly that she's willing to kill him as well as herself if she can't get him.  She's perfectly happy separating him from Cosette and bringing him to a place where he'll probably die.  

But then, at the very end, her love overpowers anything else she's ever known, and she takes a bullet meant for Marius with her own body.  When Marius finds her, she makes it a priority to give him his letter.  Perhaps this sacrifice meant nothing to her; perhaps the letter meant nothing to her and she gave it to him because she didn’t care anymore.  But I prefer to think that it was love- the kind of love the Bible talks about.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
-1 Corinthians 13:4–8

The musical of Les Mis already covers these things: “To love another person is to see the face of God.” And Eponine is singing that at the end.  But why?  She loved Marius, but she didn’t make the supreme sacrifice for him.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
-John 15:13
Musical-Eponine could have been so much more.  Her being at the end could have made more sense, especially since Marius is there during the Epilogue. (And actually, it’s kind of ironic that the movie version, which actually has Eponine blocking a bullet for Marius and giving him his stolen letter, doesn’t have Eponine at the end.)  

I suppose that it would have been difficult to make it clear that Eponine had given up her life saving Marius.  But she could have stolen the letter, then had a change of heart and been killed at the barricade trying to get the letter to Marius.  They could have done many things with Eponine and made her more contemptible and more admirable at the same time.

That’s why I don’t like musical-Eponine as much as brick-Eponine: she’s not as real or relatable.  I just wish the composers of Les Mis could have seen it, and I’m glad that Tom Hooper did.

Note: If you read the brick before you watched the musical, this post probably doesn’t apply to you.  Sorry. :)
Note 2: This is not to say that I don’t like musical-Eponine.  She was my introduction to the character, and I really like that portrayal as well.  

-Miss Jane Bennet