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Nathaniel On His Travels: Streep Branding & Les Miz Jitters

Hi kids. I thought I'd check in briefly from my mom-centric travels. I'm typing this from my hotel room in St. George, Utah where the air is hot, the rocks are red, and my nephews live. They were inundating me last night with all sorts of information I didn't understand (mostly about video games) but once we got to the movies I was on sound footing (their preferred topics: superheroes and Miyazaki).

But how are you doing -- Aren't the guest bloggers doing a bang up job keeping us entertained? I ate up all of Leslye's posts (by which I mean read them multiple times) and pricked my ears up to a new voice in our sound mix, Matt Zurcher. Thank you as ever to longtime regulars Jose and JA. And to Beau, too,  because Sharing is Caring -- TFE is like his new Confessional which I guess makes me (and you) the priest? Hee!

I bought two books in the airport from sheer indecision about what to read (why don't I have a kindle or iPad yet?) and the one I've started is "The Meryl Streep Movie Club" which is probably a shameless attempt to borrow TFE's most discussed movie star's bankability to sell some books. But here's the catch to shamelessness: it often works. I bought the book didn't I? It's about an estranged family of sisters, who after a tragic orphaned childhood, reunite as adults and get some very bad news. Their aunt hosts a weekly movie night at the inn where they've gathered and it happens to be Meryl Streep Month. So far Silkwood has been name dropped the most -- a choice I fully support -- and they're about to watch Bridges of Madison County. I'm not very far in because my inflight movie was The Avengers (more on that in a couple of days when I'm back to NYC) which was more than enough to keep me occupied.

As you read this my soul is being stirred.

 Chances are at least. See, I'm off to see Les Misérables on stage for the first time in aeons. As a teenager I wore out my tape of the soundtrack and when I found out it was playing at Cedar City's annual widely acclaimed Shakespeare Festival (they've even won a regional Tony Award) I jumped at the chance to take my mom because a) she doesn't get out much and b) she's never seen it on stage but loves musicals and started me early on them for which I can only give her millions of hugs. It's a perfect opportunity to see the show before the movie hits and becomes the possibility definitive version for millions upon millions of people who don't get to stage shows often or ever. Which is unfortunately a lot of people -- even for shows as successful as Les Miz which has earned over $2 billion globally in its 27 year life.

I have no jitters about seeing the show on stage again because it's a magnificent epic in its original medium. But will it work on the movie screen? Bring it home, Tom Hooper! Bring it home.

Which brings me to my exit questions:

  • Have you ever seen Les Miz on stage?
  • Which is your favorite song? (If you must know mine is "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables")


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Reader Comments (27)

You had the soundtrack to Les Miz back when you were a kid? That's amazing considering it hasn't been released yet! I had to make due with the Original London Cast Recording and the Original Broadway Cast Recording.

Sorry, but the soundtrack/cast album nomenclature thing is a Pet Peeve. I just apeshit over it on JoeMyGod recently.

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlejandro

The guest bloggers are knocking it out of the park... Not that we don't love you to pieces Natty! ;-)

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

I first saw Les Miz in New York, and then in Buenos Aires. They were wonderful. The Argentine version was right up there. You see, a "Broadway Musical" is a trademark that has to be protected. So, when rights to a muscial are sold to other countries, the contract includes very strict clauses. The "sellers" reserve the right to fly in shortly before opening night and -if they don't like it- they can give it a thumbs-down and the play cannot open. The local producers lose all their investment. That's why foreign producers hire somebody from the original Broadway show to direct. Maybe the assistant director, the choreographer... somebody. I remember that the Argentine version of Kiss of the Spider Woman was directed by Harold Prince himself, because he loved the actress-singer taking the lead (Valeria Lynch).
There are a few musicals I have seen both on Broadway and in Buenos Aires. In all cases, the Argentine versions had nothing to feel ashamed of. What's more, I like the Argentine They're Playing Our Song better than the Broadway original (with Stockard Channing and Tony Roberts when I saw it). Some of the others I've been able to "compare" are A Chorus Line, Chicago, Les Miz, Annie and My Fair Lady.

