NCh: Hi, I'm your Nostalgia Chick, and I've been doing this for a while. We did a lot of movies, nostalgic TV shows, games, what-have-you, but you know what we're gonna do today?! The stage musical!! Man, young Lindsay had a phase....
(flashback to 1998 and a young Lindsay eating peanut butter out of the jar while listening to Phantom of the Opera)
Young Lindsay: You understand my pain, Phantom....
(back to present)
NCh: But today we're gonna talk about one of the biggest, most well-known, most epic of stage musicals: Les Miserables.
(Susan Boyle's audition on Britain's Got Talent)
NCh (VO): Remember that song Susan Boyle sang? That was from Les Mis!
(clip of Dawson's Creek)
NCh (VO): Joey's song of hopeless longing that popped up in Dawson's Creek in the late 90s? Also Les Mis! Even if poor Katie Holmes couldn't sing the song.
Katie Holmes: (kind of yelling it) The world is full of happiness that I have never known!
NCh: (mimicking) I have never known!
(photos of Cats and Phantom of the Opera, and footage of Les Miserables)
NCh (VO): So on Broadway and in London, the 80s saw the emergence of the mega-musical, which started the trend of these really huge sets and gimmicks and the shows ran for a really long time and they made a lot of money. And most of them are courtesy of Lord Andrew Lloyd Froggie and Cameron Mackintosh. But Les Miserables rose above them to become the longest-running musical ever until it closed. The musical is based on the book, which is one of the longest novels ever written. Not even a little bit of an exaggeration there, it clocks in at over 500,000 words and devours roughly 20 trees per copy. And they had to cram in all of that; the thousands of characters, the set changes, decades passing, characters ageing into a three hour musical on a stage that is literally a giant turntable.
NCh: And since it's a French national treasure, there are roughly 12 or so adaptations per year. Sometimes the French do it, sometimes Hollywood does it, but during my musical phase, I saw a bunch of 'em.
(footage of one such adaptation and the musical)
NCh (VO): But most movie adaptations either change the source material wildly or they cut a bunch of it out, and either way, something is always lost in the translation. It just doesn't work as well, it's not as effective. Especially this most recent version with Claire Danes and Liam Neeson that's just....ugh..
Valjean: I took what I wanted. And then they caught me.
NCh: It's more like Les Meh. So what are the odds that it would take a goddamn musical to be the one medium that came the closest to getting the book across successfully?
NCh (VO): There's epic love stories, tales of revenge, obsession, greed, redemption; there's so much in this book.
NCh: So there's something about the medium of the musical that succeeds where other mediums might not. It actually manages to get the....maybe not the majority, but a plurality of these really dense subtexts, histories and emotions, and it just makes you wanna....you know.... Do you hear the people sing? Singing the-
NCh: JewWario, what are you doing here?
JW: This is my house. (beat) I live here.
NCh: (beat) I'm reviewing Les Mis!
JW: I know. You've been singing it.....all week.....
(flashback, to the tune of Lovely Ladies)
NCh: Nothing changes....
JW: (rocking back and forth hysterically) Nothing ever changes, not even this song. I really think this musical's been going on too long!
(back to the present)
JW: I appreciate that you...like the musical, and that you like to sing.... But it has to stop.
NCh: No, I'm doing a review!
JW: ...Why am I letting you stay at my house again?
NCh: Nella kicked me out for some reason.
Nella: (also rocking back and forth) Nothing ever changes, not even this song!
JW: Stop singing Les Mis! It needs to stop!
NCh: No! You don't understand! There is none but me who can review this thing! In mercy's name, 15 minutes is all I need!
(To the tune of Confrontation)
NCh: Then I'll shut up, I pledge my word. Then I'll stop singing-
JW: You must think me mad! I've hunted you across these rooms. Fans like you just can't shut up! A fan such as you!
(both singing over each other)
NCh: You love Les Mis, I bet you do, there is a review that I've sworn to do. You know nothing of musicals, all I do was sing this song. You know nothing of this song. You will never shut me up, not before I finish singing this song! I am warning you J-Dub, I will finish this review, if I have to kill you here, well, I probably won't go that far.
JW: Fans like you just can't shut up! Fans like you just can't shut up! No, no, Nostalgia Chick! I just can't take this song! It goes on for far too long! 2 and 2 is 4 somehow! Nostalgia Chick is nothing now! You know nothing of J-Dub! I was raised inside this hub! I work on this website too-
(NCh knocks JW out with an N64)
NCh: Now what? (runs off)
NCh (VO): So the British were the ones who brought it to the world. But it was actually written by a couple of French guys, Boublil and Schönberg, who wrote it in the early 80s. But then Cameron Mackintosh got his hands on it. And Cameron Mackintosh was producing all the mega-musicals in the 80s. This is the Cats guy, man. And he took the original French musical....
(footage of original French version of One Day More, Demain)
NCh (VO): And EPICIFIED IT.
London ensemble: The time is now! The day is here!
Original Gavroche: À la volonté du peuple....
