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A true 'Les Miserables' fan

By Gina Bucciero
Thursday, February 21, 2013

I dreamed a dream that Tom Hooper assembled an all-star cast to bring one of my top-five favorite musicals to the big screen. Only, it wasn't a dream at all. It was a fantastic Christmas present. I'm talking, of course, about the recently released film, "Les Misérables."

Beautifully constructed, and with memorable performances from some of Hollywood's biggest names, "Les Mis" is a credit to Hooper who did an impressive and widely applauded job of pulling off the enormous task of getting this project right.

There are A LOT of "Les Mis" fans like me out there. And why not? It's one of the classics of stage and currently the longest still-running musical on London's West End – actually for the past 25 years. For many of us theatre nerds, this film was one of the most highly anticipated. The Oscars quickly recognized it as one of the best films of the year, a great feat for something that is mostly sung, with little dialogue.

If you haven't seen it yet, you must! If only to see how Anne Hathaway's portrayal of Fantine is so good it gives you chills and how Hugh Jackman's Jean Valjean brings the house down. Most impressive of all perhaps is that it was filmed with all the actors singing live!

I'm not a crier when it comes to films, it takes a lot; but there were several moments that got me choked up. As much as I hate to admit it, Anne Hathaway's rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" was phenomenal, but Eddie Redmayne singing "Empty Chairs At Empty Tables" and Samantha Barks’ "On My Own" were incredible as well.

Speaking of Samantha Barks, many of you reading this probably had no idea who she was before this film, but the decision to cast her as Eponine was one of my favorites. If you'll recall, the search for Eponine threw in some heavy names like Scarlett Johanssen and Taylor Swift. Those women are very talented, and I totally rock out to Red. But they are not Eponine.

Samantha Barks played the role on the West End, she was the Eponine in the 25th Anniversary Concert and I had the fortune of seeing her on stage in 2011. She was made for that role, and when she was announced, my flat-mate and I celebrated by going to see her again, this time in the perennially running "Oliver"! To say I'm a fan-girl is an understatement. I probably know way too much about Samantha Barks.

I digress. That same flat-mate, also a fellow New Yorker, and I vowed to see the film together, after following the production process so thoroughly. We actually saw "Les Mis" on stage in London five times in the year and a half we were in the UK together. Every new addition to the stage cast warranted another trip!

Tom Hooper's film is strewn with former members of the West End cast. Having spent many a time at the stage door, watching this film felt almost like seeing old friends in the roles of extras. The part of Coufreyac, played by a Northern Irish lad by the name of Fra Fee, (yes that's his real name) was a member of the cast I've had the pleasure of speaking with. I knew he was going to be an extra, but I never would have imagined the amount of screen time he got. (My friend and I jokingly called him the star.) Every time a familiar face popped up we would get excited, much to the confusion (and probably annoyance) of our fellows. I loved that small detail that not many people would pick up on (unless of course you're a devotee who had the fortune of seeing them on stage).

That's the thing about "Les Mis" in the US. It's not running on Broadway anymore. You really can't see a good caliber performance of it here, unless it's on tour, and fortunately Proctors is showcasing the new 25th anniversary tour production from April 30 to May 5.

I was excited when Proctors announced it was coming back to the Capital Region. By the time the show gets here, it'll have been a year since I last saw it performed on the West End. Perfect timing for when the withdrawal chills start kicking in.

After seeing the film, I'm even more excited than I was before! I really hope that, if anything, the film will make people want to see the stage show. While the movie was fantastic, there were, as there always must be, changes. Lyrics were removed, new songs were added, circumstances were changed, and I understand that film has to be done a certain way. I really hope people will go to see the show in it's rawest sense, the way Cameron Mackintosh intended it to be told. The film is wonderful supplement, but it can never replace the staged version. I'm so happy for this opportunity to see "Les Mis" on American shores.

Who knows, perhaps the success of the film may even spark a Broadway revival! Until then, it's great to know that our very own premiere arts and entertainment complex in downtown Schenectady will be home to the production, if only for a short time this spring.

Gina Bucciero reported on her experiences as an intern at Proctors in a July 2010 blog and then again in June of last year on her time working on the 2012 Olympics. Gina, a resident of Clifton Park and College of St. Rose graduate, looks forward to visiting her colleagues and friends when they attend a performance of "Les Misérables" at Proctors this spring.

 
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