Wednesday, January 30, 2013


When Michael Ball interviewed Amanda Seyfried about Les Mis, she said that she'd really wanted to play Eponine rather than Cosette.  Last Friday, when my friends and I were baggsying parts to call our own, it was the last one in who ended up with Cosette.

Basically, it goes:

Valjean, Javert, Eponine, Fantine, Marius, The Thenadiers, Enjolras/Student Revolutionary, Gavroche, Montrieul Whore, Montrieul Factory Worker, Factory Foreman, A Poor Person, Army General. Cosette

But why?

She gets a lot of stage time - she doesn't die off like [spoiler] Fantine or Eponine - and she doesn't have to wear a costume that is, at best, slutty (Mdm Thenadier).  She's adored by the men of the show - even Javert rides out to her at the Thenadiers, if only to nab her as bait for Valjean.  And she gets to duet with Marius who tends to be the most attractive man on stage, aside from the red-blooded Enjolras, of course.

Yet she's still considered the duff role. 

So come on. What's wrong with Cosette?

Perhaps it's the same old thing that I alluded to in my previous post about Javert: we're more drawn to characters who are a little bit naughty. Cosette, by virtue of her ... virtue, is just too good to be interesting. 

But if that's true, then surely, no-one'd want to be Valjean either. If the worst thing you can do is steal a loaf of bread ...  Admittedly he did try to run off with the contents of the Bishop's cupboards, but he was driven to that.  His good was momentarily corrupted by bad (French monarchical criminal law).  However, he is unrelentingly 'good' going forward.  Nauseatingly so. But he's the FIRST character to be bagged when we're divvying up parts.

No, the difference between Cosette and Valjean is that while Valjean has strength - physical and emotional - Cosette's basically a drip.

It doesn't help that her vocal range is set so high either. Because Valjean is always redeemed for me by the gorgeousness of his songs and vocals.  Despite being a saint, these give him density and dimension.  It's tiresome that he's always worrying he's not really very good at all, but at least he's tiresome whilst singing songs with a bit of welly.

Cosette, on the other hand, sings somewhere in the realms of a dog whistle and offers very little insight into her inner life. In My Life is basically about how she doesn't know anything.  The girl's a total void.

And why? Because she has been kept in the dark about practically everything in her life.  She has been the catalyst for so much yet she's completely oblivious.  Amanda Seyfried's interpretation of this is excellent (even her Disney-esque c.1937 vocals are perfect for that bird-like Victorian heroine) - she brings not the usual child-like innocence to the role but a sense of complete bewilderment - a girl who's a completely unknown quantity, even to herself.

And she IS a quantity because, contrary to general loathing, I would like to propose that Cosette is the most powerful character in the story.  I know. Bear with me.  

See the whole story revolves around this girl.
Point 1: She makes Valjean realise he shouldn't give himself up to Javert
The discovery of Cosette's existence when he saves Fantine stops Valjean from turning himself into Javert.

Point 2: She gives Valjean a reason for lifving
Cosette makes Valjean realise what he wants - she gives him purpose. Admitedly to be a dullard, but still ... it's better than going back to being 24601.

Point 3: She saves Marius's life
Because Marius falls in love with her, Valjean saves Marius from the barricades.  If Marius had chosen Eponine, he'd be dead with all his friends.

Point 4: She saves Eponine from a life of woe
Okay, this is kind of tenuous, but it took Marius falling in love with Cosette for her to realise it was never going to happen. And, okay, she dies before discovering that actually, there's more to life than a dreamer and hitching herself to someone more worthy's wagon (ie a man who doesn't fall in love in the blink of an eye), but perhaps what awaited her was worse.  I mean, the Thenadiers are her parents after all ...

Point 5: She gives Javert a reason to kill himself
Because Valjean feels compelled to rescue Marius for Cosette, Valjean bargains with Javert for more time to make sure Marius lives.  Javert lets him go because of this.  And then jumps into the river.  If Valjean had emerged from the sewer alone, Javert would've had him for sure.

You see - she is the ULTIMATE plot point! It all turns on Cosette.  That's pretty important. 

So perhaps it isn't about Cosette herself that we're so nnnghhhh.  Maybe it's something in the way she's presented to us?

In short: perhaps it's time someone allowed her to be played with some balls?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


What I think we should all be aware of however, is that THIS exists.  You can imagine that for the first few songs everyone was like 'yay, go you!' but by the time they struck up 'I Know Him So Well', interest was waning.

WARNING: It's eyewateringly uncool.


Okay.  So the Les Mising continues.

After my second viewing of Les Mis on Friday night with two other COMPLETE geeks, we sat up all night (and I mean all night - thanks Merlot) discussing the merits of the film versus the stageshow whilst looking at clips of various relevant bits on YouTube (I finally get what YouTube's for!).

Anyway, one of the main things we talked about was Russell Crowe's interpretation of Javert.

It's no secret (ha! imagine if THAT was my secret!) that I am a Javert fan.  I love a bit of Valjean but, really, saints ain't my thing even if they DO keep on insisting they're just a man like any other man (that's what saints do - normal people think they're special).  No, I like the obsessive nature of Javert - he presents far more of a challenge.

Put it this way: if you happened across the pair of them just before closing time after a particularly boozy night in a pub, Valjean would be insisting on getting you into a cab and home safely while Javert would be ignoring you. Who would YOU go home with ...?