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables is horribly depressing. I love it.

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJonny

Les Mis was one of the first musicals I actually saw on Broadway (there used to be a really great, top-notch regional theater devoted to musicals near me, but it went bankrupt around the time I got to high school). We sat all the way to the right side of the Mezzanine, but I was blown away by the power of the music and the stagecraft. It's still one of my top three (the only other contenders are The Lion King and Next to Normal). I don't think Broadway will ever see a greater musical epic. It's really tough to pick a favorite song, and on any other day I might pick "Do You Hear the People Sing?", "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables", or "Master of the House" (I'm a sucker for a good comic character song), but today I'm going to go with "Stars".

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

I've seen Les Mis five times and loved it EVERY TIME. Picking a favorite song is like, well, Sophie's Choice but I'll go with Stars today.

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

I am not familiar with the songs or too much of the plot except for what I've read in anticipation, mostly about the fate of Anne Hathaway's character who's name I can't think of.

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTim B.

I saw Les Mis about 6 or 7 years ago on Broadway with Lea Salonga as Fantine. Very cool. Favorite song would have to be... Master of the House. So much evil fun.

A movie memory from St. George - After visiting Zion (you better be visiting Zion!) we went to the movies in St. George. We saw I Don't Know How She Does It and we both hated it.

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrady

Just not a fan of those gigantic 80's musicals. Blech.

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohnnyBS

St. George movie memories? I want to share!

I stopped in St.George once on a road trip to Vegas and we went to see none other than Nat's Pfabulous Pfeiffer in Wolf.

St. George was gorgeous, the movie forgettable :)

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTravis

Hope you're having a nice trip, Nathaniel.

I've seen Les Mis twice on the (London) stage. And I've been listening to the soundtrack since the mid-80s when my mum started playing it all the time at home. (She loves it.)

I'm a bit worried about the film (how can it compare to the version we have in our heads?) but I think Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe will both be good.

Favourite song: well, I love loads...so it depends on my mood. 'I Dreamed a Dream' (for the orchestration, above all), 'Master of the House', 'On My Own' and 'Bring Him Home' are probably my faves.

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

Les Mis was actually the first show I saw in a non-regional theater setting, and it totally blew me away. Favorite song is really tough; my first reaction was I Dreamed a Dream, but A Little Fall of Rain and One Day More (which is cheating, I know, given that it's pretty much every song) are both pretty high up there.

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoe K

I used to mow the lawn whilst listening to the Original Broadway Cast Recording and belt out every number at the top of my lungs. I didn't find out until years later that my neighbor used to throw rocks at me to shut me up - I always thought they were kicked up by the lawnmower.

I also purchased an orchestral version of selections from Les Miz and Miss Saigon in London in the early 90's that continues to be a fave listen for me.

As for favorite songs? Stars is up there, but nothing comes close to the sheer power and anticipation created by One Day More. Singing all the parts to that at the same time may be slightly schizo, but it's fun!

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack

While I'm loving all of the guest bloggers I have to confess I'm missing your posts. Hope You're having a good holiday.
I saw Les Mis in London and my favourite song changes each time I hear the soundtrack or rewatch the 10th anniversary concert, but usually my choice is either I Dreamed a Dream or One Day More. Although I have to say that when i saw it on stage my favourite song was Empty Chafrs at Empty Tables, mainly because of the wonderful performance of the actor playing Marius(Unfortunately I don't remember his name).
It's still my favourite musical and I really hope that Hooper manages to successfully transfer it to the screen, I always thought that it would transfer much more easily to a Tv Miniseries than to a film but I doubt any network would produce a historical epic musical where most characters are dead by the end of it.

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterca

No, but your choice of book has inspired me to write a rough draft of Batesian. How three gay Tom Hardy fans decide to kidnap him while getting their Kathy Bates on.

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

I have never seen it! Can you believe it? I don't even own the soundtrack! Actually it's quite exciting not to have any previous thoughts towards a movie it's going to get so discussed everywhere.

