I don’t know how I did it. I’m almost proud. I did not watch it on stage or screen, or listen to any song from the musical Les Misérables. I said I wouldn’t watch the film until I’d seen it on stage. As for seeing the stage, like losing my virginity, it just didn’t happen for a very long time. The stage show has been in London for longer than I have been alive, approaching its 30th year. So for my sister’s 18th, we went to the Queen’s Theatre, which has been the show’s home for the past eleven years, and I finally saw Les Misérables.
I feel like I’m nitpicking with this write up, whatever it is, but Les Misérables is a show that has been reviewed and scrutinised enough for the cast to start their own revolution. So all I can offer is my own humble train of thought. The plot is not a simple one, the book on which it is based is over 1200 pages, but it is effortless to watch. Thankfully the actors don’t change as they age from the opening set in 1815 Digne to the emotional finale set in 1832 Paris. And if they do, it does the slightly clichéd but welcomed ‘transition’: young actor standing there and now old actor walks up to that space and the young actor walked off stage and is put to bed before 9pm.
My sister who has seen the film wanted to see the stage musical for one of the ‘old actors’, the 22 years young Carrie Hope Fletcher who plays Eponine and gets to sing the heart breaking ‘On My Own’. I didn’t realise it was all sung. That’s what 26 years of ignorance will do, let you think that a musical has a handful of songs with some talking in between; you know, like most musicals. Yet, there are really only a handful of songs. Every song felt familiar. Like it’d been sung earlier by someone else with different words. I believe they call it a reprise.
The cast were phenomenal. Almost as phenomenal as the stage. It twists and turns. The tiny Queen’s Theatre, which only seats 1200, somehow holds all the staging for factories, public houses, sewers and the famous barricade. It ticks all the boxes. It is an epic story of basic human needs that is well crafted in writing, score and execution. Yes, it’s a brilliant show, a fucking fantastic one. Of course I cried. Twice. Happy 30th Birthday Les Mis, here’s to another 30 years.