Thursday, December 27, 2012

Les Mis...a bit poopie.

I made this earnest, flowing and Jane-Austen-like promise to myself that I would see the movie, then just smile and remain silent...I would feel so superior to all the people who felt such ownership over Les Mis...I would see it...have happy memories and walk off into the Les Mis sunset.
In an effort to keep said promise am going to try think about it all again for a moment.
(Eats a Hershey's and food are breaking up AGAIN in a day or so...)
When I was 21 years old, I was a swing in Les Mis at the Royal Alex.
What an amazing couple of years that was...really...I loved that show all the way to the last day, when we closed at the NAC in Ottawa...LOVED.

This is myself as the hag in Paris "What'd you think you're at, hanging round my pitch..." and the hooker ("Listen you old cow, Crazy bloody witch...")  whose back we can see is Lisa Atkinson...she was also a swing...we were never on when we were one of our pals stood in the wings and took our picture...

Then, when I was 29, I had the good fortune to do the show again, as Mme Thenardier on a North American tour, which stopped in Canada for 6 months...starring Colm Wilkinson as Val Jean...the first night he went on in St. Paul, Minnesota (after not playing the role for a number of years...he didn't want to announce it beforehand)...during the pre-show announcement, while the actors were all milling around the stage,  they told the audience, "Tonight, playing the role of Jean Val Jean will be Colm Wilkinson" ...and there was a dead silence...the audience erupted and we all turned to Colm who went a bit green...he was amazing, of course.

The publicity shot of me as Mme Thenardier...I look about 12 years old.

When I was in college I wore my cassette tape (yes, cassette tape, suck it)  of Les Mis OUT!!
I stretched the shit out of that tape, people.
So, when I found myself standing onstage with Colm Wilkinson...doing the Bargain Scene with him on the big and gorgeous stage of the Ordway Theatre...I just about passed out...I could not believe my life or my good luck.
I remember the cast standing back stage at his first rehearsal and when he sang, "Yes, it means I'm free." in the his Colm voice... we all just giggled and blushed and teenagers...well, most of us did anyhow...I will, at least, admit to it.
Doing this show for about four years I had the good fortune to literally work with hundreds of people...actors, crew, wiggers, dressers, company managers, stage managers, resident directors, many people.
I quit smoking while in this show, turned 30 in this show, drove across the U.S., bought my first house (by watching a VHS of a tour that George took through it...I watched it in Stage Management in St. Louis and cried), visited the White House and watched the fireworks from the lawn on the 4th of July, had wedding showers, baby showers...4 years is a long was a big part of my life...I swear to god I am NOT claiming ownership...really...just sayin' is meant a lot.
OKAY! Maybe I am!!! Maybe a little bit!!!
So, quietly...very quietly...which, as you might imagine, is very hard for me... I was super excited about the movie.
I could not wait to see it in a big theatre...George and I went to the tiny Stratford Cinemas (which is like watching a movie on a slightly bigger TV screen).
So...I don't think I am an expert or anything...I just have...a couple...thoughts.
(I am sure I will regret this in about an hour...after the wine and Hershey's Kiss buzz wears off...) 

1. Why was it not so good?



2. WHY did Russell Crowe lose any acting talent he had when he suddenly started (and I use this term loosely) singing. When he was standing on the Bridge doing his final number I heard someone behind me say, "For the love of god, just jump".  Agreed. Poopie, indeed.

3.  Why everyone so sad all the time...the stage show has so much joy and humour! Why all so filled angst! I mean, I know "miserables" is in the title...but, who 'bout playing them opposites? Huh? How about it?

4. WHY there gotta be a close up shot of EVERY ballad...why...and why is everyone is balling and was the filmic version of "Park and Bark"...the very thing that straight theatre makes fun of when talking about us "musical theatre types"...
* Disclaimer: Anne Hathaway rocked the shit out of her close up/ one shot/ ballad...everyone else seemed like they were copying...and not as well.

