Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I Am SO Misérables

For the first time in a long time, I feel like a kid at Christmas. I hope it’s good, I hope it’s good, I hope it’s good….

Yes, I’m talking about the Les Misérables movie, opening Christmas Day. You all have NO idea how much I want it to be good!

I started reading Les Mis when I was in junior high. After that, I read it once a year. Yes, sometimes I skipped the minute descriptions of the Battle of Waterloo, but I read the book every year. I adore Jean Valjean. If my son hadn’t been destined to have John as part of his name anyway—well, he would have. Let’s just say that.

Like all my heroes—James T. Kirk, Patrick Pennington (look him up, it’s worth it), Sarah Connor (T2), Nathan Algren, and more recently, Katniss Everdeen—Jean Valjean never says die. Give him two bad choices and he will create a third, better choice. He’ll do it by sheer force of will, if necessary.

Now, if only I can will the movie to be perfect….

I also read Lord of the Rings just about every year. (In case you’re wondering, I read lighter fare in junior high, too—like Mary Stewart. I got used to answering the question, “Are you really going to read that WHOLE book?”) But I had such mixed reactions to the LOTR movies (loved the visuals, felt some part of the soul was missing), that I’m afraid to get my hopes up about Les Mis. But, of course, the musical is a BRILLIANT adaptation of the book in every single way. I’m a theater person; I know this for a fact. So one good adaptation on record bodes well, right?

I’ll never forget when I first heard the music. My English teacher took a tape home and taped her CD for me. (Thank you, Mrs. Hayne!) I was beyond ecstatic! I remember trying to explain to my busy, completely un-dramatic, pragmatic mother how amazing the musical was. “And then, the most important decision of his life and they rhymed ‘Jean Valjean’ with ‘24601’! It’s brilliant! It’s pure poetry!” She wasn’t impressed.

But it is—think about it. He embraces both his true identity and his mark of shame (his prison number) in two brief lyrics set to soaring music—the turning point of his life conveyed perfectly.

Then I got to see the show in 1988. Holy wow. I can still make myself shake and ugly cry just thinking about it. I loved the performances, I loved the feeling of being inside the music. I loved the turntable. I loved the barricade and the fake marching and I couldn’t wait to see how they staged Javert’s suicide and, wow! It was the pinnacle of theater magic.

The final scene of the show is my favorite (and the cause of most of the ugly crying), so when the ovations ended and the lights came up, I was a wreck. I could not walk—literally. After everyone on the field trip waited a very kind, considerate, patient interval, two friends helped me up the aisle. (To everyone on that field trip—I’m really sorry about that. At least we could laugh about it later!)

That’s my history with Les Mis. It’s passionate. So, you know, Anne, Russell, Amanda, Eddie, Samantha, and, most of all, Hugh and Tom, I’m counting on you. No pressure, but…

However the movie turns out, “remember the truth that once was spoken: to love another person is to see the face of God.”

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