Evolution of a Dream — a True Romance

“I dreamed a dream in time gone by, / When hope was high, and life worth living.

I dreamed that love would never die, / I dreamed that God would be forgiving.

Then I was young and unafraid, / And dreams were made and used and wasted.

There was no ransom to be paid, / No song unsung, no wine, untasted.”

 

Okay, I confess.  I’ve just seen the film musical of Les Misérables, and while it wasn’t as stirring as the two stage productions I’ve seen, nor the vocalists as powerful, it had a certain tenderness and emotion and intimacy that the former lacked.

I admit to bawling during Fantine’s solo, weeping when Éponine and Jean Valjean died, and even tearing up a bit when Javert (ineptly played by Russell Crowe – sorry, Crowe fans, he’s got a great choir voice, but couldn’t pull off Javert) threw himself into the Seine.

 

I realized as I discussed this movie version with my daughter that Les Misérables is not a romance of the kind we read and discuss here in the Lair, but it IS a romance in the literary sense of the word.  It’s the story of redemption and the overwhelming power of love – love of all kinds.

Students of literature are taught in college that art, books, and culture are one of three styles: romantic, realistic, and naturalistic.

Stories in the Romantic period are utimately optimistic; the writer and characters view the world through rose-tinted glasses, as it were.  They’re highly emotional and approach life with grand idealism.

Realism is the style in which man and nature are shown in their elemental facets, in plain language and ordinary events, while Naturalism is the study of the world as if one were looking through dirt-smudged lenses – a study of man, nature, and the world’s gritty underbelly.

 

While Les Misérables is affectingly realistic and has strong naturalistic elements – simply the scene when Fantine sells first her locket, then her hair, her teeth (her front teeth in Hugo’s novel), and finally her body is so gripping that one could consider it a study in Naturalism.  She’s pitted against a larger malevolent force over which she has no control and which ultimately destroys her.

But the play IS in the romantic vein for many reasons: at the end of the story, Fantine ushers Jean Valjean into heaven. He saved her child from a life of poverty and degradation.  Lovers Marius and Cosette reunite.  Valjean refuses to kill Javert.  The story is highly idealistic, and for the most part, shows the world and man’s actions as we would want them to be rather than what they really are.

 

The most romantic element is Jean Valjean’s decision to sacrifice himself at the end.  He asks an age-old question: “Who am I?” and redeems himself by the continuum of his actions since he left prison.

“Who am I? /Can I conceal myself for evermore?

Pretend I’m not the man I was before?”

 

He makes a deliberate choice to be a better man, to save Cosette, to rescue the innocent man whom Javert and the courts believe to be the runaway convict from all those years ago.  He risks his life for Marius, who becomes in his heart the son he never had, and releases Javert when he could’ve killed him.

 

Finally, in the stage productions I’ve seen, I never paid much attention to Éponine, but in the film her role is exquisite.  She plays a true romantic character – a woman whose unrequited love for Marius becomes the means of her redemptive nobility.

 

If that’s not romance, I don’t know what is.

 

What about you, readers?  Have you seen the film musical of Les Miserables?  What did you think of it?  Have you read Victor Hugo’s very long novel (one of the longest novels ever written!).  What’s your favorite musical?

Which of your favorite romance novels do you see being made into a musical? 

 

 

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Comments

59 thoughts on “Evolution of a Dream — a True Romance

  1. 1
    Helen Sibbritt says:

    I wonder whoes place he is visiting today?

    Have Fun
    Helen

    • 1.1

      Helen, I don’t know why anyone would want to visit Oz today! The temps, especially down your way, are excruciating! He must love you!!!! ;-)

      • 1.1.1
        Helen Sibbritt says:

        I have to agree Anna we have just been out to dinner for Jayden’s 7th birthday and the southerly has come through and dropped the temps heaps it is much better now I can see me being able to sleep

        Have Fun
        Helen

        • 1.1.1.1
          Jo Robertson says:

          It sounds like your “southerly” is a wind that comes off the ocean to cool you down, Helen. Is that right?

