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A new musical for me

January 5, 2013
By Cindy Votruba , Marshall Independent

Before I went to see the movie "Les Miserables," I was totally unfamiliar with the musical, the songs and the storyline. The same held true about eight years ago when I saw the movie version of "Phantom of the Opera" the day after Christmas. I may have heard one of the songs in passing, but that was about it. Once the overture started playing in "POTO," I was mesmerized. Granted it wasn't Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford singing the leads (boy, would I have loved to have seen that), but I'll admit Gerard Butler held his own as the Phantom. Emma Rossum was great as Christine. Even Minnie Driver was a hoot. One of these days I have to re-watch the movie and perhaps check out the sequel - "Love Never Dies."

Back to "Les Miserables." I've heard so much about how wonderful this musical is, how it's people's favorite. And I was just plain clueless. I took a quick glance at the Amazon description of Victor Hugo's novel. I can nab a version of it for free on the Kindle. Or there's the unabridged, nearly 1,500-page version. Maybe one day, as soon as I delve into "Anna Karenina."

Ross gave me a little synopsis of the storyline of "Les Miserables," and I did a little of my own online review before seeing the movie this past Sunday. I made myself familiar with the characters and the storyline and was looking forward to it.

As we were walking into the theater, we overheard a girl trying to convince a guy to see "Les Miserables," that it was worth seeing. In the end, he went into the movie.

The opening scene of "Les Miserables" shows a haggard Hugh Jackman along with other prisoners singing the opening number as Russell Crowe as Javert supervises them. Now I know that Jackman's been on Broadway; heck, he's won a Tony, so I hoped he would do Jean Valjean justice. And I realized something as I looked up Crowe's filmography - I have never seen one of his movies. Yeah, I know, I need to watch more movies. And although I read about how some had criticized Crowe's singing voice in the show, I think he did relatively OK. He wasn't outstanding, but at least he wasn't like Pierce Brosnan in "Momma Mia."

Then it's eight years later and we're introduced to a few new characters, including the tragic Fantine. And even though Anne Hathaway was on screen for a short time, she left a strong impression. I gasped during the scene when Fantine sold her hair to earn money to help her daughter; I have no idea why that particular scene struck me, maybe because of the way her hair was hacked off. Then came "I Dreamed A Dream," where she put her heart and soul into the performance. Wow.

The innkeepers, portrayed by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter, were amusing, they provided the comic relief. It was maybe a little too much but entertaining all the same. I was also impressed with the kid who played Gavroche, Daniel Huttlestone.

If you look at the "Did You Know" section of "Les Miserables" on the Internet Movie Database website, you'll find out quite a bit of trivia about it. For example, Amy Adams, Jessica Biel, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet and Rebecca Hall were considered to portray Fantine before Hathaway was cast. Paul Bettany was considered for the role of Javert. Hathaway had the chance to play Christine in "Phantom of the Opera," but had to turn down the role because she was under contract with Disney to make the sequel to "The Princess Diaries." Both Jackman and Hathaway lost weight for their roles. Heck, Jackman even went a day and a half without water so he'd look more gaunt as a prisoner. The lengths actors will go for a role. Yikes. but that's dedication.

So all in all, the songs were great, the storyline kept my interest and like "Phantom," it's a show I want to see onstage someday.



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