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I must first admit that I am such a fan of Les Miz (words cannot even
describe it) that if anyone says something even remotely negative about
show, I will be deeply offended. That being said...I must say that anyone
who has a passion for Les Miserables (or the theater in general for that
matter) should see this.
I was moved to tears several times throughout the one-hour long video, especially during the "One Day More" sequence from the Oslo production. "One Day More" is my absolute favorite from the show (and actually my favorite song, period), and I was moved to tears, despite the fact that it was in Swedish. In a musical as powerful as Les Miz, words are unnecessary, the message is still there, in all its force. It is impossible to convey if you haven't seen the musical in any form the passion that drives this magnificent show.
This 1988 video is a fascinating and unique view of the development of the musical LES MIZ. Overshadowed in popularity by the video release LES MISERABLES IN CONCERT, this video reveals the behind the scenes intricacies of producing this now classic musical, AND it features numbers from foreign productions as varied as the Norwegian, Hungarian, and Austrian versions. The interviews with producer Cameron MacIntosh and co-writers Schonberg and Boublil are particularly insightful.
WARNING: This video is NOT a concert version of 'Les Misérables'. (At a
running time of barely an hour, it couldn't be.) Nor will this video
help anyone who needs to do a book report on Victor Hugo's novel and
hopes to skive off reading the book. If you haven't seen the remarkable
stage musical 'Les Miz' yet, you should NOT watch this video first ...
because it will dilute the wonder of some of that show's spectacle. If
you *have* seen 'Les Miz' at least once, this video will enable you to
enjoy some fond memories one day more. And if you've no expectation of
ever seeing the stage show, this video will at least let you enjoy the
score's most famous pieces.
This video is basically a long commercial for the stage musical. We get some softball soundbites from crucial figures in its gestation, including the French composer (who shows some difficulty with English) and the librettist (who is annoyingly credited as 'author', as if Victor Hugo had nothing to do with it). These two Frenchmen are filmed standing in front of guess-which building in Paris (go on, have a guess). We're told a grudgingly small amount about Victor Hugo: mostly about the large turnout at his funeral, which isn't especially relevant to 'Les Misérables'. I wish that this video had mentioned that Hugo wrote several of his greatest novels while exiled from France, precisely *because* of the political content of 'Les Misérables' and some of his other works.
Except for a few witty comments from Cameron Mackintosh, the soundbites here are dull and lacking real content. The great appeal of this video is the sampler of musical numbers, each performed by a different international troupe. Oddly, the compilers of this video have chosen to include the Oslo production's version of the single most popular song in this score: so we hear 'One Day More' performed in Norwegian (not Swedish, as another IMDb reviewer said) rather than English, despite Herbert Kretzmer's perceptive comment that the English-language libretto is now the official one.
I was impressed by some intelligent camera work during the musical numbers here, but -- as we only get excerpts -- this video is really just a taste of the riches. If you've seen 'Les Miz' several times and want to collect everything connected with the show, you'll enjoy this video. Otherwise, watching this video without seeing the show *first* will be like picking all the maraschinos off a banana split without eating the banana split! Precisely *because* the musical 'Les Misérables' is so wonderful, I recommend that you do NOT watch this video if you haven't yet had the pleasure of seeing the show in its entirety.
'Stage by Stage' is the story of how the musical Les Miserables came to
be, showcasing some of the performers and the songs, and spending a lot
of time with the composers Boublil and Schonberg, a rather prickly
Herbert Krenzmer, producer Cameron Mackintosh, director Trevor Nunn,
and the 'musicalising' John Caird.
If you haven't seen the show, this gives away a few things, namely that centrepiece wow factor which the musical has. It does present some of the songs in a rather dull setting (Linzi Hateley sings 'On My Own', for example) and gives a plug to the symphonic recording which brought artists from all around the globe and different productions together.
Worth watching if only to see with hindsight that a/ a film was planned of the musical in 1988 and it is still to happen; b/ how Cameron Mackintosh really struck gold with a rather obscure French CD; and c/ how the critics can be so wrong - Les Miz has now been running in London for 25 years and still runs around the world.
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