Music Monday 14.1.2013: Let's talk about Les Miserables

It was way after my bedtime, but I heard music and wanted to know where it was coming from. I crept into the family room and curled up on the couch, intrigued.

Do you hear the people sing? / Singing the song of angry men? / It is the music of a people / who will not be slaves again! / When the beating of your heart / echoes the beating of the drums / there is a life about to start / when tomorrow comes!

What ever this music was, it was powerful. It made my little heart skip a beat... It sounded political. I didn't know much about politics, but I thought it was wonderful that Canada's leaders got together to sing about our freedom.

"Why is the prime minister singing, Mommy?".

My parents, totally engrossed in the film, hadn't noticed me until then. They both looked at me, bemused. "The prime minister? This is a musical. Les Miserables".

Okay, so it wasn't the government performing (and my parents still laugh at me for thinking that when I was 7). But that night, my life was changed forever. 


A few months later, I was sitting at the kitchen table, helping my mom make dinner. I grated cheese as I told her about my day at school. 
"So today in music class, my teacher asked everyone who their favourite singer was".


"Yeah. All my friends named a Spice Girl".

"And who did you say?"


A precocious, theatre-obsessed 10 year-old, I put on 'shows' for my family at all our get-togethers. I made costumes, choreographed dance routines, memorized songs and made flyers, enlisting my cousins to perform with me (they sometimes complied).

Most of the time, my relatives would watch for five minutes, then go back to their Cribbage games or hors d'oeuvres, causing me to stamp my little feet and cry, "the show must go on!".

But one Saturday, wearing a little pink chiffon nightie, smeared rouge on my cheeks and flowers in my hair, I sang, "I dreamed a dream in time gone by /when hope was high and life worth living...". For some reason, they listened. All eyes were on me. I kept singing, finishing the song with a high note, crumpling to the ground, 'dead'. 
I don't know what made them pay attention that day. I know it wasn't my voice (which has always sub-par, killing the dream I dreamed of being a Broadway star... but that's another blog post). Perhaps it was the conviction with which I sang the words of a tragic classic? I've always been full of emotion, and an old soul.


In junior high, I was a drama nerd. I was a lead in the school play, wore elaborate costumes on a daily basis, and spent all my extracurricular time in the drama classroom. So of course, I was first to find out that our class was going to see Les Miserables at the Canon Theatre.

I screamed. "Mr Matheson, that's my favourite musical!". My friends knew that already (and were aware that I had had the whole thing memorized since I was 8), so they just rolled their eyes.

It wasn't my first time seeing a live Broadway show, but it was one of the best experiences (at a theatre and in general) I've ever had. 

I was in Alexandria, pacing around my hotel room and fiddling with the TV remote. I was feeling anxious, and hoping a morning in (preferably with something good to watch) would help. Turning to PBS, I froze. The 25th Anniversary performance of Les Mis was on TV! Just what I needed.
Happily sinking into bed, I realized: this musical has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. It's helped shape my world view (not to mention my taste in music). I consider that a blessing.

This is the longest Music Monday post I've ever written. But last night, I finally got to see the 2012 adaptation of Les Miserables, and I have to talk about it, or I'll burst!

To sum up how I feel about it:

+Best Gavroche ever. EVER.
+Eponine was amazing. For the record, she's my favourite character.
+I love Colm Wilkinson (see above). His cameo made me smile. I'm glad the film gave lifelong Les Mis fans a nod by casting him as the Bishop.
+Anne Hathaway was breathtaking as Fantine.

So for your listening pleasure, here's Anne Hathaway singing I Dreamed a Dream.
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