The first time I saw Les Mis I was 15. Orchestra Right. Row H. First seat in from the middle aisle. By this time I had the entire libretto memorized and as the overture began I gripped both armrests tightly because, sitting there, I knew that I could run and jump on stage before anyone would be able to stop me. They would pull me away and put me in handcuffs immediately and, since this was a school trip, I’m pretty sure I would have been suspended.
There’s still part of me that thinks it would have been worth it.
Almost exactly a year before this I was in the hospital. I was afraid and alone and surrounded by strange and sometimes scary people. I had a walkman and a cassette of the original Broadway recording of Les Miserables and I put on my headphones every night and sung silently to myself, trying to sleep.
Les Mis means something to me. Not just because I’ve spent countless unrequited nights singing “On My Own” in my bedroom and empathizing with Eponine. But because songs and stories have the power to carry us through our darkest times if we can let go enough to dissolve into them.
Disappearing into the French Revolution can have strangely healing affects.
Almost exactly 16 years after that night at the Imperial Theatre I was sitting in a movie theatre watching the revolving stage of my childhood turning into a whole wide world. And I felt like I was 14 again in more ways than I care to admit.
I could nit pick. I could question casting choices or random and bizarre lyric changes, or the inclusion of new songs in an already overflowing libretto. But really, when it comes down to it, none of that shit matters.
The only thing that matters when you’re talking about a movie, or any piece of art, is: how did it make you feel? Or, rather, did it make you feel?
Les Mis makes me feel. It makes me ache and hope and doubt and aspire for something more than the petty little dramas playing out in my head. Les Mis makes me want to fight and love and struggle and find someone worth standing in front of a bayonet for, to be someone worth standing in front of a bayonet for. It makes me want to write something that makes someone else feel something, anything. And it makes me want to sing out at the top of my lungs and not give a damn what anyone else thinks..
Broadway play or Hollywood musical, it’s all still there.
And I felt every minute of it.