Sandie Angulo Chen December 25, 2012
Director Tom Hooper’s film adaptation of “Les Misérables ” is remarkably faithful to the stage production. It’s so true to the musical that we initially only noticed a few structural and plot differences. But after a comparison of the movie to a recent performance of the National Tour, it becomes clear that Hooper did make some changes in his translation from stage to screen.
Here are five differences we noticed, some of which are obvious to anyone who has seen the musical while others only the most avid “Les Miz” fans (or someone sitting with a Playbill) will spot.
1. The Voice Factor
In a Broadway production, there’s a certain vocal virtuosity expected from all of the performers. They’re true Triple Threats with impressive ranges that audiences can count on to hit all the soaring high notes. But Hooper didn’t cast the film with all Broadway alums. Some of the actors, including Hugh Jackman (Jean Valjean), Eddie Redmayne (Marius), Samantha Barks (Eponine) and Aaron Tveit (Enjolras) have appeared in musicals before, while others like Amanda Seyfried, Russell Crowe and Helena Bonham Carter would never have gotten a callback for the Broadway performance of Les Miz. But since this is a film that requires a lot of acting in between the songs, their casting is (somewhat) understood. In other words, don’t expect all of the actors to sound like they would on the Great White Way. On the plus side, Colm Wilkinson (original Jean Valjean) appears in a small but pivotal role as the kind bishop who saves Valjean’s life.
2. Song Order
Most of the songs are in the film, but they’re not necessarily in the same order as on the stage. For example, “Lovely Ladies” precedes “I Dreamed a Dream” in the movie, but it’s the reverse in the musica.l By ordering “Lovely Ladies” first, Hooper focuses even more on the tragedy of Fantine hitting rock bottom; she’s already encountered the prostitutes and knows her fate is doomed. When Anne Hathaway cry-sings the line “Don’t they know they’re making love to one already dead?,” it’s that much clearer that life has indeed killed the dream she dreamed. Other songs that appear out of the original order: Javert’s solo “Stars,” the entire company’s “One Day More,” and Eponine’s unforgettable torch song, “On My Own.”
3. Extra Scenes
The movie includes several scenes that aren’t in the original production. One of the most significant additions is in the opening sequence when Javert commands Jean Valjean, who’s still imprisoned, to move a huge mast with the French flag. The fact that Valjean can move it is important, because years later in the story Valjean disguised as Monsieur Madeleine performs another feat of brute strength that reminds Javert of that moment. In the play, we’re not shown a specific reason why Javert would jump to the conclusion that Madeleine was actually Jean Valjean. We’re just supposed to take his word for the fact that Valjean had herculean strength. Javert also pops up places he never appears in the play, and Valjean and Cosette seek sanctuary at a convent after fleeing from Javert (an entire sequence that doesn’t occur in the musical).
4. New Song
The film includes one original song that was not in the musical. Story wise, it’s a lovely addition after a fugitive Valjean finds young Cosette and rescues her from the awful, moneygrubbing Thénardiers (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter). The song was written and composed by Alain Boublil and Michel Schönberg – the same duo responsible for all of the other films in Les Miz. Performed by Jackman, it’s the only song that qualifies for a Best Original Song Academy Award nomination. Even moviegoers who barely remember seeing the musical on their Spring Break trip to New York should be able to recognize the new song.
5. Missing Solo
Perhaps to accommodate the addition of “Suddenly,” or perhaps to accommodate the fact that Baron Cohen, while hilarious, isn’t known for his singing, the solo that the opportunistic Thénardier sings in the sewers – “Dog Eat Dog” – in Act 2 of the play — is completely missing from the movie. It’s probably all for the best, since Cohen is still able to convey the mood of the song while he’s picking over corpses and looking for loot in the sewers.
Categories: FeaturesTags: Anne hathaway, Eddie Redmayne, Hugh jackman, Les Miserables, Russell crowe, Samantha Barks