          We get what we call the Delta breeze, winds that come off the delta in the Stockton area (about 50 miles south of here) and they really cool our temperatures at night during our sometimes very hot temperatures.

          • 1.1.1.1.1
            Helen Sibbritt says:

            Jo

            It is and it drops the temps very quickley they dropped 15 degrees in about 30 min last night so much better it is cloudy and raining a b it this morning

            Have Fun
            Helen

          • 1.1.1.1.2
            Jo Robertson says:

            Super, Helen. That’s exactly what our Delta breeze does and it’s wonderful. During the summer months, we pray for that because we can have runs of 100 degree temperature for weeks. It’s a dry heat, so not as bothersome as with the humidity, but it sure runs of my air conditioning bill.

        • 1.1.1.2

          A little bit cooler here this morning, Helen. Hope it lasts. Happy birthday, Jayden! x

      • 1.1.2
        Jo Robertson says:

        I was thinking the same thing, Fo, and how ironic it is that you’re sweltering in Oz, while we’re freezing to death in northern California. Usually the temps this time of the year get down to the 40’s at night, but give us sunshine during the day. Right now, we’ve had quite of few days of below freezing temperatures at night.

        Dr. Big had to cover the pipes with insulation so they wouldn’t burst!

    • 1.2
      Jo Robertson says:

      Hehehehe. I just wonder who??

      Congrats, Helen.

  2. 2
    Princess Fi says:

    I’m glad I went to see it and the music was amazing and I cried at all the right bits. But at the same time I looked at my watch regularly, trotted off to the bathroom happily (something never seen before on a first viewing unless desperate). So a mixed bag for me.

    • 2.1

      Ooh, interesting, Fi. The bathroom breaks don’t sound like it was holding your attention!

    • 2.2
      Jo Robertson says:

      That’s interesting, Princess. What were the parts where you felt you could take a potty break? I was afraid I’d miss something important, but now I realize that I could’ve gone during some of the long production numbers that were actually more rousing on stage, I thought.

  3. 3

    Jo, loved your post today. I’ve been eagerly watching the reception to the Les Mis. I’m sure I’ve told you all this before but I went to one of the previews in London so I saw the English language version before nearly everyone else – my one claim to fame, LOL! I was absolutely blown away by it and wasn’t at all surprised that it went on to become an all-time worldwide favorite. Cried my eyes out that first time I saw it and every time of the seven I’ve seen it since. Played the soundtrack so often at one stage I knew every single word – Red, the blood of angry men! Which means I”m definitely a fan of the stage play. Which makes me a bit shy of seeing the movie. Still haven’t decided if I’ll go!

    I agree with you about it being Romantic with a big ‘R’. It’s a story about love conquering all and good overcoming evil. As you say, you can’t get much more romantic than that. Although if it was entered in the Ritas (the mind boggles!), I think it would definitely be romantic elements!

    • 3.1
      Jo Robertson says:

      Lovely comments, Anna, and how lucky you were to see it on the English stage. My sister sent me the stage soundtrack before I saw the production and I found it very helpful as I was geared up for the storyline and the big musical numbers. I still get chills thinking about those words!

    • 3.2
      Jo Robertson says:

      Oh, and I think you SHOULD see the film production because, like I said, it does have some elements that aren’t possible in the stage production.

      Sort of like watching a Greek play in a huge amphitheatre versus watching a small intimate theatre in the round where you can actually see every facial expression and the smallest physical gesture.

      Does that make sense LOL?

      • 3.2.1

        Jo, that does make sense and you’ve almost convinced me. Interesting when you say some of the big production numbers aren’t quite so stirring in the film. I remember when I saw LM the first time it was in a smallish theatre and when the barricades came together, it was just breathtaking. I’ve seen it since in bigger theatres, and even there, it’s good but it’s not heart-stopping, if you know what I mean. And the red flags flying in One More Day are amazing on stage but I imagine on screen, that’s not quite so breathtaking. Horses for courses, I guess. As you say, there’s the intimacy of a close-up in a film that you don’t get on stage. Patti Lupone was Fantine in that original version and she just broke your heart.

