The first time I heard Les Miserables, I was 8 years old playing at my friend Ali’s house. She had an older sister and watched old episodes of Saturday Night Live, and was generally hip and cool in all the ways I was not. (I read Babysitters Club books under my covers with a flashlight at night and pretended my bike was a horse named Tabitha, who I kept in the “barn” of my suburban garage.) Looking back, I am fairly certain Les Mis was the first musical I ever heard, and it was the first time music really evoked something emotional in me. Like, I felt something. I’m not sure what an 8 year old really feels, but it was more than what I got listening to my dad play the drums on the steering wheel of our Peugeot wagon as Fleetwood Mac‘s Greatest Hits churned along in the tape player.
And so, after months of obsession, my parents took me to see the touring performance when it came to Boston. We somehow had amazing seats (or do all seats seem amazing to kids the first time they see musical theater?), and my mom bought me a giant gray Les Mis T-shirt and I cried through the whole show, even though I had no idea what I was crying about. The tears just brewed up inside me and popped out, my first official ugly cry. They weren’t over anything specific, really, because I didn’t truly understand the actual context of what was occurring: a woman selling herself into prostitution to save her daughter only to die without ever know her, or a man coming to terms with the hypocrisy of the law by which he stands (and then deciding to kill himself), or the squalor and poverty and revolution. I was just moved.
That’s why, even now, I’m not sure I really know what Les Mis is actually about. Like, I know Javert kills himself because every six months or so I wind up crying and reading the Les Miserables wiki page. (No, I’ve never read the book; leave me alone.) But, when I think of the show, all I think of is how beautiful sorrow is set to music. That it touched something in me as a kid, even though I had zero life experience at the time. That the songs, and the theater of it, is just SO damn good.
Obviously, I cannot wait to see the movie version of Les Mis, out on Christmas day. I mean, I CANNOT EFFING WAIT. Every time I watch the trailers for the films, I assume the world’s most crumpled cry-face and all the emotion I felt as a kid comes pouring out…through my tear ducts. Now I am old and with a superficial grasp on the story and a passion for this music that’s only grown deeper since hearing it 25 years ago. And the Hollywoodification of it all only somehow makes it that much more amazing. Anne Hathaway ate just oatmeal paste to get sickly skinny for the role. Amanda Seyfried‘s voice is irritatingly warbly and yet perfectly Cosette-ish. The only thing better than Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean is his slightly obnoxious and pretentious turn when describing singing live on-set in the preview clip above. Eddie Redmayne‘s juicy mouth, the size of a $5 foot-long from Subway. The greatest musical in the world got a chin implant and a new haircut and is about to meet The X Factor generation. Bring it on.
I am incredibly thankful for the transformative role Les Miserables played in opening my mind as a kid, educating me about the power of music and theater and the way a saucy tune belted out by a bunch of big-boobed prostitutes can make you feel. (Man, those dresses sure were low-cut, amirite fellow sheltered children of Puritan Massachusetts?) I am thankful the talented Tom Hooper helmed what is sure to be the best movie of 2012 and possibly my life (apologies to Breaking Dawn and Pitch Perfect), and I am thankful how crazy committed the cast is to making a movie version of this beloved musical that actually looks even more incredible than the musical I loved as a kid.
I can’t wait to ugly cry through the entire thing.