Monday, January 21, 2013

Les Miserables

 Yes. I confess to being slightly obsessed with the story by Victor Hugo. It started innocently enough. As a graduate student in the School of Music, I was given two complimentary tickets each semester to events at the Lied Center in Lincoln. Because I was also required to attend a minimum of 10 concerts each semester, it was nice to occasionally use these tickets for something I wouldn't normally do (or at least something that wasn't required...which often makes it more enjoyable.)

One semester, the traveling Broadway show Les Miserables was coming to Lincoln. I'd never seen a musical, and I'd played excerpts of the music in high school and enjoyed what I played. So I went with a friend and sat mesmerized for several hours. The music. The acting. The story. Every part of it held me captive. I borrowed music from friends. I sang along. I was hooked. The friend who joined me knew of my newfound love of all things Les Mis and went together with his roommate to buy me the complete symphonic recording (3 CDs) of Les Miserables. That was the first gift my now husband ever bought me.

While student teaching, I got ahold of the abridged version of Hugo's book. The story offered even more details than the musical. More depth. More sin. More forgiveness. More redemption. While not theologically accurate, a wonderful picture of Christ.

Shortly after we got married, I saw that Les Mis was coming to Omaha. I scrimped and saved and bought box seat tickets for Dan's birthday. His parents threw in a night in a downtown hotel, and my folks sent us a gift card for dinner. I even worked things out with Dan's boss to be a little late to work the next day. It was one of those unforgettable events that we cannot often do. The musical once again delivered and I went home a very happy woman.

Since then, I have read the unabridged version of the book twice. The first time took me a year. The second took a summer. (If you're interested in reading it, I'd recommend the abridged...a lot less political commentary that has no relevance now.)

Then...horrors! Broadway discontinued Les Mis. It enjoyed a long run and garnered many fans. And then it was gone. I was left with memories, 3 CDs, and a very long book.

Apparently, the Broadway powers-that-be heard the cries of fans like myself and decided to bring it back. With new sets and slightly different music. And so, we scrimped and saved again and went to see the show when it came to Omaha two years ago. I truly wish I could get those hours (and those dollars) back. The music was so out of balance, the singing was meh, the tempos were way too fast, and the emotion was stripped from the story. Dan and I both walked out and felt like we'd lost Les Mis forever. 

We have since watched the 1998 film version (not a musical) with Liam Neeson. It was a great representation of some major plot points from the book that were left out of the musical. If musicals aren't really your thing, but you're interested in the story, I'd recommend this version.

So...I think I've made the point that I LOVE Les Miserables and have become somewhat picky about how it's portrayed. I wasn't sure if I should be happy or sad when I saw it was coming to the theater. I honestly didn't know if it was going to be a musical, a film, or what. (I know...I live with my head in the sand these days.) But after seeing the buzz on Facebook and realizing Hugh Jackman was in the movie (yes...I'm a Huge Hugh fan...not because he's pleasant to look at, but because he's a committed family man and great adoption advocate), I wanted to see if the hype was warranted.

So when Dayna was invited to spend the night with a friend, Dan splurged and took me to the movies. And while the singing was not what you'd expect on Broadway, it was full of angst and emotion. My heart soared and broke with the characters on the screen. Plot points that had been originally omitted from the musical were incorporated in the film. Several of the actors have played their roles in the stage version previously and did a fantastic job on the big screen. 

Dan & I both feel like Les Miserables has been restored to us, and we once again will have something to share with our kids when they get old enough to appreciate the story and music.

(Although, upon hearing some of the music, Dayna has written her own version:

Look down, look down, you're standing in your grave
Look down, look down, push a button on the microwave)

I've seen many comments about what a horribly depressing story it is. I just they know what Les Miserables translates to in English? And if you don't stick with the story to the end, you might miss the message of redemption, second chances, and forgiveness. Grace and mercy. Life is not pretty, but God is always there.

From convict
 To selling yourself to save your child
To child exploitation
To finding the love of a father
Being hunted
Fighting for your rights
Unrequited love
 Becoming a new man
To love and redemption

No comments: