Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Les Miz Love Affair

Show of hands. How many of you have seen Les Miserables on stage or some performance of its music on public television? Do you love it? An incredible 25th Anniversary concert that took place last fall in London has been airing on public television several times in recent weeks while the stations drum up donations. For me this has been like the rekindling of a decades-long relationship. Les Miz first hit Broadway in the mid-80s. I'd never heard of it until one night I was watching the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and the actress portraying Fantine sang I Dreamed a Dream. (For those of you who have never seen Les Miz, might at least have seen the YouTube clip of Susan Boyle's performance. It's that song.) My mother and I were transfixed by the actress and the song. It inspired me to surprise Mom with tickets to the play as a Christmas present. The show was so popular that there was a six month wait for seats, but sooner or later, summer rolled around and we were off to New York. I've never been so moved by a show and its music as I was that summer night on Broadway. Drama, pathos, heroism, the battle between poor and wealthy, justice versus persecution, love at first sight, unrequited longing, tremendous honor, scurrilous thievery, lost hope, enduring faith -- Les Miz has all that and more. The epic story is told mostly with huge, dramatic songs and very little dialogue. Oh, those songs, filling the theater and our hearts. Do you hear the people sing, singing the song of angry men? This is the music of a people who will not be slaves again. When the beating of our hearts echoes the beating of the drums, there is a world about to start when tomorrow comes! Les Miz isn't what you'd call a happy show. Considering that most of the main characters die, some could consider it an absolute downer. When we first saw it on Broadway, Mom was worried that I wasn't enjoying it because every time she looked at me, tears were running down my cheeks. Yes, characters die, but before each one passes on, he or she gets at least one fantastic solo. As soon as we saw the show, I had to get the soundtrack. I used to cruise the Jersey Shore with the top down on my convertible, belting out the songs at the top of my lungs. My range is closer to the deep tones of Inspector Javert than Fantine's soprano, so I'm sure anyone within hearing distance appreciated that the wind carried away my strained notes. I've worn out a few sets of cassettes and CDs over the years, for sure. Fifteen years ago, the PBS stations ran a 10th Anniversary special. I lost count of the number of times I watched it and was positive there'd never be another tribute that great. There wasn't, until this 25th anniversary concert. Words fail me. I recorded it on the DVR and am in danger of overdosing on the magnificent performances. Several times in recent weeks when there wasn't anything else worth watching, I hit the buttons, called up the recording and lost myself in the music. I Dreamed a Dream, Bring Him Home, On My Own -- they fill my heart tonight (Yes, it's playing again while I type this blog.) every bit as full as they did 25 plus years ago in that New York Theater. I have to admit that I've formed a bit of a fangirl/cougarish crush on the British tenor who sings the role of Jean Valjean. I never heard of Alfie Boe before I saw this concert. Now I want to get all of his recordings. I swear, hand to God, that my crush is not because he's a fairly handsome man. It's all about the power of his singing. Seriously, if hearing him sing Bring Him Home doesn't move you to the depths of your soul, I'll be shocked. So, there you have it. My enduring love affair with a theatrical extravaganza. This relationship means a lot to me, but don't worry. I'm willing to share.


Mary Stella said...

Friends, for some reason, Blogger is not letting me put in paragraph breaks tonight I apologize for the lonnnngggg paragraph!

merrymac12 said...

The song has so much feeling, it's hard for the heart to contain it. Thanks, Mary Stella

London Mabel said...

I love a man who can sing those high notes. Beautiful, though Colm Feore will always be my fave Valjean. ;-)

By the way, before you copy the embed code from youtube you can alter the coding for the size of the video--just click on custom. Then your viewers can click the close button for the pesky ads. :-)