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I saw it in London since I am a huge fan of the book, and was blown away by the musical. OnMy Own was my favorite song of the production because the actress who played Eponine had such an amazing voice and the song made me cry.

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdaisy5

Seen in twice in London! Fantastic production!

Favourite song is "One Day More"! Ultimate ensemble piece!! They don't make em' like that anymore!

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLuke

I have seen Les Mis 3 times because my wife LOVES this play ... I love musicals .. But i cannot warm up to this play ... i am seriously hoping that the movie will totally change my mind!!!!

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrick

I've seen Les Miserables three times. The first time was in London in 1988 and the last time was about three months ago when the national tour came to Austin, Texas. Every time I've seen it, it has blown me away. The new tour is a different staging - no turntable! But I found it even more beautiful. with its use of Victor Hugo's artwork. (Who knew he also painted!) Favorite song? It changes for me. The first time I saw it, "I Dreamed a Dream" reduced me to a blubbering mess. This most recent time, "Bring Him Home" gave me chills - in a good way - as sung by the current Jean Valjean - Peter Lockyer. But I also love "One Day More." In fact, I love the whole score. And, I'm sort of dreading the film, mainly because so many movies of stage musicals that I love have turned out so badly. The worst for me was "A Chorus Line," so awesome on stage and just trashed on screen..

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWayne

I love On My Own, I Dreamed a Dream, Bring Him Home, but I am surprised that only denny picked Do You Hear the People Sing?

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

I've never seen it on stage. On a trip to London back in the 90's my brother suggested it but we went to see Phantom of the Opera instead. I must confess the reason I chose Phantom over Les Miz was that it was a french import and somehow I didn't like that. I know, I was so snobbish. I loved the Phantom though!
Recently, after hearing of the movie version I watched the 25th annivesary concert and I was stunned. I loooove it so much that I rush to my brother to apologize for depriving him of that show back then. He said what? he didn't even remember it, so much for apologies!

Since then I cannot stop listening to the cast recording. My favorite song is Who am I. I get chills every time!

Ps: the guest bloggers are fine but I miss your posts too!

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSeisgrados

I hated it when I saw it performed in Kansas City back in the 80's. A 20 year pursuit over loaf of bread?!?!?!? So, I will be seeing the movie for the cast and the eventual boatload of nominations, and perhaps I will change my mind. But 20 years?!?!? Over bread?!?!? I must be missing something.

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

The book was my #1 favorite of all time in high school (still in my top 5), and even though the show is a rather free, streamlined version of the plot, I listened to it obsessively and saw it whenever I got the chance, which for a Midwestern suburban kid meant four times - twice in Milwaukee, twice in Chicago. The movie is, at this point, my most anticipated for the rest of 2012, give or take a Bond.

Favorite song: like a lot of people here, it depends on my mood, but "Do You Hear the People Sing" is my pick right now, followed by "A Little Fall of Rain".

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTim

I actually broke up during Les Miz, or was I dumped? I went to see it in San Francisco with the guy I was dating at the time. He bought the tickets for my birthday. I was loving it and during the intermission my date said that he hated it and we were leaving. I said I was loving it and I was going to stay since he'd paid for the tickets. He angrily stomped out and I never saw him again. I stayed for the whole show and loved it. ;-)

The song I've probably most enjoyed over the years is Bring Him Home. I'm not sure who has sung it the best. Maybe Alfie Boe? Oh but then Norm Lewis doing Stars recently? Who can decide?

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Alamitos Beach

I saw "Le Miz" on stage when Ricky Martin was in it!!! I was familiar with the score ( I love "One Day More" ) but was not that impressed by the staging.

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

I have seen Les Miz on stage 8 times over the last 25 years. When asked my favorite song, I always answer: "One Day More", a song that gives me goose pimples every time I hear it. But the honest truth is "Come to Me" and the epilogue- the dying and the dead Fantine always, but always, leaves me in tears.

"Take my hand and lead me to salvation,
Take my love for love is everlasting,
And remember the truth that once was spoken-
To love another person is to see the face of God."

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTrippy Trellis
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