  4. 4

    I really enjoyed the movie, but I’ve not seen the stage production and so can’t compare the two. I bought the soundtrack to the movie right after I got home from the movie and have played it many times since. I loved Anne Hathaway and Eddie Redmayne (Marius) in particular. And I’m in the minority, but I actually liked Russell Crowe’s depiction of Javert. My favorite songs from the soundtrack are “I Dreamed a Dream” and “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.”

    I also really liked the two main child actors who played young Cosette and Gavroche.

    • 4.1
      Jo Robertson says:

      Weren’t those two young actors simply amazing, Trish!

      And I may have been a bit harsh on Crowe. I think he was going for a very contained, controlled Javert, but his vocals just put me off.

      • 4.1.1

        That’s what I felt like, that he was a very controlled, by-the-book type of character and portrayed Javert that way. It contrasts with the characters that are more demonstrative, letting all their feelings good and bad be expressed to their full range.

        • 4.1.1.1
          Jo Robertson says:

          Since Russell Crowe is an immensely talented actor IMO, I suspect that he was going for that, Trish. I guess I was just used to the almost melodramatic role of Javert you see on stage. I almost expected him to twirl a mustache!

  5. 5
    Mary Preston says:

    I read LES MISERABLES many, many years ago. I did enjoy ploughing through it.

    I saw the film version of LES MISERABLES two weeks ago now. I laughed & I cried & went home with the songs bouncing around in my head. I thought it was just wonderful.

    • 5.1
      Jo Robertson says:

      Isn’t that the greatest feeling, Mary? I love waking up in the morning with the tunes still humming in my head. I feel like running right out now and buying another soundtrack!

  6. 6
    Helen Sibbritt says:

    Jo

    I haven’t Les Mes in either live or the movie I just think it might be a bit too heavy for me somehow I do love a good musical but ones like The Sound of Music and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and I loved The Rocky Horror Show maybe I should go and see it though just for Hugh Jackman

    Have Fun
    Helen

    • 6.1
      Jo Robertson says:

      OMG, Helen, I never would’ve guessed you were a Rocky Horror Picture show fan! Some of my students were huge fans and went to every show, dressed up, and recited the words along with the actors on films.

      Very cult-like and very interesting!

      Oh, you’re a wild woman!

      I like the old traditional musicals too. Loved West Side Story (even though it’s tragic) and My Fair Lady — loved the transition of Eliza Doolittle!

      • 6.1.1
        Helen Sibbritt says:

        LOL

        We went to see the live show twice but surprisingly I have never seen the movie maybe one day I will sit down and what it we also saw Jesus Christ Superstar as a live show ans well and loved that

        Have Fun
        Helen

        • 6.1.1.1
          Jo Robertson says:

          I enjoy Jesus Christ Superstar, too, Helen.

          What they do at the midnight showings of Rock Horror is the audience gets really wild and stands up and dances and sings with the film characters. It’s pretty rowdy!

  7. 7
    Laurie G says:

    I saw a tiny bit of the stage production of the 25th anniversary Les Mis show on PBS. I wasn’t sure what was going on so I didn’t watch the ending. I did hear the I Dream song. I loved it. I was familiar with the song because they showcased it on one of Glee’s past episodes with Lea Michele singing a duet with the little blond Broadway actress. Sorry I can’t remember her name.

    No I never read the book and was not familiar with the Les Mis storyline. I’ve heard mixed reviews about the movie. Most people say that the singing is atrocious. I heard one older friend say it was boring.

    My favorite musical is Phantom of the Opera. I also liked RENT and Camelot.

    • 7.1
      Jo Robertson says:

      Loved Phantom too, Laurie. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never seen RENT, but it’s definitely on my bucket list of to-do things.

      Now that my daughter lives a hop and skip from Manhattan, I definitely want to see some Broadway musicals with her. I’d love to see Lion King in NY. I saw it here in Sacramento and it was amazing!