So yes. I'm Team Javert. 


Basically, Javert's the world's ultimate Jobsworth.

The biggest mistake is to think that Javert's evil. He's absolutely not.  His job is to capture bad people. If he believes Valjean is a bad person who keeps escaping, he'd not be doing his job if he didn't want to capture him.

Javert certainly doesn't think what he's doing is bad - in fact, he's absolutely, resolutely set against 'bad'.  That's who Javert is. And he just wants to do his best which isn't that much different to Valjean.  It's just that his best means capturing Valjean because he genuinely believes that he's a dangerous man. Why wouldn't he want to recapture him when he has gone against the law? 'I am the law and the law will not be mocked'.  Admittedly, it's a bit excessive for stealing a loaf of bread but not being a creative thinker, Javert's not necessarily in a position to question that.

However, it's a misnomer that capturing Jean Valjean is all Javert wants to do.  Javert's been working his way up the ranks. He starts off a prison guard in a humbling little cap, and ends up a man with silver epaulets.  This is a man who has had an excellent career. Considering he's never caught Valjean, his successful career must therefore be based on other achievements.  It may be a personal goal, but his work rarely suffers because of it, obviously.

Until the moment he allows Valjean to escape him.  He has him in his sights but he lets him go and it breaks him. So he [spoiler alert] kills himself.  He cannot exist in a world where there is grey between the black and white, so indoctrinated by the State is he, that he sees no other option.

You've got to feel for him, surely?


Now, Javert is usually depicted as a bit of an aspergersy bully who has no concept of A Time And A Place - eg: ambushing Valjean by Fantine's deathbed, infiltrating the barricade etc. The only flash of humanity is when he lets Valjean take Marius to safety. And after that, he kills himself.  He's like a cyborg of grim jobsworthiness.

He is strong. Like a bull. His vocals are as powerful, if not more so, than Valjean's. This man holds all the pent up anger and brutality of a man continuously crossed.

Ahh Colm.


Crowe's interpretation is very different.  For a start, he's got quite a weak vocal compared to Jackme Jackman.  But it's not a bad thing. It immediately sets them apart. Valjean the enduring good, Crowe the Wannabe.  He has intense moral courage, but without the flexibility that Valjean shows, he flounders.  He only knows the law and is only capable of reading things through this.  He is alone whereas Valjean plays with others well (if a little piously).

Crowe brings a real vulnerability to the role. A  real sense of a rounded person with insecurities he's always having to fight against. He's not this assured hunter - he's desperately trying to be better than he is.  He doesn't hunt Valjean, Valjean happens to wander across his path - in Montrieul and in Paris. He chases him but both times - when Valjean takes Cosette and when he emerges from the sewers - he gives up pretty quickly.  This man knows where he stands.

Crowe also begins his emotional collapse sooner than the traditional Javert: at the point when Valjean allows him to escape at the barricade.  So by the time he pins the medal to Gavroche, he is already questioning himself - it's also a moment that is so gentle and moving that you forget it's JAVERT. That's how fresh his interpretation is.

So he's not a huge, powerful voice. The subservient, jobsworth middle-manager that Crowe creates is far more powerful to me.

Plus he gets to wear that hat without a single ounce of shame. Now THAT takes acting chops.

Jacking Jackman

I am as giddy as a foal because I have FINALLY found someone to fancy.  It's been a while since I got all scrabbly and 'must-look-at-pictures-of...' about a fella (who wasn't my husband. ahem).  There was Joshua Jackson back in the Pacy days.  And, God, I was OBSESSED with Heroes' Sylar - I still even fancied him in Star Trek (I do like me a bit of buttoned down guy).  But there's a new kid on the block.

Hugh Jackme Jackman.

Admittedly, not based on THIS look:

Because that would be like fancying Jesus. I'm not sure you're allowed to do that.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that I'm a total nutball for musicals so the new Les Mis film has completely toasted my toes and made my life complete (for a while).  Add to that the discovery that Hugh Jackman isn't just this:

But is actually THIS too:

Eyes. Wide. Open. Thank you very much. What a LOVELY surprise. I mean, I didn't go wild for his voice which is perfectly good.  Very good, infact.  But as Jean Valjean, I'm so deeply bathed in Colm Wilkerson that anyone else is a bit Stars In Their Eyes for me.

So, no, my obsession did not begin with him in Les Mis. Oh yes, I was tickled but not set aflame. No. The fire came from THIS:

Because MAN, you just know you'd have such an AWESOME time with him. 

I mean, I can even forgive him for doing the guns because you know that he's doing them because he's AWESOME and awesome people are allowed to Gun.  It's in the bible.

Imagine if that Gun was for you ... In your underwear. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

What's Up With Javert?

I really loved this blog post about Javert not being a lean-thinker.  I had no idea what a lean thinker was until I read this post, in fact, and have since discovered that I, like Javert, am not a lean thinker.  It's not the only similiarity I share with him either.  I like hats too.



And I tend to shout numbers in people's faces.  It's like a tic.  But I don't have any photos of me doing that.

Anyway.  I recommend this article because it really does get to the nub of what Being Efficient means (and it's not me).

When Lust Turns To Meh

The crumb in the corner of your mouth
Puts a chink in the glass of your perfection
And the wonder of you drains away
Leaving just the crumb in the corner of your mouth
And the sad knowing that you, after all, are not the one.