Thursday, November 18, 2010

Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert

Earlier this week, Hollywood 18 here in Huntsville had a special presentation on the big screen of the 25th Anniversary concert of Les Miserables. As soon as I saw it jump off the page of the newspaper, I made plans to go. There was no way I was going to miss this event. For those of you who know me personally, you may know that I have a love for the theater and a deep passionate love in particular for Les Miserables.

The day of the show Erika called me and somehow it came up that I was going and she decided to join me and my box of tissue at the show. The cost was $15, which some people may think is a little steep; but, it last a little over three hours and was worth every bit the $15 and more – even Erika said it was a well spent $15. I’m glad this was only a one night event or I would be broke!

When I arrived at the theater, Erika was already there and had saved me a seat, which was a blessing because there were a lot more people there than I expected. I had not seen the show advertised except for the small blurb in the newspaper and I really didn’t expect there to be more than maybe five people there. I had even promised Erika I would get up and sing; but quickly changed my mind when I discovered there were 100 or so people there. The concert was shown in one of the larger theater rooms, which was a good thing since there were quite a few people there.

I had snuck in a McDonald’s cheeseburger (don’t judge me!) and bought some nachos and received a free drink with my loyalty card so I was set as far as snacks were concerned. I must admit it was weird to be chowing down on some nachos while Jean Valjean was singing on the big screen. I finally got tired of the nachos after the priest gave Valjean those infamous silver candlesticks and put them under the seat and got ready for the tears to flow. I cry through pretty much all of the show. It’s usually a very emotional experience for me.

The thing about watching this show in the theater with a bunch of other people who are also eating snacks is that the sound of candy bags and people trying to play footsies with strangers (some lady’s feet were a little too close to Erika) is that everything is a distraction and takes away from what you should be concentrating on – the show itself. I realized that this is obviously why no food or drinks are allowed at shows – makes perfect sense to me now! I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way and I think you all know how I love concession stand food. So for me to agree to ban it from something is a big deal!

I cried a little during Act I and then during the part when I’m usually sobbing like a baby, there was nothing and allow me to tell you why. During one of the most beautiful parts of the show, when Fantine is dying and asking Valjean to care for her child an old man on the front row started coughing and I don’t mean just some little coughs as if he had a cold, I mean outrageously loud non-stop coughing and I thought he might possibly die if someone didn’t soon give him assistance kind of coughs. It was the most distracting thing. It was all I could hear as if Fantine and Valjean weren’t even there – they were just background noise. It was so disappointing. I figured this man must have had a piece of popcorn go down the wrong way because it sounds like he was trying to cough it up. I wanted to yell, “Take it outside old man,” but refrained from doing so.

At intermission after a quick bathroom break and a kids meal purchase by Erika, I asked the old man if he needed a cough drop because I had some in my purse. This was my nice way of saying, “Old man, if you cough again, I will pick you up and toss you out of this theater.” He said no that he was fine now and confirmed my popcorn theory – it had indeed been stuck in his throat or something along those lines. His buddy told me it was nice of me to offer. Clearly he didn’t know my motives were just plain selfish.

We made it through the second half without any coughing, for which I was thankful. Erika enjoyed her kids sized popcorn with Junior Mints (snuck in) mixed in, which I thought was odd, but then again I don’t care for Junior Mints. She thinks it is a delightful combination. She let me have the fruit snacks that came with her kids meal so long as I gave her one red – I upheld my end of the bargain.

The concert was AMAZING! ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! In addition to the people who sang on stage, they had a chorus above the orchestra as well. The voices were so powerful and I had a constant stream of chills running up and down my body! At the end of the show, they had the casts from the two London theater companies come on stage with those that sang during the show as well as the original 1985 cast. The four Valjeans then sang, “Bring Him Home” – oh my word, people it was amazing. The original Valjean (Colm Wilkinson) is also the Valjean on my CD recording and so his voice is all to familiar to me and it was AMAZING! Have I mentioned it was AMAZING?! Then they all sang “One Day More.” AMAZING! Cameron MacKintosh and the writers all came on stage and gave speeches and then they ended with “Do You Hear The People Sing” with a chorus of high school students who have participated in the Les Miserables high school edition. It was so good. I would spend $15 again today if it were playing tonight.

The show was recorded live in London on October 3 and then shown in theaters across North America over the past few days. The role of Jean Valjean was sung by Alfie Boe (brilliant), Norm Lewis sang the role of Javert (phenomenal), Lea Salonga sang the role of Fantine (very good), Nick Jonas of all people played Marius and was quite impressive. The funny thing about this was that I dind’t even know he was Nick Jonas until I looked it up. I thought his face looked familiar, but never would have figured a Jonas brother as Marius. Ramin Karimloo played the role of Enjolras and was just as handsome as every Enjolras I’ve ever seen. I think this is a requirement for the role – I always cry when he dies.

It was one of the best shows I have ever seen and it wasn’t even acted out, just sung. The only other thing (besides the coughing and the rattling of candy wrappers) that got on my nerves while watching the show was hat people clapped. Now, listen, I’m all about the clapping if I’m at a show. I’m the first to jump out of my chair and cheer like there’s no tomorrow but when I’m a movie theater I hate it when people clap because the people on the screen CAN’T HEAR YOU! So, what’s the point. I will admit that when watching this concert there were a couple of times when I felt moved to jump up out of my chair and cap with all the energy I had but I didn’t because there’s no point in clapping for people who aren’t there. I can’t even really put into words why it gets on my nerves so badly but it does. The same thing happens in movies sometimes. I’m sure that when I go see Harry Potter somebody will clap and I’ll just roll my eyes and try to concentrate on the movie. Does anyone else feel this way or is it just me?

At any rate, this show was AMAZING (have I mentioned that) and it is supposed to be released on DVD in the UK later this month and will be released in North America on a yet to be determined date. I assure you I will be purchasing it and if you love Les Miserables, so should you!


Candy said...

“Take it outside old man,” - haha this made me laugh out loud sitting at my computer this morning.

Erika said...

I'm glad I called Natasha yesterday and invited myself to this! It was really good, and I would definitely go see other performances like this at the movies - it's a completely different experience than the live show, but a good one. I agree that the clappers and coughers were totally annoying....but, at least I could take my snacks and wear my super comfy clothes!
p.s. I thought Marius looked familiar!

Alison said...

Sounds really lovely! I have to say that I wish people wouldn't eat at the theatre. I know that for some people it's all part of the experience, but the sound of chewing just drives me insane. I admire your restraint toward the cougher. :)