Jan 16 2013 By Rachel Agnew
I love musicals. There you go, I’ve said it. I’ve always loved them and I’m not embarrassed to admit it.
I was brought up on a musical diet of Rogers and Hammerstein, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter and I’ve never looked back. I completely love the fact that in the middle of an important piece of dialogue or action, the orchestra will kick in, the actors will burst into song and if appropriate, dance their way through the rest of the scene.
I know there are some who consider musicals decidedly naff and think they’re the art form of the devil. But I have always been hooked, whether on stage or on film. In fact my first major performing role was that of Nancy in the school production of Oliver. Performing in a full stage musical, aged 17, completely cemented my love of the genre, and if I say so myself, my Oom Pah Pah was the talk of Brighton and Hove!!
So you can imagine how excited I was when I heard of the creation of the film version of Les Miserables, an amazing musical which has been running in the West End and Broadway for over 25 years. It’s a rare occurrence nowadays for the film world to throw its weight and not inconsiderable finance behind a musical. The last major investment was Chicago in 2002 which of course went on to win Best Picture at the 2003 Oscars. It’s only taken ten years to get to the release of the next potential award winner.
Yesterday afternoon I prepared myself (took out a second mortgage to purchase a bucket of popcorn), grabbed a handful of tissues and went to see Les Mis. And I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. I completely loved the film, all 158 minutes of it, and happily (for all the others in the cinema) I managed to restrain myself from singing along. I think it’s a fantastic interpretation of the stage show and is an emotional and powerful monster of a film. Hugh Jackman is completely wonderful and has now formally moved into first place in my celebrity crush list and Anne Hathaway, though only on screen for about 15 minutes, is fantastic. However, there is one major
weakness in the film and that’s Russell Crowe. Unfortunately his singing leaves an awful lot to be desired and rather than coming over as an evil, menacing policeman, he looks more like a really uncomfortable Richard Burton impersonator. I’m sure when he threw himself off the bridge into the depths of the river Seine, it was not because his character had failed as a policeman, but because he’d just heard a playback of his own singing.
What is also surprising about the film is the number of people I know who wouldn’t normally go and see a musical in the theatre, but who are showing an interest in seeing this. I wonder whether somehow the silver screen adds a certain gravitas to a musical and makes it a bit cooler? Or maybe it’s the cast that add the coolness and people are dying to see whether Wolverine really can sing? I’m sure if the film had starred lesser known West End and Broadway stars then it wouldn’t have had such potential mass appeal.
It is going to be very interesting to see whether Les Mis has the same success as Chicago did in the Oscars. I hope so, because it would be really nice to think that we don’t have to wait another 10 years for the next big musical film. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I did need the tissues. I cried several times during the film. But then again, I’ve been known to cry at TV adverts so maybe that’s not saying much.
NOTE TO SELF: All together now, ‘I Dreamed a Dream....’