So it was off to see Les Miserables, purportedly the world’s most successful musical.
Honestly, I can’t see why. Even as West End musicals go, Les Miserables is just one huge tuneless cliched misfiring epic with all the subtlety of a rampaging bull, to whit:
– Jean Valjean – the chief character, jailed for stealing a loaf of bread – spends the whole two-and-a-half hours being morose, strong, principled and generally an utter bore who wails on about why is life so unfair to him. Principally shown by singing to the audience and getting down on your knees at regular intervals. And the actions he takes at the end defy belief.
He also simultaneously curses society for dealing out unjust punishment on him for his minor crimes, and then curses himself for not taking said punishment. Make up your mind!
– Javert spends the entire play (20+ years) hunting Valjean throughout France for no particular reason. It’s not as if Valjean was some master criminal – just a guy who stole a loaf of bread. Why on earth would Javert go to all that trouble? His actions at the end defy total belief as well.
– Songs? What songs? Songs make a musical. And I can’t remember a single tune from this one. R, to be fair, kept singing them to me but they still haven’t stuck.
– the man leading the “French revolution” and waving the red flag around looks uncannily like Rory Bremner doing Tony Blair. Which makes it extraordinarily difficult to take it all seriously.
– You’ve got students and peasants manning barricades and preparing for an attack from soldiers. The French Revolution, you’d think, re-created on a London stage. Except the French Revolution happened 43 years before the events in the musical.
But I bet your bottom dollar that the mainly-American audience (me included) had no idea that the French Revolution was 43 years earlier, so we all thought we were watching a re-enactment of the French Revolution where the peasants lost.
It wouldn’t have taken much of an effort to tell us this. They had captions flashed on the stage curtain. Just one little line could have avoided all the confusion.
– Will musicals please stop having children singing? It’s amazingly intensely annoying!
– Musicals have a theme. A point. A statement they’re trying to make. Not Les Miserables. It’s an assembly of forgettable songs, and boring characters desperately trying to fashion themselves into some kind of cohesive whole, and failing miserably.
Don’t go see Les Miserables. It’s been going for 20 years on the London stage, but maybe, just maybe, people will stop going and it can disappear as it deserves to.