Les Misérables was the first classic novel that I read *on my own* accord (had to emphasize it just so you’d noticed that lousy word play I just made.)
It was summer after sixth grade. I was browsing through our shelves looking for a book to read, when I found our copy of Les Misérables. There was nothing fancy in the covers, nor even a summary for me to get a feel of what’s in there. Yet, I felt all the urge to read it. And fortunately, I did.
I was hooked the moment I started reading it that I basically breezed through the early chapters; all thanks to that precious and touching moment when Monseigneur Bienvenu granted Jean Valjean compassion and forgiveness just so he could grow into an honest man. From that point, I already had trouble putting the book down.
Ten years after reading the book, Les Misérables remains to be one of my most favorite novels. So imagine how thrilled I was when I found out that they would be staging a musical production here in Manila!
Only, I was kind of hesitant at first upon knowing that Les Misérables would be held in Solaire. My previous experience in Solaire while watching Chicago was, well… suffice to say it was unsatisfactory. First of all, the level of seat rows in the Orchestra is flat; not the standard dome-type theatre we’re all accustomed to. Second, there is barely enough leg room, and this isn’t something you could just put up with as time passes by. And lastly, I found the stage poor in terms of size. I usually blame the size of the stage on why I thought Chicago was not able to deliver a spectacular set production. Hence, I was worried that, being held in Solaire, Les Misérables would not be as promising as it would be.
Boy, was I wrong! I am actually in awe of how wonderful and perfect the set execution was irrespective of the limited space onstage. Thoughts about how they would perform some of the scenes had crossed my mind before watching the play; like how the convicts would haul the ship into dock during the prologue; how Javert would commit suicide, how the revolution at the barricade would be like, how Jean Valjean would carry Marius’s body in the underground sewers. And when I did finally see these scenes, the execution has not failed to amaze me. Kudos to Cameron Mackintosh for a successful production of one of the best musicals in the world.
Jean Valjean, Javert and Fantine are characters which I have always been fond of and have sympathized with – not just from Les Misérables but from all the novels I have read (they share the title with the likes of Sirius Black, Jay Gatsby, Holden Caulfield, the Lannisters Tyrion, Tywin and Jaime, etc.) They are characters whose background and development have stimulated encouragement, vexation, grief, rage, and agony inside my heart; sometimes all emotions at the same time.
The actors who played Jean Valjean and Javert, Simon Gleeson and Earl Carpenter respectively, were promising and absolutely fitting for the characters. I loved Gleeson’s voice, and his performance was mostly remarkable. Although, the finale of Who Am I was not as fine as I have imagined it to be. Javert, on the other hand, never fell short of my expectations. Perhaps because I was comparing him to Russell Crowe, who was basically a disappointment in the movie.
As for Fantine, it was unfortunate that Rachelle Ann Go was not feeling well at the night that we watched. Instead, her understudy, Adèle Parkinson, performed on her behalf. Parkinson had her highlights onstage, but there were still some points where you’d see that she was not thoroughly primed for the part.
To top off this post, let me point out how I find it timely that Les Misérables was shown in the Philippines just a few weeks before the national elections.
Jean Valjean served 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving nephew. I am likening him to a Filipino offender out there who may be just committing the same crime out of necessity. Just like you and me, this offender has a life of his own. And however tainted his soul may be, deep within it lies the possibility of change which we just have yet to see. Who, then, are we to rob this man of the chance to change? Who are we to take away the life of a man, who has stolen thousands of pesos to survive in this world, a measly fraction compared to the millions/billions of peso which were embezzled by the corrupt politicians and businessmen in our country?
By supporting the virtues of this certain candidate, know that you are tainting your own hands by the blood of every Filipino “criminal” whose life was carelessly taken away, all because you allowed this candidate to rise into power.
Damn. This is how moved I am by the love-hate relationship of Valjean-Javert. Always a better love story than Cosette-Marius-Eponine’s.