Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Les Miz in Paris!

I spelled the title incorrectly because it was in English, even though everyone here speaks French. I guess whoever decided to bring the tour here forgot that in Paris, they actually speak French, regardless of the language in which the musical is the most popular. Every time I told someone here I was going to see Les Mis (and yes, I said Les Mis in French) in Paris, they'd get really confused and finally I'd say: "Les Misérables" and they'd get angry that I had called it that. Even when I clarified that I was talking about the musical, they said I shouldn't call it that. Oh well...that's what I call it.

Anyway, before talking about the musical, I should probably mention my day before 8:00 at night (or 20:00, as the French would say). Well, I woke up, didn't really do much, went and bought my last Lebanese sandwich maybe forever, got a free baklava with it because I'm the guy's best customer, bought some Berthillon ice cream (melon and coconut! It's better than Grom and the Bac one, no doubt - it's the texture), and headed over to Paris 8 (my last time!! That's the one place I'm actually excited never to see again) for my history test. It was just like the last one, but he didn't let us use our books this time. Overall, I suppose it doesn't matter - he's only counting the better of our two grades, and I got a 14 on the first! On the way in, though, it poured! Bye bye beautiful summer 80 degree weather.

Finally, Les Mis. It was fantastic. The production is to celebrate the 25th anniversary of it in London (which apparently makes it the longest running musical in the world according to them. They apparently forgot about The Fantasticks, but that's okay - the point is, both longest running musicals and The Phantom of the Opera, the longest running Broadway musical, are all based on French books!), and they've redesigned the whole thing. The set was incredible, the backgrounds (projected onto a screen on the back of the stage) are based on Victor Hugo's drawings, and the actors were phenomenal. I loved Javert specifically, who really captured his struggle perfectly, and Eponine who, even though she looked nothing like her "parents" in the musical (she was black; they were white), sang "On My Own" beautifully. The backgrounds were mostly fantastic, I should say. During "One Day More," they all marched in place and the background moved backward so it looked like they were moving forward - that was a little too much. They did a similar effect while Jean Valjean was carrying Marius through the sewer. It was bizarre. I didn't like Gavroche's death either. They eliminated the revolving stage aspect, which was mostly a relief, but then Gavroche died on the other side of the barricade and you didn't get to see anything. Plus, now that I know what the actual French Gavroche was supposed to sing as he died, it bugged me that this little British kid thought he could impersonate Victor Hugo's myth gamin. The strangest part of all were the subtitles - half the time, they were just the French lyrics, and the other half, they actually tried to translate the English lyrics (retranslate?? I'm not sure anymore...) and it ended up being wordy and unnecessary. Why wouldn't they just make all the subtitles the French lyrics?

Oh, and apparently the most phenomenal part of the whole musical was the orchestra. The two gay guys sitting next to me explained that, in Paris, there aren't usually live orchestras in productions like these. French people kept coming up to look at the orchestra like it was an endangered species. When they started the overture, the audience applauded. They were good, but I can't imagine being that excited to see a pit orchestra. Obviously, I'm spoiled in America. Either that or French people need to start seeing real musicals. It's probably the latter.

By the way, the theater is beautiful!! The two gay guys sitting next to me said that they should perform Phantom there, but I told them the Opéra Garnier would probably be a little more "authentique."

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