I’ve never actually been to see a musical. There was something wrong with the suspension of my disbelief when actors in film musicals did a bit of talking then suddenly burst into song. It collapsed. So I never thought I would like them until…
Due to my mum’s Alfie Boe obsession I got to see a dvd of the 25th Anniversary concert of Les Miserables at the O2. Counterintuitively, she puts it on to cheer herself up. There were no speaking parts as all the drama is expressed through the songs. Songs can express emotion better than anything so I was relieved that the story wasn’t punctured by intermittent straight acting.
I recognised all the songs and in context, they wrenched at the soul. Watching a 16 year old lad expressing his teenage angst through ‘Empty Chairs and Empty Tables’ at college did not have the same impact as having a great big revolution stuck behind it.
Hopefully, the lives of the people who go to see the musical are less sad than the characters in it, and from this safe position, the songs can actually make us feel better (Jen Kim, Psychology Today). In ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ everyone can relate to a disappointment or two in life but not everyone loses their hair, their daughter, their job, their dignity and finally their life (spoiler alert!). Fantine played by Lea Salonga gave a great performance of this.
And they were not all sad. There was the rip-roaring ‘Master of the House’ done justice by the hilarious Matt Lucas who played Thenardier. There was also, what became Alfie Boe’s signature tune, ‘Bring Him Home’. What song doesn’t benefit from being sung by this impressive tenor? It was impossible not to get swept up by it and there were tears, laughter and standing ovations by the entire O2 audience.
There were no gratuitous fight or death scenes. When they died, the characters just wandered off stage in a pool of light! Misery is much better digested that way and having to use the imagination made it more involving.
It was once panned by critics. Lyn Gardner of ‘City Limits’ dubbed it ‘a load of sentimental old tosh’. So who would want to go and see a load of sentimental old tosh? Everyone, it seems. It is the longest running London musical and long live the characters who mostly meet an unfortunate end (another spoiler alert)! I watched the dvd twice and it has inspired me to go to see a musical to cheer myself up!