I next saw it on Broadway. The show was nearing the end of its original run and in all honesty the performance was stale and flat. And so to remove the taste of that version, I once again went to see the show in Denver at the Temple Buell. I needed to get the vision and sound of the Broadway version out of my head. Again I was moved and astounded by the strength of voice and story. Melodrama? Certainly. The play is nothing but the best kind of melodrama.
A year ago or so, I saw the newly staged version of the show. Again astonishing in performance but now it had an amazing new sets and effects. The show had replaced the old style 80's effects and heavy sets with new computer controlled projections and lighting.
Fact is I have always loved this story and this show and so the movie adaptation was a worry. I worried about the approach but more importantly I worried about the cast. Hugh Jackman, who has amply proved his musical chops in his Tony Award winning role Boy From Oz and Oklahoma on Broadway was to be Jean Valjean. Then there was the other central role, Javert, who is played by Russel Crowe who apparently did musical theatre before he became famous. Finally there are other central characters- Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the clowns Thénardiers, Master of the House and Mrs both of whom appeared in Sweeny Todd. There is Marius, played by Broadway vetran and Tony Award winner, Eddie Redmayne. Cosette is sung by Amanda Seyfried who has done mostly film and the film version of Mama Mia, and Éponine by Samantha Barks who has done the role on stage. The child Gavroche played by Daniel Huttlestone. Marius' best friend,Enjolras, is sung by Aaron Tveit, another Broadway veteran, and the Bishop is sung by the original Jean Valjean, Colm Wilkinson. And, of course, Fantine is played by Anne Hathaway.
The supporting cast helps to carry the movie. Marius, Cosette, Éponine, Enjolras all do well. The character of Gavroche by Daniel Huttlestone is one of the better versions of the street urchin I've seen. Overall, the chorus from Convicts to Students to Lovely Ladies, all help to bring the movie life.
Could it have been a better movie? Undoubtedly. Am I going to run out and buy the soundtrack? Probably not, but I will buy the DVD. Is it good movie making? It is. It is moving and broad in its substantial scope. It has strong emotional values and the big spectacle of a big musical. Cast could be stronger, but in all honesty, I found myself wiping away the tears in the dark of the theater. I was involved and drawn in to this show as I had been drawn in when I saw it the first time. I was moved. Even the addition of a new song worked well enough. It was better than the Broadway show I'd seen in its intensity. What can I say, despite the drawbacks of some of the casting decisions...
I liked it and I recommend it. Go see it.