Thursday, May 17, 2012

Les Mis: what a croissanwich.*

Well, you can’t say I didn’t try. This was my last chance for that musical, and it’s not looking too good.

The good bits:
  • Jean Valjean had a nice voice, as did Marius.
  • There was a pretty expressive pit.

The neutral notes:
  • Schönberg must have really had a thing for the perfect 4th because it’s literally everywhere. “On My Own.” “Look Down.” Name a song, and it’s there.
  • Fantine had a moment where I was sure she was singing something like a low D. This is just ridiculous.

List of grievances with the production:
  • Eponine. She literally sounded like a pop star. You do not put riffs into “On My Own.” It just doesn’t work that way. No ma’am.
  • There was what I call the “bright light of death”: both when Fantine died and when Eponine died, there was a crazy bright, stark white light focused directly on the dying character. It nearly blinded me, and it was aimed at the stage. What are you doing, light crew?
  • Speaking of lights, there were some crazy effects going on with the battle scenes. I mean, do random (but remarkably evenly spaced) little beams of light directed at various parts of the stage really look like explosions or gun shots to you? Because they don’t to me.
  • Way heavy on the amplification. Excessive, really. What’s more, they added some serious reverb to Fantine on more than one occasion. Is that really necessary? No, no it’s not.
  • In the wedding scene towards the end, the men in tuxes weren’t wearing black socks. They were wearing black tights. That just looks awkward. You’re in a full tux with a vest and tails. Act like it.
  • Javert’s death was as lame as they come. He was standing on a bridge. Expectation: the bridge will lift up, Javert will jump off. Reality: Javert “jumps” off bridge while it’s on the stage, then the bridge lifts up, and Javert twirls around to make it look like he’s falling. Are you for real right now?

List of grievances with the musical itself:
  • Too many characters. Maybe 80% of the audience was seeing this show for the fifteenth time. Doesn’t matter. I couldn’t follow the plot. Oh, someone just died? Too bad I don’t even know his name. If you want me to care about your characters, at least make it obvious which ones I need to care about. I don’t have enough caring for a whole dozen, I just don’t.
  • Along those same lines, “I Dreamed a Dream” was way too early in the show. We just met the woman! I can’t sympathize with her situation when I’ve seen her running around the stage for ten minutes!
  • Nearly everything in the show is super high on the passion scale. I get it, you have convictions. Everyone can’t sing like “this song is the most important one you’ll hear in this whole musical” if everyone else is doing the same thing. It’s like I said before. You just can’t care about that much stuff that strongly. (Note: this went under grievances with the musical because those songs demand power. You try belting and sounding apathetic at the same time. It doesn’t work.)
  • I’m all for continuity in a musical, but this feels like you’re listening to the same five songs for three whole hours. It’s why any 30-second clip from Les Mis is so obviously Les Mis. It all sounds the same.
Oy. I don’t know how anyone’s supposed to go to sleep after getting this worked up.

*see Seth Rudetsky's deconstruction of Les Mis for full explanation (3:15)

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