  8. 8
    melody may says:

    I haven’t read the book. I have seen a stage production of Les Mis and I saw the movie. I can honestly say that I loved the stage so much more. Granted the movie visually stunning, but I don’t there was something about the stage version that made it so much better.

    Les Mis is my actual favorite musical. The music is just so amazing. I actually love Eponine’s song On My Own the best.

    • 8.1

      Melody –

      ON MY OWN is my favorite song as well! So glad that they used a broadway singer to play the role of Eponine in the movie.

    • 8.2
      Jo Robertson says:

      Hi, Melody! I felt the same way when I first saw the movie. I enjoyed the big stage productions. The battle songs and the opening number with the convicts. The play seemed much more “political” when I saw it on stage, but much more of a love story and a romance in the film. It was so tender and intimate.

      • 8.2.1

        Jo, I heard a really interesting interview with Trevor Nunn, the director, years ago when they opened the Aussie production. He said that every country seemed to put its own emphasis on the show. The Brits were talking about the inexorable processes of society grinding down on individuals. The American production was about the individual rebelling AGAINST those social processes. The Aussie one was more about egalitarianism and social justice and the group against the machine (egalitarianism is something of a cult here which is both good and bad).

        • 8.2.1.1
          Jo Robertson says:

          Wow, very interesting, Anna. I hadn’t thought that the producer and director had a specific aim in their approach to the musical — DUH!

          It makes sense, though, that Americans would have a revolutionary connection to the play.

          Dr. Big and I were just talking last night about the issue of gun control in the US (not to get too political), and how most western countries don’t consider owning a gun a constitutional right; rather, they have to PROVE they have a valid reason to own a gun. It’s the opposite here. One reason, I think, is that our country was born in revolution and distrust of centralized government. You’d think after 200-plus years, that would pass by the wayside, though.

          Even though I spent a lot of my younger years hunting (deer, pheasant, squirrel), I have an innate fear of having a gun in my home.

  9. 9

    Jo –

    I’ve seen the stage production of Les Miz several times – both in London and the US. Obviously, I love it. I had mixed reactions to the movie. Russell Crowe didn’t have the strong voice necessary for Javert and I didn’t like all the closeups in the beginning of the movie – it really detracted from placing the story in context to the setting. But I still cried at the end (happy tears) as well.

    Funny thing – I missed the slow motion sequences from the stage production – don’t know why – but I did.

    • 9.1
      Jo Robertson says:

      That’s interesting, Donna. I hardly remember the slow-motion sequences. Isn’t it funny what sticks with a person. Every time I’ve seen it (3 times now), I come away with something diferent. And the first time, it was the rousing revolutionay nature of the play.

  10. 10
    catslady says:

    Somehow I’ve missed seeing or reading this story. I really didn’t know the story until recently. I’m planning on going but schedules being what they are, I’m not positive I’ll get there. I’ve always enjoyed musicals but I don’t believe I’ve seen one where everything was sung which should be completely different. Susan Boyle is the first time I heard I Dream A Dream and I really do like it. Normally I like to read the book first. Although I love HEA, the stories that stick with me the most are ones that have some tragedy in them.

    • 10.1
      Jo Robertson says:

      I enjoy the tragic storylines, too, Catslady. And I think it’s because when the HEA comes, it seems so much more satisfying.

      I know our own Anna Campbell likes to put her heroes through a lot of trial and torture LOL, which is why I adore her books!

      • 10.1.1

        Moi? Torturing a poor innocent character? You jest, Jo Robertson, you jest! ;-) By the way, thank you! x

        • 10.1.1.1
          Jo Robertson says:

          Giggle! I know I’m always going to see your hero put through his paces, Anna. I LOVE that intensity. No one should assume the right to HEA (not in fiction, anyway); they should work hard for it!

  11. 11
    Jo Robertson says:

    Good morning, everyone! I posted this article about musicals and Les Miserables a few weeks ago, but due to a mixup, it got pulled down.

    I thought more of you would enjoy it. I love talking about musicals and literature and especially my favorite books that might make great musicals!

