At the movies with Russell Crowe in Les Misérables


The last time I saw a production of Les Misérables was in London, 2007. Before that, it was 1995 in Chicago. In the late 80s, when it first came out on Broadway, apparently I played the soundtrack a lot in the car. I used to weep at the Éponine songs and badly harmonized along with Cosette and Marius and Fantine. Javert’s character was the most interesting one to me because his black and white thinking made him a zealot, a man whose rigid belief in human nature ruined him. Why would he obsess over a man who stole a piece of bread? It’s not like Jean Valjean killed his mother—I don’t understand why he would track him for decades. Nevertheless, Javert’s signature song, “Stars” is my favorite song in the musical.

I just wrote about Russell in my last blog. Here he was with clothes on and not smashing anyone to death. I knew he thought, “Well, Crikey—if Gerard Butler can sing in The Phantom of the Opera and get away with it, and then do 300, surely I can spend my time on the precipices of Parisian buildings and contemplate jumping?” How did he sing? Well, he’s good enough for a flawed character like Javert. I ached for the clear, high note in “Stars”, but that is a hard request to ask a baritone, so I forgive Russell. Now that the movie is out, my grown children are curious to see it since they remember the songs from our cross-town ventures in the car. I revisited the performance with my daughter today and wept for three hours straight. It was exhausting and magnificent.

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