It is fifteen years since Les Miserables was performed on stage in West Yorkshire
It is fifteen years since Les Miserables was performed on stage in West Yorkshire – August 1998 at the Alhambra in Bradford. Since seeing it there, this musical has been one of my favourites and I often listen to the soundtrack of the stage version on CD. It was therefore with great excitement that I heard towards the end of 2012 that it had now been made into a film and waited with anticipation for it to be released this month.
At the present time, in these austere and recession-hit days, the showing of this musical, affectionately known as The Glums, is very apt. The stirring story demands us to ask “Who am I” when we hit rock-bottom which is precisely what happens to Fantine, the single mother turned prostitute, and one of the stars of the musical, superbly played by Anne Hathaway. Her rendition of “I Dreamed A Dream” in a single spellbinding take is one of the highlights of the film and surely must be destined for an Oscar. There were certainly a number of sobs and tear-drops from ladies in the audience at the end of this particular number.
Les Miserables stage version of Victor Hugo’s150-year old novel has now been seen by over 60 million people in 21 different languages. It centres on the story of Jean Valjean, excellently portrayed by Australian Hugh Jackman and again he must be in contention for an Oscar for his performance. Throughout the musical he is pursued by Inspector Javert, played by Russell Crowe for breaking his parole, even though he has become the Mayor of the town he goes to and becomes a major employer with his clothing business. Russell Crowe’s acting was very good but sadly he is not a great singer and there are several other actors who have played this role on the West End and Broadway, particularly Michael McCarthy or Colm Wilkinson (who plays Bishop Myriel in the film) both of whom would have been better for the role.
Another couple of outstanding female performances came from Samantha Barks as Éponine and Amanda Sayfried as Cosette. Sam played the lead role in Cabaret at The Grand in Leeds a couple of years ago where she was excellent and she filled the role of Éponine superbly and her singing of “On My Own” was superb. Amanda will be remembered by most people in the lead role in the 2008 film “Mama Mia” and she too is excellent in the role of Cosette. Her fine singing voice was heard to perfection in “I saw him once” and she also combined well in the song “A heart full of love” with Éponine and Marius. Eddie Redmayne as Marius has an outstanding Tenor, if not Counter-Tenor voice, and in both this number and also his solo “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” he is superb.
Humour is provided in the film by Monsieur and Madame Thénardier, and here we have two brilliant performances by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter. Also I must mention Daniel Huddlestone as young humorous Gavroche, and again there was not a dry eye in the cinema when he is killed in the battle scene.
This is a long film – 2½ hours in total with no intermission – but the time passes very quickly, such is the absorbing nature of the film. The cinematography is outstanding, particularly the battle scenes and the crowd scene at the end, but it is a film you must see at the cinema, as it will lose a lot when watched on DVD on your TV screens. It is on at various locations in Leeds including the privately owned Cottage Road cinema in Headingley which this year is celebrating its centenary of continuous use as a cinema.