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Les Miserables will make you miserable! (But in a feel-good kind of way)

15 Jan

I wasn’t exactly sure of the plot of Les Miserables, but I understood what the title meant: “The Miserables.” So, one thing was certain; I wasn’t signing myself up for a family comedy.

Even so, I was convinced that I had to see it. After all, it’s a musical, and I haven’t yet met a musical that I haven’t liked.And I had always wanted to see the play. So, as the lights dimmed and the music drummed up, along with a surge of sea-sounds and booming baritone voices, I felt a thrilled chill dance along my vertebrae.That chill was only the start of what felt like an enveloping experience at the movie theaters.

If one has never seen Les Miserables, it is a mildly difficult thing to try to explain in mere words the emotional force that the music seems to contain. (But I will do what I can!) Les Miserables is a musical emotional force. It starts and ends with a heavy orchestral hand that leaves you slightly a-gape. Les Miserables is more like an opera than a musical, as there is little to no spoken dialogue and nearly all of the major plot is in song, which could have been a huge drawback if the singing wasn’t generally well done. (With an exception of Russell Crowe, who plays the chaotic good cop, Javert, who comes to an end that I believe should come to all poor singers.)

Each scene is loaded with a raw humanity: a prisoner who has hardened his heart, a priest who opens it again, a mother who does anything she can to support her child alone, a child abandoned and found again, a man rebuilt, learning to love, be loved and let go, a young man finding his place in the world and learning loss. Saying that this movie is heavy, hardly covers the plunge into problems that Les Miserables rockets its audience through. This film is not for the faint of heart. (I recommend stocking up on extra napkins at the concession stand if you don’t have tissues on hand.)

Les Miseables opens with the main character, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), working as a slave in a shipyard. The prisoners are waist deep in seawater as they struggle to bring a wounded ship to port. Manacled at the neck and hands, they sing a powerful baritone rendition of, “Look down”. Here the audience is also introduced to the main villain, Jevert (Russell Crowe) who seems to particularly loves to break Valjean. Valjean, having filled his prison sentence, is handed his papers to be free, but they mark his as a “dangerous man”. Once free of the prison, Valjean is still treated like a criminal and finds himself unable to find a job or shelter. Instead, he finds himself sleeping on a doorstep. Luckily, a kindly priest discovers him there and takes him in for the night. Desparate, Valjean steals away the Church’s silver in the night and runs off before they wake–but is immediately caught and brought back before the priest by the police. But the priest proclaims Valjean innocent and the police are forced to let him free. Valjean then makes a point to turn his life around and the movie follows his story.

There are of course multiple branches, time frames and points of views throughout the film. The character Fontaine (Ann Hathaway) is introduced next as a factory worker who is separate to support her child, and ends up selling her teeth, her hair and her body to male strangers. Her story is a tragic one, but her daughter Cosette(Amanda Seyfried) is more fortunate as Valjean takes her in as his own daughter and raises her under his new alias.

Yet, Javert soon discovers him and realizes that he is the former thief who skipped parole and seeks to recapture him. The story leads the audience through the brutal French revolution, introducing yet another character, Marius (Eddie Redmayne) who falls for the lovely Cosette.

Though the story is full of absolute misery, death, and despair–it has such a powerful beauty that though you might be a little boogery by the end you feel a sense of revitalization. Small flecks of humor lighten the otherwise heavy atmosphere throughout the film, and the tiny glimmers of love throughout the otherwise dark film seem large and luminous in comparison.

All and all, I would see this film again and found myself humming “I dream a dream” all the way out of the theater. Les Miserables brings humanity back to film and I give it four cupcakes out of five.

Les Miserables

A Night at the Theater–Addams Family Musical Review (Spoilers!)

9 Feb

They’re creepy and they’re spooky, mysterious and kooky–they’re all together ooky–The Addams family!

Well, creepy certainly was the word. Crammed in the tiny balcony seats of the Schubert Theater in Boston, I was trying with some difficulty not to allow the overly-nosy eight-year-old boy in front of me to look up my dress in the awkward angle and sitting beside my boyfriend who looked even more uncomfortable. There, we awaited the start of The Addams Family Musical. ( My poor boyfriend’s first words once the show ended was–“I think my shins are bruised.”) I felt lucky that we had managed to even get seats on opening night–the place was packed– and even the cramped space of the balcony weren’t under $50 dollars a ticket.

The crowd seemed restless and eager to start the show. Ages varied from young kids to so elderly they needed assistance getting up and down the narrow (and without a middle railing, which was terrifying in heels) stairs. After all, who couldn’t recall the memorably grim but laugh-inducing Addams? I knew I couldn’t resist. My childhood was riddled with memories of Saturday morning cartoons, in which The Addams Family often frequented the screen. The show was grim, and hilariously twisted, which is the main reason I enjoyed it. It is that spirit of twisted humor that was kept alive throughout the opening night of The Addams Family Musical.

The premise: The creepy cold child, Wednesday, has suddenly found herself in love and wanting to be engaged to–dramatic pause–a “normal” boy! Hiding the ring from her over-protective mother, Morticia, she confides in her father, Gomez, about the reason for a sudden dinner party with this boy and his family. She begs him to promise not to tell his beloved wife–and so hilarity ultimately ensues.

All of the characters I knew and loved made their premier on stage, portrayed with care and confidence by their respective actors and actresses. (Well–with the exception of a rather annoying little boy who played Wednesday’s brother, Pugsley. Him, I could have done without.) Even Thing and Cousin It make a few short appearances.

The show was much better than I anticipated; the music was catchy, saucy and well-composed, the scene changes were fascinating to watch–and the use of puppeteers was a pleasant and fun surprise throughout the production.I found myself bouncing in my seat to the music as performers sang and danced, grabbing your attention and ultimately keeping it.

The only issue (depending on who you are) that I found with it was the massive amounts of sexual humor that permeated the whole performance. As an adult–I have no problem with sexual humor. In fact, it’s kind of my favorite. But it does get somewhat uncomfortable when there’s an eight-year old in front of you and Gomez just made several penis jokes. All I could think was, God, I hope this goes over your head. Oh, also, the occasionally topical humor that Uncle Fester tosses into the performance–I found somewhat jarring. Funny, sometimes–but other times just unneeded.

I must admit, that I was thrilled to realize that the actor playing Uncle Fester had also played Edna in Hairspray when I went to see it with my Meme five years or so ago. All of the cast did a bang up job–particularly the actors and actresses who played, Fester, Gomez and Wednesday,  who stole the show. Even the actor playing Lurch surprised me with a suddenly solo singing performance that gave me chills in ways that only seeing The Phantom of the Opera on stage had done previously.

All and all I give The Addams Family Musical a 4 out of 5 stars. It’s only here in Boston for this month–and I would definitely recommend it to the younger generation looking for a laugh. (Or perhaps even the older. People are DYING to see this show.) Sorry, I had to. If you can afford it–skip the cheap seats. But honestly, the view from anywhere in this theater is fine. It’s only legroom that gets tricky.