5. New song for Val Jean...I am gonna say it, and you all are gonna judge was a weird song about love with a child's head in his lap...I said it!! You thought it...come on!! You know you did!!!

6.  Why Sasha/Borat gotta do asides...why the score not enough? Why Helena/Mrs. Lovett so unintelligible? And why they both sing so slow? And pause so much? Why?
They were in a whole different movie. WEIRD!?!?!? And they way they filmed Master of the House made me a bit sickie in the tum tum.
(Also, I would like to add here that they weren't nearly terrifying enough. I had the pleasure and honour of watching Graham Campbell and Janelle Hutchinson as the duo and they were about as scary as you could get...there was no question in your mind that they murdered people and beat the hell outta Cosette...and they still made you laugh...artists.)

It just seemed...long...and don't get me wrong...sometimes when I was in it it seemed long...very long.
There were some things that I loved.
I had a little cry about some of my fave parts...I forgot that Colm was playing the Bishop!! 
The ship at the beginning was killer...Hugh Jackman was wonderful, I thought...not all have liked him...but I sure did...and I loved Anne Hathaway!

Poor George had to sit with me...I think I sang along quietly with almost everything that they DIDN'T change the lyrics to!! 

So, this all made me think.
WE ALL have a bit of ownership over this show...if we have seen it a lot or been a part of is an amazing show.
AND it will NEVER be the way we want it to be, I guess...
There are a lot of awesome things to see and hear! 
For me, I just wish it coulda been better.
(And then the wine began to wear off....maybe I shouldn't publish this.....
*George would like me to add that he thought the students were good. Noted.




JennyPenny said...

Hi Sharron! I can only imagine how you felt going to see this movie. I only did Hairspray for nine months of my life and watching that movie was weird. You literally "grew up" with Les Mis! You know this show so well and know (from the reactions of thousands of people) how the show should work. I haven't seen this movie yet. I am hoping to enjoy it but I know that there will be parts that I won't like. (It's kind of like a surgeon watching someone else do his job and trying not to judge or give helpful advice). Hopefully though this movie will inspire people to take in a live theatrical event in the near future. xoxo, Jen Stewart.

Sharron Matthews said...

That is agreed! People should see it!! I hope that is the feeling left at the end...and make their own judgements...or not judge at all!! I was so aware of trying not to totally slag i

Christy Taylor said...

I am just wondering, and part of me is hoping, if someone who was in this show actually will think it is good. I felt the same way as you and I went into it soooo excited to see it. I really felt separated enough from it that I would welcome creative license and looked forward to seeing a different take on it. But apparently not...oh well. I too really liked Anne and with the exception of some of his trapped nasal singing, I really liked Hugh (I don't need last names because they are my close personal friends). I wished they had pulled back on Eddie (VERY close friend) because I couldn't watch the shaking from the tension in his jaw. Did they not notice that? I feel the same way you do about the Thenardiers, Russel Crowe (not such a close friend) and the one-note-charlie approach to everyone's performance. For me, they also lost the spunk and energy of Eponine too. It made me a little crazy that every woman had a light head voice and no balls. Ahhhhh....I will stop. In the end I did have expectations and they just didn't do my version. How dare they. :)

Sharron Matthews said...

Right? I will all be okay...we can get through this together!

Kate said...

So I was actually searching the internet to see if I could find proof that I did indeed see Colm Wilkinson as Jean ValJean in 1998 and I stumbled upon this post. Not only was I highly entertained by the wit and snark with which you shared your opinion of the movie (to which I give a hearty "Amen, sister!"), but I also found what I was looking for.

As soon as I saw the publicity shot of you as Mdme. Thenardier I knew that was the show I saw! I will never forget the first time I saw Les Mis live. Everyone was so fabulous, and then to have the announcement of Colm Wilkinson playing Jean ValJean... icing on the cake.

Do you remember who played Marius? I just saw Peter Lockyer as Jean ValJean and read that he played Marius around the time you were in it. My playbill from back then is packed away in a box somewhere so I was hoping you could let me know. Thanks!