Monday, November 16, 2009

Reflecting on Les Miserables

On Saturday, we took our sons to see Les Miserables in London. For my husband and me, it was the third time of seeing the show. For the boys, it was the first. And it had been at their request that we went. They knew the music because I play it on my iPod in the docking station in the kitchen... and because I sing it endlessly. They have often asked questions about the story line and so on, and I was delighted when they asked to be taken to see something so cultured!

They both thoroughly enjoyed the experience and have been talking about it ever since. They raise points that take me by surprise and impress me no end. They noticed things about the staging and the lighting that your average theatre goer does not notice. My elder son spoke at great length about how each character who died was immediately picked out in a bright, tight beam white spot... except Javert, who fell into darkness. I hadn't noticed that. Good one kiddo.

Then tonight he pitched me a curved ball.

"Mom, in Les Mis, whose story do you think was the saddest?"

Wow! They were all pretty sad.

  • Jean Valjean who is imprisoned for 5 years for stealing bread to feed his sister's family, and then a further 14 for trying to escape... and who then spends most of his life on the run, having broken parole, in the process of trying to take care of Fantine's Cosette.
  • Fantine who falls in love, loses her virtue and is literally left holding the baby. In her desperation to provide for her daughter, she turns to prostitution and dies of the pox.
  • Javert, who sees life in black and white, only to have it all blow up in his face, when he is denied a heroic death, shown mercy by someone he believes to be sin personified.
  • The revolutionaries who believe that the people of France will join them, if only they set things in motion, only to find that they are alone... and to die at the barricade for absolutely no gain.
  • Eponine who starts out as her parents' little princess and winds up a street urchin in love with a student who is in love with someone else.
  • Gavroche, streetwise and defiant, who wields more power than one would expect from one so young, only to die at the barricade trying to collect bullets from the fallen soldiers to take back to the revolutionaries.
It goes on and on.

Do you know the story? Who do you think has the saddest story and why?


John Zurovchak said...

Wierd coincidence Karyn....I just introduced by children ages 14, 12 and 10 to the music. They have been big fans of Wicked, so LAST WEEK I thought I would introduce them to my favorite guessed it - Les Mis. I showed them the YouTube videos of the 10th anniversary show, so that they could see the characters and learn a bit about the plot. I also showed them my two CD set from the original London cast.

They have not been able to stop playing it since....

What a funny coincidence to see your post today....

Seems to make the world a bit smaller and more intimate doesn't it?

The upsycho said...

@John It certainly does. My kids have also been practically brainwashed with the music of Phantom, which has been a favourite of mine since before I even met their Dad, but haven't shown the same level of interest in seeing that

V Yonkers said...

My kids have been closest fans of the musical for years. My son goes to an all boys Military school so it is especially taboo there. This year, the original cast of Rent came to a local theatre. We got tickets to the play for my daughter's birthday so my son, daughter and I went.

As you may or may not know, Rent is based on La Boheime. My son had tried to convince some of his buddies that they would like the play as it is a Rock musical. Surprise, a few of them were "dragged" to the play by the family or girlfriends and now they are closet fans also.

My daughter became engrossed in the music and story when she wrote a paper comparing the writing of La Boheime and Rent. I was shocked at the parallels she was able to make and the depth of analysis for a 13 year old. To me this and your story demonstrate the importance of the arts, if for no other reason that it gets people thinking.

The upsycho said...

@V_Yonkers I love listening to my elder son discussing a work of literature, a play or a serious movie. He picks up on themes (blood, hands, light, etc.) and draws out their role in the story.

I can remember being encouraged to do this at school, but being able only to elaborate on the themes the teachers had already identified.

I love that my son is a higher order thinker than I was at that age.