  12. 12
    Pat Cochran says:

    ( I thought there was a familiarity to this
    post, knew I’d seen the questions before.)

    Haven’t seen the film or read the book.
    DS1 has seen it, cried too, and warned
    me to carry a box of tissues when I see
    it, as I plan to do. My favorite musicals
    are West Side Story and Phantom Of
    The Opera.

    Pat C.

    • 12.1
      Jo Robertson says:

      Sorry for the repeat, Pat, but I didn’t want to waste a blog!

      Yes, take the tissues.

      I saw WWS off-off Broadway when I was 16 and it first came out (oops, dating myself) and I fell in love with the tragic romance. Just perfect for a teenager!

  13. 13
    Pat Cochran says:

    Forgot to mention Camelot!

    Pat C.

    • 13.1
      Jo Robertson says:

      Oh, yes — Camelot — and it’s quite a bit bizarre! LOL.

      No one’s mentioned GREASE. Both my daughters were in a production of that when they were teens and I’ve always loved the rocking music!

  14. 14
    Hellion says:

    Did see Les Mis, and loved it. Cried at all those parts as well; and I didn’t mind Russell as Javert, but then again, I haven’t seen it on stage. (I remember seeing the movie Camelot and I couldn’t get into it and couldn’t stand it, but saw a stage production of it and got it and laughed at all the right spots.)

    Favorite musical though? SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS. I don’t know why–it just works for me.

    • 14.1
      Jo Robertson says:

      Hi, Hellion! It’s so good to see you. I’ve been meaning to ask if I could guest with you guys, but life has kept me soooo busy lately.

      My fave song is “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No.” Love that song — it’s so wickedly giggly!

  15. 15
    Susan Sey says:

    Oh, Jo, I can’t WAIT to see Les Mis! Especially since the Golden Globes & all the statutes it took home! Plus I just love me a good tear jerker. And Hugh Jackman? Yes, please. :-)

  16. 16
    Mozette says:

    What about you, readers? Have you seen the film musical of Les Miserables? What did you think of it? Have you read Victor Hugo’s very long novel (one of the longest novels ever written!). What’s your favorite musical?

    Which of your favorite romance novels do you see being made into a musical?

    Read Les Miserables? What do you mean read? I’ve sung the music to it! :D Yes, I’ve been fortunate enough to have been in a choir to sing a wonderfully gorgeously long medley to this stage play… and there wasn’t a performance we did where I didn’t cry. Yep, once that red flag came out, we all began bawling.

  17. 17

    I saw Les Mis on Christmas day. I love it. I never had the chance to see it on stage but now I really want to. I thought Hugh Jackman was so gooooood!

    One of my favorite musicals is still West Side Story…I think its the wonderful music!

  18. 18

    Jo, I really enjoyed this post. We’ve seen Les Miz onstage twice and thoroughly loved it. I’ve never seen the book and have yet to see the latest film. I have to agree about Crowe’s singing. I think he deserves great credit for putting himself out there, but his singing will likely not ever match up to his acting.

    My favorite musical is Camelot.

    As for a romance that could be a musical, that’s hard to pick. Maybe Frederica?

    • 18.1
      Jo Robertson says:

      That’s by Georgette Heyer, right, Nancy?

      Who would you choose to play the role of Fredericka?

      BTW, you’re the only person who answered that question!

  19. 19
    Pissenlit says:

    Ah! I’m so late!
    I haven’t read the book or seen the film but I think it was the video of the 10th Anniversary concert of the musical that I saw. I enjoyed the songs but the story didn’t grab me. My favourite song from it is A Little Fall of Rain.

    Gosh, I don’t know what my favourite musical is. Possibly Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. I also like his Into The Woods and Mary Rodgers’ Once Upon A Mattress.

    I can’t think of a particular favourite romance novel that I could see being made into a musical. I think anything can…and possibly should. More musicals! :D

    • 19.1
      Pissenlit says:

      Whoops! I left out Marshall Barer who wrote the lyrics for Once Upon A Mattress. Mary Rodgers wrote the music.