Cosette and Javier: Tomorrow you'll be worlds away.../One day more to revolution, we will nip it in the bud!
NCh: So here's the plot. It's pretty dense, so I'll try to keep it concise.
NCh (VO): (very quickly) The story begins with Jean Valjean getting out of a 20 year prison sentence, no one will hire him because he's an ex-convict, a bishop takes pity on him and takes him in but then Valjean steals the silverware and he gets caught and he gets taken back to the bishop who lies to the police to keep Valjean from going back to prison- (deep breath) And he gives Valjean the silverware and Valjean is so touched by the gesture that he vows to change his life and leave his life of thieving and anger and hatred behind and becomes the nicest guy in France.
NCh: And that's the prologue! And on to Act 1. Though, really, imagine a musical that starts like this.
Convicts: Look down! Look down! You're here until you die!
Convict A: The sun is strong, it's hot as hell below!
Convicts: Look down! Look down!
JW (VO): There's three hours to go.
(they glare for a moment)
NCh (VO): The story's mostly about a dude named Jean Valjean, inadvertedly getting involved in a France revolution. No, not that one. No, no, not that one either- Yeah, the little-known one that was led mostly by students and ended really tragically that you've never heard of. There are a ton of subplots but the mainest of plots revolves around essential antagonist Javert, who is obsessed with bringing Valjean to justice just because he broke his parole.
Javert: He will bend and he will break.
NCh: He will bend over- Oooh....
NCh (VO): Like sometimes their interactions are so heated, the score practically gasps.
Javert: I am from the gutter too!
NCh (VO): (gasp) Gah! The devil you say! They first meet in the prologue. That's another thing with a book slash musical that spans the length of time that this one does, about 20 years: A lot of coincidences have to take place for the characters just to keep running into each other. So the main female character for the first act is Fantine, but we'll get to her in a sec. She gets fired from a factory owned by Jean Valjean and then just happens to get arrested for whorin' by, what a coincidence, Javert. And then Valjean shows up for some reason to help Fantine out, not realising that he happened to own the factory that she got fired from. And Javert shows up and thinks he recognises Valjean. Which is fine, but then he tells him that they just arrested a guy that looks just like him! Yesterday!
Javert: And he's just been rearrested, and he comes to court today.
NCh (VO): And the guy's trial is today! What a coincidence!
NCh: And it's at this point that the musical's more like "Les Coincidence."
NCh (VO): Fantine is a tragic hooker with a heart of gold who sings one song and then dies. She's basically Victor Hugo's character who embodies how horrible people were to women at the time. You can't say the same for the Thenardier family though, who are far and away the most fun characters in the whole thing.
Madame Thenardier: Master of the house isn't worth my spit. Comforter, philosopher and lifelong shit.
NC (VO): And they have the most fun song in the whole show.
Chorus: Servant to the poor, butler to the great!
Madame Thenardier: Hypocrite and toady and inebriate!
NCh (VO): Basically they're the hyenas of the show, the scavengers. They're introduced as the temporary guardians of Fantine's illegitimate daughter, Cosette, who's oh so miserable. And also the show's logo! Valjean adopts Cosette after Fantine dies. Ten years pass and the Thenardiers happen to run into Valjean on the street in Paris one day, where we meet the male lead love interest, Marius, who happens to be the Thenardiers' daughter's best friend and he happens to fall in love with Cosette.
Eponine: The police! Disappear! Run for it! It's Javert!
NCh (VO): Blog post then I'll run!
NCh: Hey, it's a complex story, they gotta cut corners. So let's look at the characters.
NCh (VO): And then there's Eponine. She's the Thenardiers' daughter, the voice of a generation of unrequited lovelorn teenagers everywhere. This one's interesting to me because it's really rare that the young girl's the unrequited lovelorn of their person in the love triangle. That person is usually a guy. Played by James Marsden. Eponine comes in around 30% through the play. To recap: She's in love with Marius who falls in love with Cosette, the daughter of Fantine who was adopted by Valjean when Fantine dies of consumption or something which means Cosette and Eponine were like adopted siblings at some point. And the relationship between Marius and Eponine is pretty hilarious because Marius is either dense as fuck or just a total douchebag.
Matrius: .....a world that is new that is free...
Eponine: Every word that he says is a dagger in me!
NCh: Eponine, dear Eponine, I'm just not that into you.
Marius: You are the answer to a prayer! Please take this letter to Cosette, and pray to God that she's still there!
NCh: Can you take a hint?
NCh (VO): But the very second the breeding pair, Marius and Cosette meet, they sing about how they're going to love each other eternally, so....
Marius: And you must never go away.....
NCh (VO): Never leave my sight! Yeah, their love story is pretty dull. The political stuff with Marius and his buddies is a lot more interesting.
Les Amis: Drink with me today....
NCh: Drink with me- Why are there chicks at the epic battle?
NCh (VO): Admittedly the student characters are a bit one-note, except for Marius, but the real tragedy of the story focuses on their failed revolution.
