I am an unabashed Les Miserables snob.
I was first exposed to the musical around 1989 when my sister
dropped a tape cassette in my lap a few days after attending a
Chicago production. I immediately popped it into my Sears boom box
and gave it a whirl while rolling my favorite Cavaricci pants.
It was love at first listen. I instantly grabbed my IOU
sweatshirt and rode my Schwinn 10-speed bike to the local library
to check out the complete Victor Hugo work. Imagine my
disappointment when I flipped to Page One and remembered I didn't
speak a lick of French. Sacre bleu!
Since then, I have seen Les Miserables on Broadway and in dozens
of traveling tours across Chicago, Milwaukee and Champaign. I was
giddy over the 10th anniversary special. I wept at the 25th
anniversary concert. When they brought out all those past Valjeans,
Javerts and Eponines? It was divine.
For the record, there will never be a better Jean Valjean than
Colm Wilkinson. The man can sing the phone book and I'd still be
After having glanced over the early reviews for the new movie, I
was somewhat hesitant. For me, Les Miserables demands powerful
voices. While Hugh Jackman certainly held his own on Broadway in
"The Boy from Oz," his voice is absent a certain strength and
character that, for me, defines Jean Valjean.
Yet the scathing reviews for poor Russell Crowe were pretty much
"Stick to gladiator flicks, bro."
"Fire your agent."
"Please don't sing again, Mr. Crowe. Like ever. "
I knew in order to retain my #1 Fan Card, I had to do this. I
had to see the movie. So I stuffed my minivan full of some favorite
neighborhood moms and we headed out.
What I wasn't quite prepared for was the response from a bunch
of Les Miserables newbies:
ATHEIST FRIEND: Crap. This is like going to church.
SARCASTIC FRIEND: Are they going to be singing the ENTIRE
ATHIEST FRIEND: Yes. About God apparently. You could've warned
MARIANNE: Shhhhh. This is the good part.
MINIATURE FRIEND: What IDIOT told Russell Crowe that he could
ATHEIST FRIEND: I think God did.
MARIANNE: Quiet. That's Colm Wilkinson playing the priest. He's
the original Jean Valjean.
NICE FRIEND: Who's Jean Valjean?
MARIANNE: Hugh Jackman.
SARCASTIC FRIEND: THAT is Hugh Jackman? He looks like sh*t.
MINIATURE FRIEND: Actually, he looks younger and younger every
time they show him on screen.
SARCASTIC FRIEND: So Jean Valjean is Benjamin Button?
NICE FRIEND: Ooooh. Is Brad Pitt in this movie??
ATHEIST FRIEND: Probably playing God.
MARIANNE: Shhh. Look, Fantine is about to sing her big
ATHEIST FRIEND: Great, more Jesus tunes.
SARCASTIC FRIEND: Isn't this the song Susan Boyle sang on
MINIATURE FRIEND: Who's Susan Boyle?
NICE FRIEND: What's YouTube?
Given that I could pretty much recite the entire show from
memory, I started having more fun listening to the commentary of my
minivan moms than the movie. When one of them cried out, "For
Pete's sake, Russell, just jump off the damn bridge and put us ALL
out of our misery," I nearly lost it.
My big evening out was quickly renamed.
"Les Miserables: The Comedy."
Starring my minivan moms.
Because to laugh with another person is to see the face of
Unless of course you're Atheist Friend.
Marianne is mother of three sons and the wife of a southside Irish fireman. She has learned that sometimes you're just too dumb to know what makes you happy. She blogs regularly at We Band of Mothers (webandofmothers.com) and curses with even greater frequency. Her material is written for the imperfect, the imprudent, and the impatient mothers who know that all this stuff is really very funny if you just give it a minute.
See more of Marianne's stories here.
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