Soldier: The people of Paris sleep in their beds! You have no chance!
NCh (VO): No social skills! And girls don't like you either! Valjean, learning that Marius is at the barricade and loving him instantly, shows up at the battle and Les Coincidence! It's the very same barricade that Javert chose to infiltrate.
Javert: Death to each and every traitor! I renounce your people's court!
NCh: (gasp) Son of a bitch! You can't do that! Well I just did.
NCh (VO): One of the more famous musical numbers happens during this scene, and occurs while Valjean watches Marius sleeping.
Valjean: He's like the son I might have known if God had granted me a son.
NCh (VO): Note that in the musical at this point, the two had never actually exchanged words per se, or met officially. And beyond this, well, I don't wanna spoil too much of the story, because like I said, it is dense, but it's really really rich, but....be warned that in the second act.... Basically everyone dies. Not Hamlet level proportions but, well, that's another little aspect of this musical that it's renowned for. It's kind of a bummer. Most of the characters just don't make it.
Enjolras: Let others rise to take our place until the earth is free!
NCh: Ah! Chills....
NCh (VO): And after the battle of the barricade, you kind of think the musical's over, but then Thenardier gets this amazing song that's just so chilling and wonderfully sinister and really underrated. It really cements the idea that this character's just the embodiment of the scavengers of humanity, the people who profit from the gloryless waste of war.
Monsieur Thenardier: And God in his Heaven, he don't interfere, 'cos he's dead as the stiffs and me feet!
JW: How much longer are you gonna keep doing this?
NCh: I need to finish the review. So anyway, it was on Broadway for so many years, but then it got panned a few years ago, and there are these other long-running big epic musicals going on still, like Wicked and Phantom and, yeah, you know, they're alright in their way but none of them are quite as challenging as Les Mis.
Grantaire: Can it be your death means nothing at all? Is your life just one more lie?
NCh (VO): There are some other adaptations that are more like loose reimagining, but I would argue that the musical is the only really successful adaptation of this massive, massive book. Part of that is because of the medium. Musical allows you to put a lot more information into it while maintaining that sort of emotional intensity. So here's hoping for a Broadway revival of it.
JW: No seriously, how much longer are we gonna do this?
NCh: (music begins to stir) Oh, I don't know. Maybe.... One day more.... Another day, another destiny.... This never-ending road to calvary.... This man who seems to know my crime will surely come a second time. One day more....
Obscurus Lupa: I did not live until today..... How can I live when we are parted?
NCh: One day more...
Lupa and Elisa: Tomorrow you'll be worlds away, and yet with you, my world has started.
Todd in the Shadows: One more day on my own!
Lupa and Elisa: Will we ever meet again?
Todd in the Shadows: One more day with him not caring!
Lupa and Elisa: I was born to be with you!
Todd in the Shadows: What a life I might have known...
Lupa and Elisa: And I swear I will be true!
Todd in the Shadows: But he never saw me there!
Nostalgia Critic: One more day before the storm!
Paw: Do I follow where she goes?
Nostalgia Critic: At the barricades of freedom!
Paw: Shall I join my brothers there?
Nostalgia Critic: When our ranks begin to fall....
Paw: Do I stay and do I dare?
Nostalgia Critic: Will you take your place with me?
OanCitizen: The time is now! The day is here!
NCh: One day more!
JW: One more day til revolution! We will nip it in the bud! We will take these f*cking schoolboys! They will wet themselves with blood!
NCh: One day more!
Linkara: Watch 'em run amuck, catch 'em as they fall, never know your luck when there's a free-for-all! Here a little dip, here a little touch, most of them are goners so they won't miss much!
Nella: One day to a new beginning...
Phelous: Raise the flag of freedom high!
Nella: Every man will be a king!
Phelous: Every man will be a king!
Nella: There's a new world to be winning!
Phelous: There's a new world to be won!
Nella and Phelous: Do you hear the people sing?
Paw: My place is here. I fight with you!
Nostalgia Critic: One day more!
Lupa and Elisa: I did not live until today!
Todd in the Shadows: One more day all on my own!
Lupa and Elisa: How can I live when we are parted?
NCh: One day more!
Lupa and Elisa: Tomorrow you'll be worlds away!
Linkara: Watch 'em run amuck, catch 'em as they fall....
Todd in the Shadows: What a life I might have known!
Lupa and Elisa: And yet with you my world has started!
NCh: Tomorrow is the judgment day!
All: Tomorrow we'll discover what our God in Heaven has in store! One more dawn! One more day! One day more! (Linkara drops out about halfway through "one day more", grabbing his throat)
JW: No, really, it's time for you to go.
(credits roll to Master of the House)
Benzaie: Demain, demain, demain, demain.... OK, Lindsay, I think I'm ready for my cameo! Oh, it's over already? But.... But I'm French! What the fuck? This is.... This is bullshit! (curses and wanders off before coming back) Oh, by the way, you can't even pronounce "Les Miserables" correctly. Just freakin' served.